Football can be an unforgiving sport. In Australia, we just had our version of the Super Bowl, the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) Grand Finals, both played over a Long Weekend.
Both games were, as we love to say these days, ‘to die for.’ But one thing rang true more than any other, and it occurred after the final siren. One of the Grand Finals went into what we call ‘extra time’ so we could get a result on the night. And it was that extra time that showed the true humanity of sport.
The ball was kicked deep into Brisbane’s defensive line. Ben Hunt was there to take possession.
Only he didn’t. Instead, he knocked the ball on. This meant the opposition took possession of the ball and scored.
Only a week ago, a young player in the AFL did much the same thing. The ball was kicked to Tom Sheridan and he was set to take the mark. Only he’d played on before taking possession and dropped the ball.
Cyril Rioli from the opposition swooped the ball up and kicked a goal.
After each of these moments, the player crouched down on the ground, head in hands to cover the tears flowing from their eyes. One moment that would define the day’s events. One moment that they would remember always. For they’d blame themselves for their team’s defeat, no matter what anyone said or did.
Yet sport can be as human as it can be unforgiving. Tom Sheridan’s coach, Ross Lyon, put his arms around his player and gave him a cuddle. It wasn’t the only mistake his team made that night. There were many other moments not taken, many other chances left to fade away. As Lyon said after the match;
“my boys win and lose together.”
As for Ben Hunt, he was described as “sinking with disappointment.”
But the opposing captain went to him immediately after his side had won and put his arms ’round his shoulders in a moment of true sportsmanship, to console the inconsolable.
Sport. Some deride it as a useless past-time, as an example of the competitive nature of society, as everything that’s wrong with the free world. It may be some of these things but when times get tough, the tough show emotion.
I’ve seen many tears shed on the football field in the name of disappointment, and many signs of support in the name of consolation. This weekend was no different. Sport never fails to rise to the challenge of humanity, teamsmanship and raw emotion.