Sunday August 5, 2012
Of fame, shame and the end justifying the means
WHEN Nadia Comaneci gave the world the first ever perfect 10 score in an Olympic gymnastic event, the scoreboard displayed 1.00. Having been mesmerised by her top-notch performance, the crowd was totally confused.
But it was just a technical glitch because the scoreboard, without a four-digit display, could only go up to 9.99 but not 10.00.
Nadia went on to record six more perfect 10s at the games in Montreal and earned a permanent place in Olympic history, and our hearts.
And then we had Ben Johnson, who at the 1988 Games in Seoul, beat Carl Lewis in the 100m final, setting a new world record of 9.79 seconds. Two days later, he was stripped of the gold medal and the world record after failing the drug test.
Last week, four pairs of women shuttlers, including world champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China, were sent packing for deliberately playing to lose so that they could get better draws in the next round.
International sports is peppered with many such instances of fame and shame.
In our all-too materialistic world, where we applaud winners and top achievers, such behavioural patterns are not uncommon.
Forbes published an interesting report last month about a study by academics at the University of Washington, London Business School, Wharton and Harvard Business School.
Their study revealed that (a) lots of people cheat when they think nobody is looking and (b) they don’t feel especially guilty about it.
The academics suggest that the thrill of pulling off a scam – they call it the “cheater’s high” – outweighs the negative feelings one usually associates with immoral behaviour.
I have often wondered if we can have a situation where say, a goal is wrongly awarded, and the player goes up to the referee and owns up to the mistake.
Or if a wrong line call is made in tennis, and the player getting the advantage sportingly refuses the point.
If we encourage such sporting behaviour, I believe we will have more honesty in the world. We should encourage people to own up if they do the wrong things, rather than lie through their teeth, or use the name of God to vindicate their action.
Who can forget the most controversial goal in football history when Maradona claimed it had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”?
You see, when the world places achievement rather than effort on the pedestal, the race to be No. 1 takes on a new dimension.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete racing for a gold, silver or bronze medal. You could be a student aspiring for maximum number of A’s at the SPM examinations or a worker striving for perfect scores on your KPI.
Because we are humans, after all, there may come a time when it will only be about the end justifying the means.
The Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, means faster, higher, stronger.
And the Olympic creed reads: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Today, what lengths will we go to if we want to be faster, higher and stronger? And do we seriously believe that it is enough just to have fought well?
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin will cheer, alongside all Malaysians, for Chong Wei to win the gold today. He applauds the efforts of all our athletes who gave their best in London as he believes in the ideal that it is not the triumph but the struggle that truly matters, in sports, and in life.