I love sport and especially the Olympics. I am a competitive cyclist taking part in races from 1Â to 100 miles. Sport gives so much, yet when we see modern sport, we also see many aspects which could be better. These notes may seem idealistic, but sometimes it is good to dream, even if they seem unrealistic at the time. This is what sport means to me.
In any sport, there are decisions which can go either way. They present an opportunity to accept decisions with either good grace or bad grace. To many, winning at all costs, justifies berating any decision which goes against you. To accept all decisions with good grace, displays great dignity. It means you can enjoy the game, even if you feel one or two decisions go against you. It means you are putting the sporting ideals above only valuing winning. When we see sportsmen like behaviour, when we see players accepting decisions and accepting defeat with good grace it gives the spectator a lot of joy.
A young General Patton competed in the 1912 Olympic games, in the modern pentathlon (then reserved for army officers). His shots were unfairly judged, but he never complained and wrote about the experience of the Olympics.
“The high spirit of sportsmanship and generosity manifested throughout speaks volumes for the character of the officers of the present day. There was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I may say, marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games. Each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.”
There was a time when the Olympics had the ideal of amateur status. The idea that we competed in sport for pure sporting ideals and not for any monetary gain. These days some sportsmen are paid so much money, the spectator feels that money is a key driving factor. When sport becomes overly commercial it lose a certain simplicity and purity. Of course, money is not necessarily bad, it depends how we use it; and some sportsman can remain unaffected by money. But, when there is big money at stake, our motives are invariably clouded. To engage in sport without monetary considerations means we give ourselves to sport and not Mammon. There are probably a hundred reasons for professional sport. But, when you partake in sport purely for its own-sake, you get something money can never give.
Respect for Opponent
A sports-like attitude is quite compatible with striving your hardest to win. But, we can seek to be the best without denigrating our opponent.
Only one person can be best in the world. If we only get satisfaction when we are the absolute best, we will never enjoy sport. Self-transcendence is the art of competing with yourself. It is the attempt to better yourself and transcend physical barriers. It is not just about transcending previous physical feats, but also learning about the inner meaning of sport. It is learning to be content even with fluctuations in performance, but striving to transcend our previous efforts. Self-transcendence teaches us to never give up, but persist despite fluctuations in our performance.
Spirituality and Sport
At first glance sport may seem separate to spirituality. But, they can easily go together. With a spiritual approach to sport, we seek to do our best and at the same time accept whatever the result is. From sport we can learn concentration, perseverance,Â self-discipline; all qualities that help the inner seeking.
Who is the Winner?
A great champion is he who wins all the races.
A great champion is he who participates in all the races.
A great champion is he who does not care for the results of the races – whether he is first or last or in between. He races just to get joy and give joy to the observers.
A great champion is he who transcends his own previous records.
A great champion is he who maintains his standard.
A great champion is he who remains happy even when he cannot maintain his standard.
A great champion is he who has established his inseparable oneness with the winner and the loser alike.
– Sri Chinmoy [1. Sri Chinmoy, ‘The Great Champion’, from The Outer Running And The Inner Running: New York, Agni Press. 1995.]
Photo Top: Sri Chinmoy Races