Sportsmanship is like giving to charity, or giving to those who are less fortunate than yourself and is much like a good deed - celebrate the good deed you just performed and you defeat the whole purpose of that good deed. You don't see too many athletes showcase the sporting values that we all love and then turn around, bragging about how they gave a sombre opponent a moment of love do you?
(I'm just going to ignore Sonny Bill Williams' humble brag tweet, but SBW exists on a higher level where he also dishes out tickets to Syrian refguees, I'm conflicted...)
Athletes just do it, because it is the right thing to do. Athletes, like many of us (not all, many) understand that anything and everything can happen within the sporting arena which doesn't impact the mutual respect between the two competitors.
In a world where there are many ills in society and sport, we should celebrate acts of sportsmanship right? Or should we just assume that this is how things should be - lending a shoulder or a hand to an opponent is the norm?
Did I care when Grant Elliot put out a hand for Dale Steyn or when SBW gave Jesse Kriel? Not really, which is because I would hope that I would do the same thing if I were in that position. These acts aren't done to grab headlines or build up some good vibes with the public (SBW has flown past that point and is now widely loved), these acts are done because they are right.
It's pretty cool that these two acts both involved kiwis and kiwi sports teams.
My internal conflict comes in the degree at which we celebrate these small moments - does this say anything about the world that we exist in that we feel the need to reinforce how nice we are? Is there so much negativity in sport, largely thanks to the mainstream media that they feel the need to go overboard with the sportsmanship love? Obviously it is highly ironic that the mainstream media love negativity and can then flip the script and play up the heroism.
Do so many people do the wrong thing that we need to celebrate acts of sportsmanship? I think so - for every silly act after too much alcohol, for every match-fixing claim, for every doper, for every big mouth saying dumb shit, there needs to be an act of kindness or a genuinely nice act. The negative side is ripped on so much that there needs to be a balance right?
I'm happy to say that I believe there is a balance, even if it has taken to high profile acts from kiwis to provide that balance. I reckon that we have reached parity where the good vibes from sport (in our part of the world anyway) is equal to the negatives and as I mentioned before - reaching parity is so much harder when some folks love to only focus on the negatives.
The professional era of sports (in our part of the world anyway, which is a bit behind ya know?) greatly helps things as well and I can see the sportsmanship vibes only creeping further throughout the sporting landscape. A lot has been made about the relationship that the All Blacks and Springboks share, which can be put down to the consistency of which the players see each other - spark up a conversation in the changing shed over a beer after a Test match, then when your Super Rugby team is in town, you catch up with your new South African/kiwi homie.
It's the same in cricket where players around the world call each other friends as relationships start in the international arena and are then strengthened thanks to competitions like the Indian Premier League or other T20 leagues (or vice versa).
Even in yesterday's Oceania Cup hockey final between the Black Sticks men and Australia showcased this. Mark Knowles, the Australia captain was gutted to have killed the Olympic dream of the Black Sticks, many of whom are his friends thanks to professional hockey. There was a genuine sadness from Knowles but such is sport and sportsmanship that no international sports team is going to throw a match, not in this part of the world anyway.
Professional sport has only really taken flight over the past decade where we've seen it reach dazzling heights and new heights await. While many like to bemoan professional sport for whatever reason, it has enhanced the sportsmanship that we see between athletes, which can only be a good thing. The best bit about all of this though is that the competition on the field/turf/pitch has also increase and the closer relationships that players share, hasn't seen the edge of sport at its highest level diminish.