The Summer Series - Everybody's Match-Fixing But Maybe Not

Novak could be the tennis Sonny Bill Williams, playing ping pong and tennis 

Novak could be the tennis Sonny Bill Williams, playing ping pong and tennis 

El Wildcard, I hope your summer travels are as glorious as mine. Now, you're a serial match-fixer in backyard cricket, I've been guilty of doping (tested positive at the annual Niche Cache swag-a-thon) and it appears that these worrying acts have infiltrated the professional sports world ... since ages ago.

Obviously the latest scandal is the conveniently timed match/spot-fixing in tennis, right before the Australian Open started. This came at a similar time as Mohammad Amir's return to international cricket after copping his punishment for spot-fixing and while the IAAF (athletics) is up to its ears in doping drama - it seems as though it's all popping off right now huh?

I have a theory and it's a theory that I don't want to overshadow a belief that cheating via match-fixing and doping is straight up wrong. We're graced with a sporting spirit in Aotearoa which doesn't tolerate these silly acts and we can all take great pride in our own athletes who compete at the highest level without feeling the need to be dumb. My theory centres around the idea that we are seeing a lot of corruption and corrupt (shout out to Kurupt) folk get found out, going back to Lance Armstrong's drug ring.

Everything from dopers to the farce that is FIFA has been aired out in the media and the public have been made aware of shady business that would have otherwise gone unnoticed ... thanks to the greater sharing of information and opportunities that our familiarity with things like the internet offer.

Point being that I don't think shit is hitting the proverbial fan with more corruption going on now than ever, I just think more people are getting caught for a variety of reasons. This is why I no longer look on in disgust when rumours of doping or match-fixing appear as greater transparency in how these organisations operate will be the outcome.

Also regarding the tennis stuff at the moment - I can't look on in disgust when no names or specifics are mentioned. When players are named and more details are offered, well then I might start to care ... but I won't care because my belief is that this is all part of our world slowly changing, for the better.

By this stage of sporting professionalism, it's probably naive to think that there isn't some element of match-fixing or whatever going on in most sports that we love. It's a constant back-page screamer, from the Italian footy stuff of a decade ago to the Pakistani cricket dramas and the most recent allegations at the world of elite tennis. I don't know about others but it really doesn't shock me anymore, and I'm not even gonna get into the Chris Cairns thing.

Too often it's reported to be exactly that: shocking. Maybe this is just me rebelling against being told what to think but (controversial statement on the way)... I really don't care all that much that a few early round tennis matches mighta been spoiled. Roger Federer was the first I heard raging against the anonymity of the allegations, which to me suggests that the secrecy is the whole point. If it was a Roger or a Novak then we'd have been told. If it was Johnny No-Name then we get the 'undisclosed players' ploy, that way we can embroil our heroes in the filthy speculation. 

Look, so long as the important stuff is clean then I'm cool. Let the best players do what they do and keep the integrity of the sport going. And I'm all for taking every precaution possible to stamp out any corruption, however if a few little misdemeanours spill through the cracks, I'm not gonna cry and whinge about how the entire sport is ruined. It's not, come on. 

Which brings me to this 'investigation' that has supposedly exposed all of this. First off, despite what they or anyone says this was not done for the good of the sport. If it were then it'd have been handled through the proper channels and not conducted through the global media, released on the eve of the first major of the year so that every player can be asked these difficult questions as we look at them judgingly with our shifty eyes. Name names so they can be dealt with, ya know? And the examples they uncovered are mostly old and within the knowledge of the proper authorities, so either this we're saying they covered it up or we're calling for a retrial.

And then the cornerstone of it all... 

"Secret files exposing evidence of widespread suspected match-fixing at the top level of world tennis, including at Wimbledon, can be revealed by the BBC and BuzzFeed News."

Umm, Buzzfeed? This was a partial Buzzfeed investigation? '22 Signs You May Be A Corrupt Tennis Player'. '17 Times The Tennis Match-Fixing Made You Literally Cry', 'Were These Quotes From Leo DiCaprio in Titanic or Novak Djokovic In His Latest Press Conference?'. Nope, this may be a completely relevant thing and all but there's just no way I can give any credence to anything with the Buzzfeed name on it, the capital city of internet frivolity.

Buzzfeed, the lack of any substance, the release of it at the worst possible time and the resulting speculation all lends itself to a view of this as rather gimmicky. This may be a new problem that we encounter in the modern era, which is dominated by websites like ours who seek traffic and apparently 'shocking news' like this is the perfect clickbait. 

I am in the same boat as you as I don't find any of this shocking at all. This is where I'd like to bring in the latest cricket match-fixing saga, involving cricketer Gulam Bodi who played two ODI games and a T20I for South Africa. Sure, Bodi has played international cricket, however his very short international career started and ended in 2007 so to label Bodi as an international cricketer right now, isn't quite the whole truth. This similar to the '16 players who have ranked in the top 50' narrative rolled out for the tennis dramas; these players may have spent one week in the top 50 five years ago. 

That Bodi has played international cricket, does give this drama a bit of shock-value but in reality, outliers like Bodi, Mohammad Amir, etc, etc. isn't that bad is it? 

As you alluded to, none of these cricket incidents had a great impact on 'important' cricket matches. If we wanted to get real funky, one could say that 'spot-fixing' is hardly the act of a cricketing devil. 

What I found rather confusing was the reaction to Novak Djokovic's openness in saying that one of his team members/support staff had been approached to get involved in some cheeky fixing. Any shock or news-value in this completely ignores the fact that there are bad people in this world (we know there's plenty) and that this request for a bit of fixing was shut down before it even got to Djokovic.

Throw in the kerfuffle surrounding Brendon McCullum's shutting down of a fixing approach and subsequent non-reporting of said approach and things get even funkier. At what point do we trust athletes that they can deal with these situations without making a song and dance about it? Djokovic and McCullum both dealt with these situations and didn't feel as though this required further attention, fair play to them.

These sorts of approaches and the reaction to them highlights that a sporting underworld does exist, even if many folks don't think it does, hence they are surprised when a player is approached. We know that a sporting underworld exists, so to have the majority of athletes not involved with this underworld is great if you ask me.

I reckon the way that people are, if there's a blind spot in the system then there's gonna be a large group of shady businessmen trying to exploit that for cash and that's the essence of match-fixing right there. It's probably parallel to doping but on the inverse because one is a case of too much competitiveness and the other not enough of it. Like, I understand why Lance Armstrong went too far past the line. The whole point of being competitive is being ruthless in your search for some advantage. Some people see that in their own pride, others struggle trying to curb that instinct when there's a chemical shortcut on the table. I get that. It's not right for a bunch of reasons but I get it. It's an athlete's dilemma. 

But with match-fixing it seems there's always some Al Capone in the corner playing puppet master and that's another thing that bugs me about this. We go so hard at the athlete's that get caught for these things, it's happening right now with this Gulam Bodi bloke, and there's not nearly enough focus on the baddies behind the curtain. The closest we've gotten that I can think of recently is Chris Cairns recruiting Lou Vincent but nobody honestly believes Chris Cairns masterminded anything, he could have been the go-between. 

What is happening is the equivalent of overfilling the bathtub and blaming the floor for getting wet. I mean, we're attacking the low hanging fruit here, which is understandable because it's the stuff we can actually reach but I'm surprised there isn't more of a thing about the cause of all this bollocks rather than the effect. Maybe it'd be helpful instead of just repeatedly cleaning up a perpetuating mess. I guess we expect the so-called bad guys to be bad and accept that while our sports heroes are meant to be pure and admirable. 

I'm not even talking about the authorities here, they do what they do and I trust they're doing their best - there's only so much they can do anyway. I'm more leaning on the sensationalism of the coverage we get. A real journalist would go all in undercover within some Indian Crime Syndicate to get the real story, man (I'm not a real journalist). 

As far as players go, I'd say I think 99% of them would do the right thing if approached and whether or not B-Mac reported a former Blackcaps captain or not, he definitely didn't take the bait. The players that get targeted tend to be targeted for a reason, some hold that they have over these players or a weakness that can be exploited (youth, debt, greed, etc.) and for that reason I've got a lot of sympathy for a fella like Mohammad Amir, who was almost certainly put in between a rock and a hard place when he was embroiled back when. The fact that he's served his time means people owe him the chance to show he's learned the error of his past ways - and how dumb would the cricket mafia have to be to go after him again with the world's eyes upon him? Then again, maybe we shouldn't underestimate the limits of their arrogance/ignorance. 

Look, I'm about all match-fixed out to be honest. I think the best thing to do is to bathe in blissful ignorance of our own and trust in that blind faith. If it's happening then I don't wanna know about it. If I don't know about it, then it doesn't make a difference to me how some game ended up the way it did, so long as I got my entertainment outta it. 

It's basically Sausage Theory.