Acting in Sport

As I sat in the arena watching the World Taekwondo Championships the other day, a thought occurred to me: for a combat sport there sure is a lot of football-style embellishment going on here. I’ve never outside of the soccer pitch, seen so much rolling around on the ground as if death were imminent and such a gratuitous use of “magic spray”. A fighter… combatant… player? I don’t know what to call them, after receiving a kick anywhere outside of their protective gear, would instantly hit the ground or turn away from their opponent and then with a beckoning motion of the hand call their trainer who would then scamper out onto the floor, give them a shot of spray or a quick massage, and then retreat. Voila, right as rain.

Probably, this has something to do with the fighters trying to draw attention to an illegal hit, which from what I can tell is any kick below the lower abdomen. (On a side note, taekwondo seems like an incredibly finicky and complicated sport when it comes to rules and scoring points.) Regardless, it was irritating to watch. To their credit, it did seem that the higher ranked competitors were far less likely to engage in such bullshit.

I suppose it’s inevitable that in any sport, where an advantage can be gained by faking injury in order to draw attention to an illegal action by your opponent, such acting will occur.

One sport where diving and acting has always, thankfully, been kept to a minimum is hockey. Hockey is the most openly violent team sport in the world. Punching someone in the face, hitting with a stick and bare-knuckle fighting are regular occurrences within the game. Perhaps, because of this, and the ‘be a man” mentality (continually championed by people like Don Cherry), which has always been tied into the sport, such fakery has remained rare.

This year’s NHL playoffs, however, have already seen some notable examples of acting. Among them was Patrice Bergeron of Boston’s phantom high stick on James Wisniewski of Montreal, who did a fabulous job of selling it to the referee. And then the other night in the San Jose – Detroit game there was this:

Very Rivaldo-esque. And this coming from a guy (Thornton) who Cherry has long hailed as one of his good ol’ Canadian boys; too honest, tough and hard-working to ever take a dive.

This kind of shit has no place in any sport. Whether it’s done in a combat sport like taekwondo, a fast team sport like hockey, or a gentleman’s sport like football, it’s disgusting.

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