Leading Article: Playing like amateurs - if only they would

Share
Related Topics
AMERICAN baseball has traditionally been a family sport played by heroes. Joe DiMaggio, the Forties colossus, used to tell children: 'I'll hit a home run for you', and he did. Even today everyone joins in at the seventh-inning stretch for a chorus of 'Take me out to the ball game'. No more. This week the 1994 World Series was cancelled because of a players' strike against plans to cap their salaries (average pounds 769,000). Greed has killed the game, at least for this season. These days, it would be more appropriate for baseball's superstars to adopt the refrain sung at Millwall: 'No one likes us, we don't care.'

Like so many professional sports, baseball has lost sight of its main task: to entertain the fans who pay the wages. It may be too much to expect professionals to behave like amateurs, literally lovers of their chosen games. But, too often, the overwhelming desire to make money inspires tedious tactics.

For example, one-day cricket, introduced to encourage exciting shots to the boundary, has become a ruthlessly efficient and essentially negative game. Rugby union is losing its brilliance and much of the charm has gone out of tennis.

Fortunately, sports that become boring are not beyond redemption. A recovery in football could be spotted during this summer's World Cup, thanks to a clampdown on fouls. Andre Agassi rescued the US Open at Flushing Meadow from the numbing influence of automata such as Pete Sampras. Tennis's governing bodies are considering rule changes that may lengthen rallies by reducing the advantage that high-powered racquets give servers.

But sport will not be saved solely by transforming professional attitudes. Players who do not reach Olympian heights need encouragement. This week, the Labour Party drew attention to the declining importance of school games in the curriculum. Team sports carried out at weekends, after school and at lunchtimes have decreased in more than 60 per cent of state schools over the past 10 years, according to the Secondary Heads Association. More than 5,000 school playing fields have been sold since 1979.

Bringing the thrill back to professional sports would help inspire new heroes. But unless young people have facilities and teaching, enthusiasm will wither at each equally important end of this spectrum.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Executive i...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: We Are Not Syriza; and the riddle of an imitation Sphinx in China

John Rentoul
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable