At the time of writing, this coming Sunday (19th June) will be Father’s Day. It is this event in the calendar when, as a father of two, I annually see the hope of a day without the demands of “cash and carry” or “the jobs list” dashed on the rocks of reality. But it was also the fact that Father’s Day is coming that reminded me of two sporting stories from which I intend to draw the themes for this month’s blog.
The first story is one some of you may remember. The year is 2012, and it is December. There is a cross country race being run in Navarre. As the competitors approach the finish, in first place lies Abel Mutai, the Kenyan who won a bronze in the London Olympic Games only a few months earlier. In second, but some distance behind, is Spaniard Ivan Fernandez Anaya racing in home country. With no more than 10 meters to go, Mutai slows down and stops – believing he’s already crossed the finish line. Clearly, Anaya can catch him, despite the yawning gap between them that existed. Which he does.
Rather than overtake, Anaya pushes Mutai forwards and gestures for him to keep going to cross the line in first place.
After the event, Anaya was asked about his actions by a journalist. He replied, “My dream is that some day we can have a kind of community life.” “But why did you let the Kenyan win!” protested the local journalist – clearly bruised that home-grown talent hadn’t won gold. “I didn’t let him win. He was going to win”, was Ayala’s response. “What would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honour in that medal? What would my mom think of that?”
And second, there’s the footage from a documentary about Liverpool and England midfielder Steven Gerrard. A one-club player, he was courted by several rival clubs (most notably Chelsea – twice) to sign a contract that would have certainly been highly lucrative and in all probability would have assured him of greater success in terms of trophies. Gerrard remained with Liverpool, topping the “Match of the Day” pundits’ list as the greatest player never to win the Premier League. There is even a website devoted to “Ten rubbish Man Utd players with more premier league medals than Steven Gerrard” featuring a whole host of players that the annals of football history now overlook, and whose blushes I will spare in this blog.
But when asked why he didn’t move, earn more and win more medals, his response was typically brusque: “But who would I show them to?” With immediate and extended family all hailing from Liverpool and supporting the club that bears the city’s name, Gerrard knew that a league winner’s medal emblazoned with Chelsea-blue ribbons would not impress those he cared about, any more than Anaya’s gold medal won as a result of Mutai’s error would have impressed his mother.
We all have a conscience, and we all have sense of right and wrong. These are individual to us, and we judge and are judged in the world according to them. However, our values are transmitted from generation to generation. Working in schools, we see this in the attitudes and actions of parents and grandparents.
Unfortunately, in our world there will be a minority of people where the answer to the question “what would my mom think of that?” either would not be known or, if it were, the answer would not be one that would occupy a space upon the moral high ground. Yet for the overwhelming majority of young people, “what would my mom – or Dad – think of that?” is a good sense-check before making a choice when faced with a dilemma. For all those parents whose children would ask themselves that question and make the right judgment call as a result, we in our schools thank you.
As always, thanks for reading.