I am reluctant to write the Group Ride that is currently leaving my fingertips, because we’ve gone over and over and over topics of fairness and morality, via cycling’s long struggle with doping. BUT. The FIFA scandal of the last few days (and decades) has tipped my way of thinking about competitive sports into a new space. That is, that sports are entertainment more than competition, that where there is money, cheating and corruption are unavoidable, and that continually trying to overlay a morality on them is pointless. It doesn’t mean I have to like the shady side of competition, but it’s nothing more or less than the shady side of human nature.
What seems true to me is that corruption is relative. In the U.S., it is legal for corporations to give large sums of money to politicians who legislate on matters that pertain directly to their business interests. On the face of it, that money is a bribe, but we accept this as part-and-parcel of our political process. (Please note: I am only observing this phenomenon and using it as an example, not trying to make a political point).
Within the culture of pro cycling in the ’90s (and ’80s, and ’70s, and ’60s, and ’50s) there was a tacit understanding that the rules, as written, did not accurately represent the way the peloton operated, that they were but window dressing for fans who wanted to believe in the purity of the competition, and that no one in their right mind would follow them. We have (almost) all faulted the UCI for not properly policing the sport, and obviously there have been times when the sport’s governors weren’t all that interested in their own rules, but are we asking too much?
This is not to say that I don’t want to see clean racing, clean football, clean the other football, clean government, but anymore I believe we might be asking too much of our own species.
Where are you at with this? Do you believe clean competition, for profit, is possible? Or are we beyond good and evil, to borrow from Nietzsche? Is moralizing about sport a waste of time? Should we just value the entertainment or are these fights worth fighting? Or both? Convicted doper Alberto Contador wears the maglia rosa today, and Sepp Blatter was re-elected FIFA president. No matter what we think, the world seems to have gone amoral around us.