Recently, I had the opportunity to see some live mixed martial arts fights during the Havoc Fighting Championships in Red Deer.
The fights were great. They were exciting, entertaining and the fighters displayed incredible levels of athleticism in the ring.
Outside of the ring however, I became acutely aware of a problem many of the fans around me were adding to – smack-talk.
Whenever a fighter who was not from Red Deer entered the ring, the crowd booed. When a favourite fighter was doing particularly well, someone in the crowd would shout something like, “Yeah! Break his neck!”
And when Luis Huete made short work of Red Deer fighter Wolfgang Jensen in the main event of the evening, some fans of Jensen even stood up and shouted obscenities.
Smack-talk has no place in any sport (particularly MMA, where there is already a problem of people viewing it as a thuggish blood sport). Yet, it can be observed in almost all sports and in my opinion, is a real problem.
Thankfully, it is a problem mostly propagated by fans of sports, and not the athletes themselves.
Unfortunately, it’s also the fans that sports have the least control over.
A coach can pull unruly players off the field and have them warm the bench for a while when they start spouting off at the mouth.
However, until fans start being genuinely abusive, there is little anyone can do about their rude behaviour.
Sportsmanship is defined as the ethos that sports should be enjoyed for their own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors. Anything contrary to such conduct is unsportsmanlike and behaviour of the sort of people we like to refer to as ‘sore losers.’ Smack-talk is the furthest thing from the definition of sportsmanship that I can think of and therefore should have no place in sports.