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Has the drama of sport created our own Roman Colosseum?

ByJacob Birkenshaw

Oct 14, 2014

The name Colosseum derives from the Latin colloseus meaning ‘colossus’; nowadays it is hard not to see sport as something that is a colossus of drama and entertainment. There is something gloriously fulfilling about the spectacle, how it emanates from the sporting world. Whether it is cricket, football, rugby, golf; everybody loves the copious amounts of gossip and theatre.

It is easy to imagine Kevin Pietersen being directed by Shakespeare to stroll out on to stage and direct a hyperbolic tragic monologue, where all the trials and tribulations of his life are laid bare. Well, that’s what he has done in some form or another in the past week with the ongoing saga from his autobiography. Accusations of bullying here, a pinch of bad attitude there, sympathy and condemnation, it is simply marvelous.

What becomes intriguing is how integrated these sports stars are with the public sphere. Every dispute seems to be displayed for the public to see. Matt Prior in his response to Kevin Pietersen’s accusations of him being a changing room bully, and referring to himself in the third person as “The Big Cheese” saw him say he might bully his kids to buy him the whole book for Christmas. Although, we didn’t get this response through a PR representative, or a newspaper, we got it through the well renowned place of dispute, Twitter. It is this type of cut and thrust that we love, and that we can’t get enough of.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the crucible of Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography histrionics is the melting pot of voices that have joined the debate. Matthew Hoggard has called Pietersen a “very bitter man”; Dominic Cork alleges that Pietersen has left a “trail of destruction” wherever he has been. Added to the melting pot are members outside of English cricket, Ponting has come out in support of Pietersen and claims that it was noticeable on the pitch, the bullying culture which Pietersen claims so vigorously.

More bizarrely, the Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson waded in on the debate on bullying in sport arguing that bullying is in the eyes of the beholder, a debate sparked by one book. Unwittingly, Johnson encapsulates the culture of controversy and drama, where events in one sport can impact upon entire echelons of society. It can always capture human interest and if dramatic enough can capture attention and analysis for weeks.

A feature that surely captures the imagination and is the good old ‘top ten quotes’ which every mainstream newspaper seems to regurgitate whenever an autobiography comes out. We saw it with Alex Ferguson’s autobiography. And we now see it with Roy Keane’s and Kevin Peitersen’s. There are some absolute gems, quotes that sparkle in the light and ignite atmosphere. One such quote-involved Keane wishing to get Robbie Savage to bolster his Sunderland team, after getting his mobile number Keane was immediately put off by Savage’s voicemail being “wazzzzzzzzzuuuuup”. Keane proceeded to immediately put the phone down. Something like that is joyous to read, it is dramatic in the comical sense and brings a smile to the tightest lips.

Roy Keane has become this hard, bristled, Cork man as twisted by media perception and frenzy, but when it comes to the bone he is very funny. There was a part of the book that added blood to the sand, and drama of the Colosseum, a part that becomes the most disturbing of the autobiography. Bringing up his tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001 and saying that he doesn’t regret what happened, for those of you who have not seen the challenge it is simply blood curdling, gives a Macbeth like edge to Keane. It is Haaland’s response that captures delight, however. After being asked to respond on Twitter Haaland, rather tongue-in-cheek, commented that “you can’t take a man seriously with a beard like Saddam Hussein’s.” He provides the perfect comedic reaction.

Tears, laughter, joy, they are all facets of a good drama and sport seems to provide them at every turn. The duality that comes with drama and subsequent comedy is integral, wherever there are serious matters to be raised there will always be a few comedic lines in there, encapsulating why sport becomes a theatre. Sport caters to every audience; it is a topic of conversation. One controversy can have an amount of people scoffing, deriding, agreeing, or just laughing at it. You may not like what is happening, but you cannot ignore it because it is theatre. It is a spectacle, a Colosseum.

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