MATT Damon and Ben Affleck’s film ‘Air’ recounts the story of how Nike, then a bottom of the line sports brand signed Michael Jordan to a sneaker deal which turned out to be possibly one of the greatest ever sports/business collaboration ever, with the Air Jordan division of Nike now worth over $4 billion dollars.
The film prompted a re-watch of The Last Dance docuseries on Netflix. The main thrust of the documentary for those who haven’t seen it is the competitiveness of Jordan and his drive to win at all costs, as Magic Johnson put it, “the doesn’t just want to beat you, he wants to destroy you”.
As the good people of Derry and Armagh gear up for a novel Ulster final pairing on Sunday, is it win at all costs or do you want your time to win it in the right way, the way to make your kids proud? I have been a firm believer throughout my career, both on the pitch and in business, that winning is all that matters, but as I get older and maybe after becoming a father, my perspective has changed somewhat. I raise the question, what is the point in winning in sport if it comes at the cost of everything else in your life? Respect in today’s capitalist society usually goes hand in hand with winning but winning in the right way also has to be important.
Donald Trump may win the Republican nomination next year and he may even win the Presidency back, personally I don’t think he will win either, but even if he did, it would be difficult to respect a man even in that position who has been found by a jury of sexually assaulting and defaming a young woman. His deposition tape alone are enough to turn the stomach.
Of course there is always room for forgiveness but a line has to be drawn somewhere and that goes for the GAA as well. Bad behaviour both at club and especially at inter-county level is often overlooked if you are a star player or you can help win an Ulster of All-Ireland title. The bigger the star the more you can get away with.
Indeed, the example set in other sports should be a dire warning to the GAA. NFL has a terrible record of holding players to account. A peer reviewed study by the Middlesex University in London found that “the top 75% of NFL players didn’t really see, on average, an impact on their career from accusations of violence against women”. Noting the study was based on those who had been charged with crimes such as domestic violence against women, not simply those accused.
The GAA should learn from this and along with inter-county teams and management should have a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour off the pitch, including serious criminal convictions for whatever reason, players should be banned from playing at any level and members banned from the Association.
Attacks on referees in the past have resulted in lifetime bans but member actions away from the GAA pitch or clubhouse should in extreme circumstances also warrant a lifetime ban. For example, Thomas McKenna the disgraced ex-treasurer of the Crossmaglen Rangers club should be banned for life from being a member of the GAA or setting foot on any GAA grounds again after his convictions for an unprecedented campaign of sexual abuse spanning three decades of sexual abuse on young boys and men.
A massive weekend is ahead of us in the championship and though winning is important it is more important to be able to look your children in the eye and to be an example to the next generation with your behaviour both on and off the field.
We should forget about winning at all costs and should ask ourselves the question, what is the cost of winning?