Columnist Martin Smith on the sleazy side of sport

Referees beaten and abused, colossal corruption at FIFA, the ongoing drugs scandals in athletics.

Monday, 7th December 2015, 7:46 pm

Sport is rotten, violent and full of cheats. Who needs it? Who needs to see young men and women being punched and kicked by Sunday-morning football thugs? Who wants to hear of even more Swiss-based officials helping themselves to illicit lottery-win sized perks? As for drugs in sport, pass me the valium.

Right now Sepp Blatter is about as isolated as he can be. Unlike the man on the moon in the John Lewis ad (by the way isn’t a child sending a telescope to an old man so he can see her at home just a bit creepy on some level?) the only guaranteed present Sepp will get between now and Christmas is an invitation to a personal hearing with FIFA’s ethics judge on December 16.

They don’t tend to send those via balloon. All of which makes sport’s high ideals seem foolish and cheap. We are frequently embarrassed by our collective naiveté. Then something happens. It can be small or great but something wins us back.

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Sport overcomes its manipulators, cheats and fixers because in a moment the pain of their cant and corruption can be swept away.

Moments like the relief, delight and defiance in the roar from the St James Park crowd when Newcastle’s second goal clinched a win over Liverpool.

The sheer joy and exuberance of Liang Wenbo’s boy-on-a-spring celebration after he beat David Grace 6-4 in the semi-final of the UK Snooker Championships.

And then his battling against the tears as he tried to speak about his family after losing the final.

Of course these are all emotional responses that won’t make sport’s huge problems go away.

But it’s the emotion that keeps us coming back, keeps us believing and hoping.

It can be painful and it will let us down but sport will always win because at its best it transcends all wrongdoing and doubt.

Not just because in those moments of joy or despair it helps us, fleetingly, to connect with others, but also because it does so much good.

So many people training, coaching, performing and watching.

So many families, clubs and schools supporting, encouraging, enduring.

With sport we get all the problems that humans bring with them in everything they do.

Without it we would be less than ourselves.

Who needs sport? We all do.