Thursday 22 August 2019

Tragic sports tale put things in perspective

Weird Wide World of Sport

Wrestler Mark Schultz, subject of the film Foxcatcher, at the Academy Awards in 2015
Wrestler Mark Schultz, subject of the film Foxcatcher, at the Academy Awards in 2015

Dave Devereux

Usually my Sunday evenings are the kind of work-filled non-entities that would even send a Red Bull-fuelled raver into the deepest of slumbers.

However, while taking a quick and welcome tea break from the bright lights of my laptop and flicking through the television channels, I noticed that the critically acclaimed film Foxcatcher was being shown on BBC2.

The movie was released three years ago but somehow it managed to slip under my radar until now, so work had to take a back seat for a couple of hours.

If I was looking for something to fill me full of the joys of life I was certainly barking up the wrong tree as the sorry real-life tale of wealthy benefactor John du Pont and Olympic champion wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz brought me down a truly dismal and depressing path that inevitably ended in gut-wrenching tragedy.

The acting in the movie is exceptional, with Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo brilliantly portraying the working class, wrestling-mad brothers that are dragged into a strange world of money and privilege.

Steve Carell is unrecognisable from his flippant and frivolous roles in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Date Night as the ultra-creepy, sports-mad billionaire du Pont.

From the moment the isolated self-proclaimed head of Team Foxcatcher appears on the screen it's clear that it's not going to end well, and using money for self gain and to practically enslave others is a recipe for the most heinous of disasters.

When you digest a tragedy of such epic proportions, it illustrates the sheer folly of multi-millionaire sports stars who feel the world and his wife are against them when they're actually living the high life most of us mere mortals can only dream of.

Take one of the greatest footballers of our time, Cristiano Ronaldo, as an example.

Back in 2008 when he was trying to push through a transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid, he agreed with the declaration of the then Fifa President and since disgraced Sepp Blatter that he was being treated like a 'modern-day slave', although he was earning a decent few quid as a 23-year-old.

Maybe the record-breaking maestro has matured considerably since then, but footballers will say pretty much anything if they're finding it difficult to get their way and will throw the toys out of the pram quicker than the most bumptious of babies if there's a dream move to pastures new on the horizon.

This ridiculous talk of slavery isn't just reserved for footballers. American golfer Hunter Mahan also famously described the treatment of Ryder Cup players as being similar to slaves and was aghast that they didn't receive payment for the honour of representing their country.

At this time of year when sports sections of newspapers are filled with football transfers involving eye-watering fees and ridiculous stories of who's going where, for how much and for how long, it's become clear that, for better or worse, it's the players that hold the power over their employers.

You need look no further than what happened to Jose Mourinho when the Stamford Bridge brigade wanted him out, or more recently the part the players played in getting Claudio Ranieri the old heave-ho from Leicester City.

Wrestler Mark Schultz definitely didn't command anything like that kind of control under the tutelage of the disturbed du Pont and the sorry tale tragically ended in the death of his brother Dave, leaving his wife without a husband and his kids without a dad.

Speaking of sporting tragedies, the name Bradley Lowery was on the lips of many over the weekend as the brave little six-year-old lost his courageous battle with cancer.

His smile, lust for life and wonderful attitude have touched the hearts of many and his legacy will live on.

Also Jermain Defoe deserves the utmost respect for the part he played in making Bradley's final year more special and the heartfelt grief he showed after losing his special little friend Bradley.

Rest in peace young man.

Wexford People

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