Sunday, 17 February 2013

Why is so much surprise

expressed at Oscar Pistorius having a "dark side"? Quite apart from the fact that the vast majority of us have a dark side - things we do not want others to know about - this man is a "sportsman". His life is about winning - not losing.
Part of my university career was spent at the Australian National University. A short distance down the road - so to speak - there is the Australian Institute of Sport. 
The "hall of residence" I lived in would occasionally have students from the AIS staying for short periods. It was often my job to make sure they knew the ropes. I have never been sure if this was supposed to be some sort of joke or whether the college leader really believed I could handle difficult students well. 
Yes, they usually were difficult. They were not like other students. Other students had their ups and downs. Some of them were immature. Some were more mature. Some were difficult part of the time and one or two were downright obnoxious but the vast majority of the university students were normal, intelligent individuals.
Not so the sports students. They were different. They were much more demanding. They were used to being the centre of attention. 
I can remember the kitchen staff complaining that these students expected their meals to be served around their training session times - not according to the usual college timetable. 
It was the responsibility of students to keep their rooms clean and tidy and do their own washing. Most students would at least pull the bedclothes up and we kept an eye on the general cleanliness of the rooms - peer pressure can be positive as well as negative. 
The AIS students rarely made their beds and, thankfully, were not there long enough to allow their rooms to get really dirty. I devised ways of making sure they did some cleaning.
Doing the washing was another story. The college had washing machines and dryers and area where clothes could be hung. All too often to AIS students these machines were as great a mystery as the internal combustion engine is to me. 
It seems their mothers had always done it for them and, unlike the average university student, they believed someone else should do it for them now. They were there to run or jump, kick or hit a ball or swim. They were not there to wash clothes. We had to disabuse them of the idea that they were "gods" and "goddesses" and make them understand that, at least while they were there, they would have to do these things for themselves.
There were exceptions of course. I remember one quiet, courteous runner. The kitchen staff loved him and he gave them flowers when he left. A male student who was sexually harassing a very shy and timid new female student suddenly found himself on the floor - courtesy of a small female swimmer. She called him a "worm" and walked off to loud cheers. 
But sports students are there because they want to win. They know they have to work. They know they will be criticised by their coaches and team mates and that they will be exhorted to go faster and higher and longer. Outside that though they expect admiration. Their egos demand it. 
This is their dark side. Life with these precious individuals cannot be easy. They probably do not find life with themselves very easy. Much is demanded of them and they demand much of themselves.
And, for the likes of Oscar Pistorius, it must be even worse. He has even more to lose than most. 
Someone else has lost their life - and that is an unspeakable tragedy for any family.
Whatever the outcome Pistorius will have to live with that. 

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