Six of One – Does it pay to be nice in sport?


Six of One – Does it pay to be nice in sport?

Six of One is our weekly take on a burning sporting issue.

This week we’re asking: does it pay to be nice in the world of sport?

Play nice?

The last two weeks have seen two vastly different sporting personalities dominating the news headlines.

The sad passing of former England captain and widely respected football pundit Ray Wilkins led to a huge outpouring of tributes from across the sporting spectrum.

Whilst many rightly focused on the 61-year-old’s outstanding footballing achievements, the bulk of the tributes were focused on the man’s character: personable, no airs and graces, always making time for an encouraging word regardless of a person’s status.

Unlike the usual trite instant outpouring of social media tributes rushed out when a high-profile figure dies, the response to Wilkins’ passing seemed genuinely heartfelt, with several touching anecdotes shared about the natural warmth and charisma of the former Chelsea and Man Utd legend.

Ray Wilkins

Contrast that affection with the noticeably muted response that welcomed Patrick Reed’s inaugural Major victory at the Masters – both on the course at Augusta and across social media. Reed may have walked away with the Green Jacket, but he has consistently failed to win the hearts and minds of golf fans and players.

Reed has gained a reputation for being difficult and aloof amongst his peers and has been haunted by allegations about his course conduct going back to his time as a junior. Reed has even become estranged from his parents and sister after a longstanding family row. The rest of the Reed family had to settle for watching the Green Jacket ceremony on TV despite living just a few minutes from Augusta National.

As Reed closed in on victory on Sunday, it was clear many in the crowd weren’t buying in to a classic sporting underdog tale, willing more established names including Rickie Fowler, Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy to pounce and secure the Masters title.

Much to his credit, Reed shut out all the noise to hold firm and claim a one-shot victory from Fowler, but the controversial Major winner still has plenty of work to do before his monumental achievement is applauded amongst the wider golfing fraternity. Will he care? With the Green Jacket safely secured in his cupboard for the next year and an unexpected near $2m windfall in the bank, it’s doubtful.

Wilkins and Reed couldn’t be more different in terms of their respective outlooks on life. What their respective journeys prove, however, is that a questionable character is never a barrier to success in the unforgiving world of sport. Ultimately in the pursuit of glory, it’s natural talent, a competitive edge and the rub of the green on any given day that really count.

Wilkins succeeded as a footballer because he was talented and committed, not because he was nice. But, as the last week demonstrates, he will be fondly remembered.

Will Reed be able to say the same when he looks back over his career?

Who are your favourite sporting pantomime villains?

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All image sources from PA Images

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