This week has thrown up three classic examples of how the standard of sporting behaviour is generally inversely proportional to the stage of the competition involved.
As the level of media coverage goes up, the level of participant discipline tends to go down.
Or put another way, the more contests mature, the more juvenile their exponents.
American tennis player Serena Williams led the way in her one-woman crusade against the entire male gender.
Evoking the spirit of British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst a century earlier, the 23-time grand slam champion risked personal condemnation by standing up for the right for women to be able to cheat in finals.
The softly-spoken downtrodden battler branded US Open final umpire Carlos Ramos sexist for correctly imposing a code violation for coaching, followed by a point penalty for racket abuse then a game penalty for calling him a “thief”.
Aside from her argument with chair umpire Eva Asderaki in 2011 (calling her “unattractive inside”), line judge Shino Tsurubuchi in 2009 (the old “shove a tennis ball down your throat” invitation), umpire Mariana Alves in 2004 and many more like them, the outburst was totally out-of-character for Williams.
The tennis-playing embodiment of her nation’s president, Williams insisted she did not cheat when caught being coached, even though her coach Patrick Mouratoglou later admitted coaching her.
“I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” she told Ramos, while doing both.
Having been caught red-handed on all three counts, Williams was subsequently fined $US10,000 for the "verbal abuse" of Ramos, $US4000 for being warned for coaching and $US3000 for smashing her racket.
In her post-match press conference, she reverted to the Pankhurst defence with the erudite declaration: “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff.”
“I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” Williams told Ramos, while doing both.
Australia’s former international tennis umpire and all-round guardian of sporting integrity Richard “Blackest day in Australian sport” Ings presented an alternative, and perhaps more impartial, viewpoint.
“Well done USTA. Deserving fines for appalling on court behaviour,” Ings said.
“Ramos made absolutely the correct calls as a chair umpire in each of these three incidents.
“The decisions had nothing to do with sexism or racism. They had everything to do with observing clear breaches of the grand slam code of conduct and then having the courage to call them without fear or favour.
“It is Williams who owes an apology to Ramos, not the other way around.”
A world away geographically, but strangely close psychologically, and the climax of Australia’s assorted footy seasons witnessed increasingly unpredictable conclusions.
Who could possibly foresee that a group of young, testosterone-pumped men freed from a year’s recreational restraints and invited to consume unlimited alcohol in a concept dubbed “Mad Monday” was ever going to end badly?
It’s hardly the NRL or AFL’s fault if players abuse such an innocent invitation by setting fire to the occasional dwarf or stripping off on a pub balcony, vomiting over the pavement, appearing on assorted newspaper front pages and getting charged by police.
Even closer to home and the Tasmanian State League produced its own edition of men behaving badly while its tribunal set new grounds for sporting myopia.
Moderately ineffective throughout the regular season, the tribunal, like the players, feels the need to step up a gear when finals loom.
When Glenorchy’s Zac Webster was referred for striking North Launceston’s Rhyan Mansell last week, the TSL match review panel determined the act to be intentional and to the head and offered Webster a base sanction of two matches, reduced to one with an early guilty plea.
Webster did enter a guilty plea but rejected the offer, arguing that the act should be downgraded to careless.
Although Mansell had to leave the field under the blood rule, the tribunal accepted the act “was indeed careless with low impact” and handed Webster a reprimand.
This meant he was free to play Lauderdale on Saturday and was clearly still remorseful from his brush with officialdom when he twice struck Jacob Gillbee in remarkably similar circumstances.
The first earned a sanction of three matches, which was reduced to two when Webster entered a guilty plea.
The second, a right hook powerful enough to lift Gillbee off the ground, was considered serious enough to be referred directly to the tribunal but won’t be heard until after the grand final.
Cleary, Webster – like Williams and the Canterbury Bulldogs – will be out of action for a while.