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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Hoopin’ and Hollerin’

In theory, after each loss or poor performance by a fan’s team of choice, fans can react positively or negatively. In practice, it’s almost exclusively the latter. While we like to think we support our players and coaches, we sports fans are often quick to turn. Every muffed Sonny Bill offload brings derision from the masses, Black-Caps jokes are as much a part of the national psyche as cricket, and when the All Blacks lose, the only question asked is: “How could this happen?”

It’s very easy to be a sideline expert—indeed, anyone with a TV and a voicebox often becomes one by default. It’s equally as easy to deride or dismiss the aptitude of sports stars. It seems silly to say it, but the thing is, not everyone appreciates the fact that it takes a special sort of person to become a professional at their craft. When I was younger and playing sport heavily, we were told of the 103 rule. That is, to be a world-class athlete requires ten years of dedicated training, 10,000 hours, and even then, only ten per cent of people make it. You have to be a genetic freak, and have a natural ability which you hone over time. No matter how hard you work, the odds are still stacked against you.

Once a sportsperson gets to the top, the divide between them and the rest grows even further. They’re now subject to the best everything, with the sole goal of improving their performance.

Consider the best sportsperson you ever encountered during high school. Now consider that person training and competing full-time, with the best coaches, technical staff on all sides, the finest facilities, the latest gear, the perfect preparation and recovery techniques, expert nutritionists, specialist medical staff, masseuses; the list goes on.

Improving performance is a big business: Sport NZ, the Crown entity responsible for sport and physical recreation in New Zealand, spends over $70 million a year. The High Performance Budget is $60 million. And this is just New Zealand; other countries spend much, much more. The amount of money and research which goes into professional sport is staggering, as are the benefits provided by such investment. As technology improves, so too does human performance.

While it’s fair to always want the best, perfection is elusive. We’ve been conditioned by Top 10 Plays lists to expect the best, every time. Let’s re-evaluate our expectations; we have the privilege to be watching the most finely tuned human specimens of all time compete at never-before-seen levels of competition. Instead of turning on our sportspeople, why not celebrate their achievements and the context in which they operate constructively? Even Marina Erakovic.

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