17 October 2018

Not all victories are recorded, but that’s ok

The books will show that in the year 2018, Royal beat St Thomas’ College Mt Lavinia by a 16-15 aggregate score to bring home the Dr R L Hayman Trophy after a lapse of six years. The books will mention that Royal won the first leg 9-7 and STC won the second 8-7. The margins and of course the number of goals clearly indicate ferocious competition. That’s about it.

The record books have the numbers. They mention victors and losers. Some names too, for example, in water-polo, the goal-scorers. And of course the names of the captains. Stats are sterile and scoreline can never capture the full story. 

Royalist of course would have savored a rare victory for the Thomians have dominated the series, having won on 16 occasions, Royal winning only eight times.  

Right now, that’s the news. It’s the kind of story that’s basically the same as is written after the Hayman Trophy is won and lost, except of course for a few numbers and some names. This year was different and that difference was also newsworthy.  

This year there was controversy regarding an infringement of the rules. That made the news. Video footage showed that Royal had an extra player in the pool for a certain period of time. Obviously this is not the first time such things have happened. Royal has been at the receiving end (in a lower age group game) in a previous year; that too has been captured on film. And some may argue that before technology was available there would have been similar incidents, only there’s no evidence.  

There are two ways it can happen of course; it could have been deliberate or it could have been carelessness. Bottom line: illegal.  Unfortunately, the game was done before the infringement was discovered. 

This is where the real story begins. Royal offered to forfeit the points obtained. Nice. Nicer still was the Thomian response. In fact the laudable gesture should be emphasized if only to drive home a point: true victories are not all captured in a final score, but in the affirmation of what’s noble. The response came in the form of a letter from the Acting Warden of St Thomas’ to the Principal of Royal College. The following are pertinent excerpts:

“We accept your position that what took place at the 1st Leg of the  Dr R L Hayman Trophy Water Polo match on 29th September was a bona fide error. We commend Royal College for the generous and magnanimous offer to forfeit the points obtained at the 1st Leg. 

“However, in keeping with the rich traditions and the spirt of sportsmanship and the special relationship enjoyed between the two schools sine the nineteenth century, in the circumstances aforementioned, we do not want Royal College to forfeit points of the 1st Leg and the score of 9-7 in favor of Royal College should remain. As in the past, the aggregate of the points of both the 21st and 2nd Legs should be taken into account in deciding the winners.”

It was a generous and brave decision. It added extra burden on the Thomian team but they were obviously ready to embrace the challenge. It would have been sweet indeed had they retained the trophy, but then again, they had already won a far greater victory. 

St Thomas’ made a statement without really making one. This is how I read it:

Sports is about competition. An encounter between two traditional rivals is always about fighting hard for one’s school. The teams are determined to bring honor to their particular school. However, honor is not only obtained through victory. Honor is also a product of affirming the greater values of integrity, humility and sportsmanship. There are no trophies to show for being honorable, but the pursuit of such honor does not entertain any trophy-aspiration. One does what one needs to do.  

Decades from now, someone reading about the history of the Dr R L Hayman Trophy would probably note that Royal won in 2018. If that someone dug deeper, he or she might unearth the backstory of that result. We don’t know the future, but if civilization has progressed, societies become more tolerant and people more inclined to conduct themselves with grace and honor, it is nice to think that this gesture by St Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia had contributed in some small way.


Anonymous said...

Everyone is talking about the responce of the Thomians to the letter sent by RC offering to nullify the 1st leg result. But people should know of the follong as well

This is an Extract of the last few sentences of the demanding 1st letter sent by the acting warden to Principal of RC on 1st Oct 2 days after the 1st leg.

"However, if the above is not adhered to, S.Thomas' College will be forced to take a more serious and a firmer stand with regard to the 2nd Leg which is to be played on the 6th of October.
I hope you would do the needful to ensure a good relationship between the two schools."

Is this the so called "grace and honor" of Thomian you refer to here in the article?

What authority does acting warden have to write to RC Principal in such manner threatening on the continuation of good relationship between the schools?

The original copy of the letter refered above is with the Principal of RC. Copies are with the RC games council, Acquatic club and with some of the senior old Rotalists (if anyone wants to check the authenticity)