Two events occurred today that appear to have nothing in common. First, Mark Reason wrote an article for the news website, Stuff, in which he tore into the decision to appoint Brendon McCullum as coach of the England cricket test team. And second Eyad left Auckland on an Emirates 777-300 ER to swim in the Mare Nostrum series and the Budapest World Championships.

To appreciate the link between those events, let’s first consider each separately. Reason’s article is mean and nasty. He rips into McCullum’s record as a “short-form” coach. He pours scorn over the English decision to make the appointment. He highlights McCullum’s lack of experience in coaching test cricket. And, because McCullum is going to coach England against New Zealand, Reason plays the betrayal card. Strangely enough Reason ignores the fact that England’s captain, Ben Stokes, is also a New Zealander. How come he escaped the treason label?

It is Russell Coutts all over again. None of it deserves to be treated as serious sporting opinion. It is mean, nasty, noxious, vulgar and wrong. Whether it reflects the character of its author I do not know. But wherever the text came from, it does nothing to advance sport. Everything that sport should not be, everything players should avoid is highlighted by the content of this piece. It is full of literary head-high tackles, eye gouging, scrotum grasping and racial slurs. It is disgusting. I am nauseated Stuff decided to publish the rubbish. I’d have asked Reason to pack his cardboard carton and leave the building.

Like the Brad Butterworth and Russell Coutts’ case, we are talking about international sport. People play and coach for different countries. I’ve coached representatives of five countries, New Zealand, the UK, the Virgin Islands, the USA and Saudi Arabia. That does not make me any less proud of being a New Zealander. Coaching is my job.

Joseph coaches Australia. Crowley coaches Italy. Schmidt coached Ireland. Gatland coached Wales and the Lions. Deans coached Australia. Henry also coached Wales. Lam is coaching Bristol. Tonks is coaching rowing in Canada. Grace coached cycling in New Zealand, France and the UK. Lydiard coached in New Zealand, Mexico and Finland. Jelley helped New Zealand and American mile champions. If Reason is going to jump all over New Zealanders who have coached other nationalities, the list is going to be a long one.

And I tell you what, every one of those coaches has or had more New Zealand blood pumping through their veins than Mark Reason. Do not accuse us of betrayal. Reason is a whinging pom and it shows.

And then there is Eyad leaving for the Mare Nostrum series and the swimming World Championships. It is his first trip to Europe. As I write this post he has taken off from Auckland Airport and is currently heading north west up the coast of Northland at 28,000ft and at 774kms an hour. It is important he adopts a professional sportsman’s attitude. He cannot be part of any “gee-whiz, I’m excited to be on an airplane”. He is a professional athlete with a job of work to do.

His degree of professionalism will determine his attitude to events that occur and to how well he swims. Small-minded pettiness and primary school excitement have no place in the world of professional sport. For someone not all that experienced in international sport I am impressed with how quickly Eyad has adapted to his new role – calm and understated, as he should be.

Which brings me back to the link between these two events. Quite simply one shows how those involved in sport should not behave and the other is an example of how things should be done. I have a fair idea which camp Brendon McCullum is in.  

Because of the popularity of his employer Mark Reason has a loud voice. Unlike Eyad some athletes read Reason’s small-minded bigotry and take it on board as the way to behave. To that extent Reason makes New Zealand success at international sport ever more difficult. He promotes a bad attitude. Perhaps the MCC sent Reason to the other side of the world to make Brendon MCullum’s new job that little bit easier.

In the meantime, I will keep you up to date with Eyad’s swimming as he competes in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Canet en Roussillon and Budapest.  

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