Club owners and managers, particularly in the world of football, frequently trot out the well worn phrase that they are in a results driven business, usually after another manager is dismissed. Draws mean very little to them, it’s all about winning even though sometimes such decisions can be extremely short sighted for draws can be extremely valuable when achieved against supposedly superior opposition.
Sport invariably follows the same ideals and principles as life. In life there are winners and losers, and the same is true of sport. Granted, matches can be drawn during the course of a season, but ultimately, when the trophies are handed out, there has to be a winner, however that is arrived at. In football, those dramatic yet ultimately unsatisfactory penalty shoot outs can determine a winner at a knock out event or a final, which will often have no bearing on the 120 minutes of action that preceded the shoot out. Teams’ positions in league tables can be determined by goals or points difference, which seems far more satisfactory as it reflects a team’s performances over the course of a period of time or a season. Whichever way you look at it there is a winner and it has to be like that.
But does this understandable obsession with winning render the draw unsatisfactory?
Much has been written about the ending to the Lions Test series with the All Blacks, for when Romain Poite’s final whistle blew in the third and final match with the scores tied at 15 points each, it rendered both that the match and the overall series were drawn.
Somewhat ironically, it was customary for a referee, on blowing the final whistle, to declare ‘no-side’ and on this occasion that was very much the case, as no side had won.
At that moment there was certainly an immediate sense of anticlimax as the players looked at each other not knowing quite what to do or what emotions to display. For the Lions, celebrating a draw did not seem quite right nor did it for the All Blacks, for both sides had been desperate to win, such was their competitive nature. The crowd had a similar feeling, so much emotion expended for nothing ? Many wondered if there was going to be extra time ? Even the ridiculous idea that an extra match hastily be added to the tour ? And then in the coming days, the even more ridiculous idea that a fourth Test be played at Twickenham after the Autumn Internationals to determine the winner.
But why ? Why oh why ? There doesn’t always have to be a winner. Sometimes sport can throw up a draw which is indeed far more satisfactory than one side being the victor and this really was one such occasion. The Lions or the All Blacks might not think that, such was their desire to win, but in the context of the wider sporting world and how this series will be viewed in times to come, then this draw could well be considered to be glorious.
Often in an incredibly tight, well fought match, commentators will say that it would be a great shame for either team or player to lose and, as well as the Lions Test series, this notion is no better illustrated than in an epic five set tennis match lasting several hours. However, in that scenario there will still have to be a winner and loser as tennis matches cannot be drawn, but the view is nevertheless sound. Sometimes no one deserves to lose.
And that was very much the case for the Lions and the All Blacks. Both teams had given it everything over the three match series, it had ebbed and flowed and provided gripping entertainment in the way that only sport can. No quarter was asked or given, this was full blooded combat between arguably the best two rugby teams in the world, played in the best of spirit and admirably refereed. Yet after 240 minutes, the sides were level, nothing could split them. Indeed it would have been cruel to have initiated some arbitrary kicking competition to determine a winner, or indeed played extra time, as the matches were all about 80 minutes of action, and that is how both teams had prepared.
It was indeed a glorious draw and it should be savoured, indeed relished in a world which rarely allows for such an eventuality.
All the players who took part in this epic series can hold their heads high knowing that they gave it their all. They were all winners and can be proud of the fact. The series will live long in the memory for those who played or witnessed it, and arguably more so because of the conclusion.
Indeed it left everyone wanting more and it is often said the best books or short stories, films or television dramas have the same effect. The reader or audience is left in limbo, wanting more but not able to have it. They just can’t get enough. It is the ultimate drug.
Sometimes there is a sequel when all will be revealed but often not, leaving the individual to ponder and make up their own mind as to what might have happened next, which can be incredibly thought provoking and, by its very nature, glorious too. It can be gripping and tantalising, a cliff hanger yet without a conclusion.
And this is what happened to the Lions, arguably making heroes of them all.
There are few comparables in the modern sporting world where a draw can mean so much, embodying the very essence and spirit of sport and displaying true Corinthian values. This Test series was not about money, for all the Lions players would have readily played without payment, this was all about honour and pride, this arguably being the pinnacle of their rugby careers.
Sport can be glorious in so many ways. As we celebrate the incredible and glorious victories of Federer and Muguruza at Wimbledon, Hamilton in the British Grand Prix and maybe Froome again in the Tour de France, it was arguably the drawn rugby series between the Lions and the All Blacks which has been the most captivating, proving that a draw can arguably be the most glorious outcome of all.