Reason: Video games threaten future of sport

MARK REASON
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014

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OPINION: All over this light-splashed country thousands of kids are spending their summer on an Xbox or a PlayStation or some other zombie device that wires their brain to a machine.

The sons of New Zealand are living in the shadows.

They squat in dark places behind drawn curtains.

We are raising a bleached generation and I am wondering, I am fearing, what is the future for sport?

REAL INTENSITY. REAL CHAMPIONS. REAL ACTION. REAL HISTORY. REAL EMOTION. REAL TENNIS.

What troll wrote those promotional words for Grand Slam Tennis 2?

REAL BUNKUM.

Our kids, especially the boys, aren't playing real sport, they are playing virtual sport. There is nothing real about it.

And anyway, real tennis is another game altogether, a game played with a cross between a tennis racket and a squash racket, in a large hall with walls and odd angles.

I am the parent to a virtual kid. He is nearly at home these summer holidays. But he is also elsewhere.

He lives in another world with his mates. Maybe it was always like this to be a teenager, although I know I got out more.

And I am sure I would have been just the same if the Xbox had been around in the seventies. But I thank God it wasn't.

Our kids are now only likely to experience the Australian Open through an Xbox game.

"Feel the excitement and emotion of championship tennis with Grand Slam Tennis 2. Experience the thrill of winning at Wimbledon and capturing all four grand slam tournaments. Rise to stardom as you challenge a deep roster of elite players including Djokovic, Federer, Nadal."

That is just pernicious. Or am I just a sucker and someone who my kids would say sucks at Xbox?

I was out on the golf course with Sydney the Staff terrier through the long hot British summer of '76 when Birkdale caught fire during the Open and one pro four-putted the first green, it was so baked.

I pretended I had a putt for the Open. I pretended I was the man to pull down Johnny Miller's Rupert Bear trousers and win it for Britain. Is that so very different to the virtual world that our children are inhabiting?

Back in the day Bobby Fischer spent his childhood staring at a chess board. Is that any more normal than what our kids are up to? Bad example.

Fischer did not need a console to be wired. He was brought up weird.

What about New Zealand's own family of Turners, southern boys, pushed outdoors, told to get on with it so long as they looked out for others.

If there had been an Xbox in the Turner family would Glenn have played cricket for New Zealand or Brian hockey?

Would Greg have toured the world as a professional golfer? Or would the light, the long southern light, have dimmed?

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Would Hillary have climbed Everest? Would, would, would? Oh shut up, Dad. I know, I know.

The kids will tell you that Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal are gamers. They play each other all the time when they are in the same hotels at tournaments. Nadal says he wins.

"Now he [Murray] really don't want to play [any] more. He lost the last few times. Well, no, seriously. Well, seriously, that's true. He lost almost every time. He played with his friend Danny against Monaco and me, and we won."

Murray says, "[Nadal] actually isn't very good at PlayStation. His partner is very good. He plays with Juan Monaco, and Juan Monaco is very good."

Nadal and Murray have no way of really playing in this year's football World Cup so they go online.

This is maybe the greatest tennis generation of all time and PlayStation hasn't done them any harm. In fact it is said by some to reduce stress and improve hand-eye co-ordination. That has to be good for a tennis player, doesn't it?

I can hear the justification. And maybe the kids are right.

But Kim Sears split with Murray four years ago because he was spending seven hours a day on his PlayStation.

First hand experience tells us that as soon as our kids get their hands on one of these zombie-machines, they become sullen.

Addiction takes hold. They scarcely go outside. They want to spend every hour on the machine. They lie and cheat and steal. They become angry when denied. Take it away and withdrawal sets in for a day or so. Then eventually, you get your kid back.

How many children want to go fishing any more? I am 51 and I want to take up angling.

I have been reading Brian Turner tell me that lolling is not a waste of time. Fishing is about the bounce and insistence of a brawling river, about scheming, about care and caring, dreams and dreaming.

"Definitely not a waste of time."

The kids will say that they are not wasting their time on the Xbox and I want to shout "bollocks." It is not a very persuasive argument but that's what the Xbox does. It makes us a race of angry people.

Maybe I should go and play NHL 14 or Madden NFL 25 or Tiger Woods PGA Tour to calm down. But it isn't sport. I leave the golf course often serene, win or lose.

The Xbox leaves me fried. I read that someone took a pitchfork to one of these machines.

I dream of a huge axe and splintering all the Japanese component parts, while chanting the mantra: "Xbox, axe box, ex box, Xbox, axe box, ex box."

Try it. It's therapeutic. Then go and hit a ball.

- Fairfax Media

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