Sunday, 4 May 2008

It's just a game


Australia is regarded as a great sporting nation. You name it, we play it. For a country with a small population of just over 21 million people, we always do well on the world sporting stage. Our climate is ideal for year round sports. There are no restrictions on space, the population is concentrated near the coasts which offers an attraction to water sports and sport is not restricted to social classes, races or gender.

In fact, our sense of national pride and morale seems to be very closely tied to sport. Well for every Australian it seems, but me.

You see, just because you're an Australian doesn't automatically mean that you're really sporty or even interested in sports. Or, just because you come from a really sports minded family, it doesn't mean that you can balance a basketball on your finger, know the differences between the four codes of football played or kick a ball into the nets blindfolded.

When I was growing up sport was a central part of my family's life. My parents played tennis a lot. My father played cricket 24 hours a day (or that's what it seemed like) until his 50s. My brother played every sport known to mankind and then some. As did my sisters.

I mean I had my day on sporting fields, but, over time, other things took more of my interest and time. I like being outdoors. I like walking. I'm a team player but I just don't 'get' most games - hitting balls with sticks into a net, or kicking balls or tackling each other to the ground or hitting balls over goalposts. And to think if you do that well you can get paid millions when scientists discovering cures for deadly diseases go unnoticed. I really don't get that.

I don't mind watching sports live but I don't like watching sport on TV (except for the Olympic Games). I would rather watch paint dry.

It looked like my daughter was following in my footsteps for a while. When she started playing basketball she was more concerned what her uniform was doing and where her hair was sitting than what direction the ball was going. Her coach said she was the cutest kid on the court(he would get arrested for saying that now). I thought his comments were positive. But, unfortunately my sister (who also happened to be a top basketball player) was aghast and totally shocked. Cute without talent was not on. Not in my family. So, she took my daughter in hand and she ended up playing at representative level.

I am a very competitive person so I understand the drive. But I just don't understand the 'passion'. I've always kept my mind open to one day watching something, feeling the Uhh Huhh moment and finally understanding what all the fuss was about. I am still waiting.

I have watched heaps of sport....often begrudgingly but you have to give and take, right? When living in the UK I went to lots of football games (where the pies held more interest to me than the game). I know for a fact that Aussies are not as 'deadly' serious about their sports as the British are about their football (soccer). Going to some of those large games, where hundreds of thousands of fans go, is like taking your life into your hands and hoping for the best. They go in the turnstiles as calm, family oriented, decent people and suddenly when they get in their seats they turn. Into really loud, aggressive, obnoxious prats (well not all obviously but enough to make you thing its endemic). Once I was sitting in the stands, apparently watching an exciting nail biting game (wasn't obvious to me but the increase in swearing indicated so), and someone threw something and hit the bald guy in front of me on the head. He had a large chunk taken out of his scalp and blood was pouring everywhere. He just kept on waving his hands, abusing the referee and the players and didn't even flinch. He was feeling no pain. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him that as blood was now dripping on my shoe he may possibly need medical help as I didn't have a bandaid in my bag large enough to cover the gaping wound. It was surprising that he didn't give me a wound to remember given the way he looked at me. Passionate people are great as long as they keep their flying missiles, abuse and filthy bigoted songs at home. But apparently that's just sport. It doesn't really count.

If I were to be perfectly honest, my interest levels in sports have somehow corresponded with the attractiveness levels of the players. Take Cricket for example. This game is central to Aussie culture ever since a team of Aboriginal cricketers thrashed the Poms all those years ago. It took my interest for a while because my father and brother lived for playing and watching the game. Summer and cricket went hand in hand. My favourite player was Imran Khan, the Pakistani player and now politician. He was brilliant to watch, off the field, on the field, in the magazines and on the TV. Then there were a few Indian and West Indian players that I used to follow with keen interest. I couldn't tell you much about their sporting achievements but I do seem to know everything else about them. You know, in the same way some people know about David Beckham.

Recently, I decided I wanted to learn to play golf (again). Well everyone seems to think it's a great sport and that you can play it anywhere, anytime. Truth is, I thought it was boring and rather than hit the ball I always had the urge to pick it up and throw it only because I could get it further up the drive this way. I just couldn't wait to get to the clubhouse for something to quench my boredom. I like to walk, just not with a club in my hand, following a tiny ball. But where would Greg Norman be if he had had my attitude? I thought a new level of maturity would help but alas, the game is still kind of slow....

In Australia, football has so many variations (Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules) that the only way I can tell the difference is by the shape of the football players not just the shape of the balls. You think I am joking right? The physiques of the players are totally different. That's the only way I can distinguish one game from the other.

My football knowledge has been sorely tested this weekend. My father is in a rugby league tipping competition and unfortunately he had to go to hospital in the last week. The only thing he asked of me was to put his footy tips in online. Now, that would be have been easy if he was in a state to actually select his teams. He wasn't, so I had to choose them for him.

The fact he asked me, of all people, to do this for him indicates either the level of pain he was experiencing or that his painkillers had kicked in and he thought I was someone else. You see he has five children. Four of whom love sport and who have children who average at least 4 sports each. And he asked me. The one who doesn't even know which teams are in the league.

I have taken the task seriously. Sort of.

It's not like horse racing where you can choose the winner by the colour of the silks they wear (and believe me the odds are better this way then looking at their form). I haven't really watched a football game for years having lived out of the country for a while. So, it was literally a stab in the dark. I decided not to ask anyone else and to have a go myself. I chose the teams based on the colours of their uniforms. I should be ashamed to say this but those who know me will not be at all surprised. (So unfortunately, Russell Crowe, even though you dress your football club the Rabbitohs in Armani suits off field, I hate the bright red and green uniform your team wears. Ugly, so your team was out.)

I'll let you know how my colour strategy turns out.

Now tell me, do you love playing and watching sports or are you one of these people who are still trying to work out what the fuss is all about?


  1. Yes, my interest in a sport tends to correlate well ith the tightness of the player's bums as well, and here in the U.S. of A. soccer (football) certainly seems to field some of the best.
    I',m with you on the uniforms: ugly=out.

  2. Well, I'll put it to you this way: As I sit here typing this response I have one eye on the television where my team (The Dallas Stars) are playing a critical game 6 (of 7) in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yes, I live and breathe sports (I played everything growing up), but not to the point where it takes precedence over eveything else. I hate missing a game but family and relationships come first. These days I only have to worry about family, ha-ha. But I agree with you on why scientists finding critical cures and teachers and others don't get more recognition and salary. A strange world we live in, indeed.

    I really liked this post; it was both personal and funny, and most of all entertaining. Another great job.

  3. Politi gal - Funny about the soccer, well you have David Beckham over there now. That's all you need.

    Matt - my brother is visiting this weekend - and watching football on TV as well - so I can imagine. Its a good thing, he has convinced me. I guess sport is a good outlet for anyone these days when so much negative stuff surrounds us. I can tolerate it as long as I get to do the things that really interest me. Hope your team win - I watched your kind of football once. They are kind of well padded but it was interesting as it is so different from our fotball codes.

  4. This post is very entertaining. I smiled while reading it. I'm not into athletics, but my husband and two children had been, but not anymore. They found new interests. I remember my husband and I used to serve as chauffers to the kids' gazzillions of sports and other activities they belonged to.

  5. Tashabud, thanks for visiting. It's great that kids get to do so many sports these days. My nieces and nephews do lots of sports and yes, their parents are running them around each weekend.


Thanks for your comments.