Wednesday, January 2, 2008
three cheers for us
I can't say that I'm a sports nut. Far from it. But I live with my father and he watches nothing but. He hasn't long left and if he wants to watch sport all day he may. Me, I only really like test rugby and test cricket. And both in moderation. 'Test', for those who don't know, means 'international'. And in cricket it specifically refers to the classic five day game. I'm uninterested in having a discussion about other sports and which is better. I really don't care.
As a cricket fan I should currently be cock-a-hoop. The Australians rule world cricket. We've now won a record fifteen tests in a row. The talk on the telly is of Australia going on to win thirty in a row. How great we are! We're not just champions, we're uber-champions. We talk of 'humiliating' our opponents as if it was a testament to our virtue.
And that's the kind of people we are now. And our cricket team reflects us, and us, them. Never mind bad losers, we're that worse thing - bad winners. We are the kings of 'sledging', which is to say, the endless offering of foul-mouthed insults to the opposition. Jonty Rhodes, the South African batsmen, complained, and not unreasonably, that to play with Shane Warne, the Australian spin bowler, consisted of being called a 'cunt' all day. That people eulogise Warne, recently retired, as the 'greatest' cricketer of all time speaks not just to his figures but also to how little we think of perfectly abysmal behaviour. And Warne's litany of such is very long. Sledging is viewed as a legitimate 'tactic'. It is not viewed as boorish, crude, ill-mannered, insulting, mean-spirited or any other epithetical description. Indeed it's frequently justified on the grounds that it puts the opposition off their stride. And the proof is in the pudding. We sledge and we win so sledging is 'good'.
And what are the other national sides to do? Should they emulate Australia? In the recent Australian tour of India, when an Indian bowler behaved in an Australian fashion and had derisive words for the departing batsman the Australian media went nuts. It was replayed ad nauseam. How dare he? Only winners may behave like this. India lost sure enough.
And only winners may retain their dignity. They won it. If losers think they deserve to keep theirs they're dreaming. If that Pakistani official hasn't left the podium quickly enough for the winners, push him off! We're the goddamn winners, who the hell does he think he is? Is his face on cornflake packets? Fuck off mate.
People may wonder what sort of a bullshit sports-fan I am. I'm that freak of nature - the guy who doesn't care who wins. People are shocked when I say this. I want to watch good cricket. I want to watch it played in a spirit of good natured respect. I want to see each man, and the country they represent, accorded their dignity. Keep in mind, this is cricket we're talking about. The phrase 'It's just not cricket' doesn't exist for no reason. If the Australians behave like a pack of smug gits I want the other side to win. Go the underdog! Australia winning all is not good for cricket. What do Australians want? Australia as the perpetual winner or a cricket competition that's worth watching? At this rate you can't have both. That they're ill-mannered with it, is insult to injury.
And sure, the endless winning is not the Australian team's fault. "This is a competition. What are they meant to do? Lose?" Yeah yeah, I get it. But anyone who thinks that 'winning' is a simple unalloyed testament to physical superiority, and by extension national greatness, might want to think again. Pick a sport and look at the top teams. The Olympics is a perfect case in point. The list of the countries that win the most medals equals the list of countries that spend the most dollars. Dollars equals medals. Australia punches above its weight in the Olympics because Australia spends above its weight. Is cricket any different? The athletes attending the Australian Institute of Sport, unlike every other tertiary institution in the country, get their deluxe 'education' for free. No HECS fee for them. In cheesy sports movies who cheers for the smug rich kid from the deluxe school with all the deluxe gear? There's no way we'd be that kid would we?
Michael Moore, who regardless of what you might think about him, asked a single, genius question - Who are we? Was I the only one who cringed when that shit Howard said in his farewell speech that, 'Australia is the greatest country in the world and Australians are the greatest people in the world!'? I'm perfectly uninterested in an argument pivoting on its factuality - let's just pretend it was true - what do we make of a person who'd declare such a thing about himself and his fellows? Isn't it the very definition of a smug, self-impressed git? And the whole audience applauded and whooped it up. Three cheers for us! Chauvinism? What's that? We used to laugh at Americans for saying such jingoistic nonsense. Australian people unabashed now wear t-shirts that say, 'AUSTRALIA LOVE IT OR FUCK OFF!' Intolerant, foul-mouthed and un-ironic. Fantastic. Here's a thought for a sketch - An Australian sports crowd are pumping their fists in the air chanting, 'A-U-S! A-U-S! A-U-S, A-U-S A-U-S-A-U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!'. Geez. That was spooky. How did that happen?
Australia used to be a modest self-effacing place. We had no time for loud-mouth, up-themselves wankers. Who are we now? Is this my country?