If you’re not gonna bet, get out of the ground
Jarryd Hayne is cornered by two referees. (AAP Image/Action Photographics,Colin Whelan)
I feel so ashamed of myself. I had thought that I was a committed sporting fan, that I was really devoted to the spectating of quality professional athletic endeavours, and that I followed my teams with as much fervour and passion as anyone could ask for.
I thought I was a true fanatic, but while watching the second State of Origin on Channel Nine (motto: We’re Still A One!), I came to the depressing realisation that I was a fraud.
Because you see, though I was watching the game, I wasn’t really involved in the game. I wasn’t fully engaged.
Because I… I… look this is pretty hard for me to admit in front of you all… OK here we go…
I… don’t care about the odds.
Oh! The shame! But yes, it is good to get that off my chest and stop living a lie.
You’ll remember of course, the appearance at regular intervals during the match of a pretty young lass, smiling in friendly manner at us, and expressing a sincere and heartwarming hope that we were enjoying the game (we were, young lady, by the way, thanks for asking!).
She then informed us of the odds on the two teams, and gave us a valuable reminder that we could still bet during the game, a generous service offered by gaming agencies for the edification of their customers. The woman was performing what can only de described as a crucial public service, and much kudos is due her public-mindedness.
And yet it fills me with sorrow to say that I took no advantage of her perky pronouncements. I did not, in fact, bet on the game. I didn’t have a flutter. I didn’t make the sport come alive by putting my money where my mouth was.
No wagers, of an exotic or otherwise nature, were laid by me, and it thus became impossible for me to avoid the conclusion that as a sports fan, I am but a flitting dilettante.
Why, even when an ad came on informing me of the thrilling news that while a certain company couldn’t promise me that every bet would win (haha, oh they kid, they kid!), they could promise me the best online betting experience ever… even then I kept my credit card firmly in my pocket.
And if I can’t be tempted even by the promise of a really high-quality online betting experience, what hope is there? Obviously there is simply no sporting blood in me.
I had suspected as much, of course, when I heard Tom Waterhouse tell me “I was born to bet”, and utterly failed to react by thinking, “Goodness, with that sort of bloodline, I would foolish not to give him my money”, and instead thought, “Goodness, what a five-star platinum-plated knob-end this fellow is.”
Harsh, unworthy thoughts for someone who claims to be “into sport”.
And my awful suspicions were only confirmed during the Origin match, when like some lazy braind-dead slug of a man, I sat there staring witlessly at the ‘action’, perfectly content to let the tense, brutal drama of state football whiz past, without once taking any positive steps to bring the game to life through the magic of gaming.
God knows the commentators did their best. “Look at the Keno replay!” cried Wally Lewis, trying to help me help myself, but I ignored him just as I ignored the pretty young gambling lady, happy to let the sponsor mentions wash over me as if they were no more significant than Phil Gould’s constant calls for the rules of rugby league to be suspended, or Ray Warren’s habit of calling players by their first names in the mistaken impression they are his grandchildren, because I am just a poser. Not a proper fan at all.
And so I have a lot of hard thinking to do. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a fan. If all I can be bothered to do is watch the game and cheer the players and become engrossed by the play and pore over the match reports and emotionally invest myself in the fortunes of the teams… what’s the point of watching sport at all?
If I am going to go through life not even having the basic good old Aussie decency to get my wallet out and have a splash, to feel the delicious thrill of having cash riding on events out of my control, to enjoy the bliss of a big win or the crashing despair of blowing a week’s pay on the likelihood of Inglis scoring the first try… if I am to remain so detached from the true meaning of sport… what right have I to follow sport at all?
Should I not just give it up and find another interest, one where my apathy and indifference don’t matter so much?
Or should I make the effort to become a true fan, by flinging money at the TAB and Betfair and Sportsbet and Sportingbet and Centrebet as hard and as fast as I can, in the hope that finally it will click, and I will, at last, understand what sport is all about? It might be expensive, but surely it would be worth it, to finally feel like I belong?
One thing is certain – I can’t continue the way I have been. Because if a man isn’t willing to bet on a game, that game might as well not even happen.
Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian writing weekly on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys the frolics of Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms. Ben is also the author of the books Surveying the Wreckage, Superchef, and his latest, The Book of Bloke, available from Momentum Books.