Remembering my love for sport
There are many ways to consume the food we call sport. As live entertainment, via spectator hooliganism, office banter, at your local watering hole, with committed friends at un-godly hours or simply when the missus says it’s ok.
On Monday night I was reminded again of the best way to consume sport – in the flesh. It was the first round of my first season in div. 1 of indoor cricket at my local competition.
Here is the reason that night stood out as a reminder of why sport is best experience as a participant.
The preceding three or four weeks of were the finals series of the previous season – in which we came second, leading to our promotion to first division – where all the teams were a lot more competitive than usual.
The most recent match showed how fun sport is, with mates and the pressure off.
I feel sorry watching the NSW Blues these days. The fun isn’t there anymore. They match-up against a better side than themselves three times a year and usually lose, but the pressure to win remains.
When they score a try, there is a sigh of relief. When Queensland score a try, the automatic reaction is that it was a brilliant exhibition of superior skills.
None of us had played indoor cricket before February this year and we didn’t expect to find much success in first division for that reason. We are still learning the game, trying to work out how to use the angles off the nets, seeing what shots work inside compared to a wide green expanse.
We are working out what length ball works in the confines of indoor where the batsmen are playing unorthodox shots? Can we learn the best positions to field while covering the stumps and looking out for ricochets off walls?
We lost, fairly badly.
Upping the ante into first division was fun, not because we lost, but because we saw another team play well. They asked us to learn new things and take our own game to another level. When you’re physically playing the game, you get to experience something you’ve never experienced watching it from afar.
Wayne Rooney plays professional sport at the highest level in the biggest sport there is on the planet. Whenever I watch him, I get the feeling the biggest kick he gets on the field is the physical movement. Watch his face as he strikes the ball and it goes where he wants – elation.
When does Wayne Rooney stop playing as well? It’s the times where he’s not smiling, not talking and not enjoying physically being on the pitch participating in the sport he chose.
On Monday, I found myself coaching on the run. “Start with a foot on the back net, that way you can react to shots off the side netting later!!” (Don’t worry; I think my team knew about my annoying habit before they signed up).
I dived more than I normally would. I took skin and hairs off my legs on the plastic grass and loved it. I aimed fuller and straighter at leg stump than I had before. I kept my eyes on the ball, ignoring the flashing willow when behind the stumps.
I know this is a website dedicated to dissecting and understanding sport. But I was reminded how much more important it is to consume sport by playing it. I’ve noticed a lot of discussion lately about things fans notice about sport – administration, dollars, crowds, security, and player movement etc.
All of these things are good, but they need to be balanced because you can become exasperated by your own story-lines.
I’ve read people on here complain about the Olympics and how corporatised it has become. It has. And I’m cynical, like you. I laugh at the fact there are more journalists ‘covering’ the London Games than there are athletes.
I know the games are a big billboard for the biggest brands of the world. They are machines that print money to line the pockets of the administrators rather than the athletes.
Playing on Monday night gives me a frame of reference for watching the power and the grace of Usain Bolt. I don’t care that he celebrated early when he won in Beijing; I just know what he felt doing something that he’d never done before. He was doing something no one had ever done before.
I don’t care what brand shoes he wore and how much he was paid to wear them. I’ll always remember those wide stretched ‘look at me run!’ arms as he pulled over the line.
We endlessly try to find ways to prove why our favourite player is our favourite player. Why the referee we despise should be despised by all. I do it, and I will continue to do so. I love the numbers that can be produced to understand sport.
How many tackles? How many metres? How many passes? How many balls per wicket? YPA, BABIP, PIP. All of them. They are useful. But they are measurements of something that happened somewhere, they aren’t the legacy, they aren’t the victory, they are what we use to measure the legacy, the victory and what physically happened. That’s all.
On Monday night, I didn’t have to worry about sabremetric stats. There was no thought of corrupt administrations. Not once did I think about whether the gospel of indoor was being adequately spread around the world. I pay my sign up fee and forget about it because I get what I want. I got to play.
I sometimes look at the score sheet after an indoor game. On Monday night I didn’t, not because we lost, but because I was satisfied.
I think the point of this article is to get people thinking about how they engage with sport. And if you aren’t already, you should play it!
Sign up to your local cricket club for this summer. Rego will be open soon and they’ll be excited to have you.
Is there a local futsal hall you can join? You don’t need to be paid 25 million to wear Adidas shoes, just go to Rebel and pick up last season’s model on the cheap.
I know it looks fantastic in HD, but rugby clubs need participants too. If you are able bodied and love the feeling of a grippy ball rip out of your hand into a perfect spiral; give them a call.
I’m sure there are some soccer comps that run during the summer. Remember back in high school, you were at full stretch, horizontal to the ground and then your fingers satisfyingly flick back. You instantly knew you got just enough on it to tip the long range blast around the post.
Man, I love sport. I think that’s the point.
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