DK v Pup in the hipster stakes
Michael Clarke denies the David Warner issue was dealt with inconsistently (AFP : Torsten Blackwood)
Behind the moustaches, behind the shades of brown and behind the bodyshirts, Howzat gave us a look at something that seems long forgotten: the Australian cricketer as part of pop culture.
This is a revelation because it may well provide the up to now indefinable aspect that tells us why the Australian public has had sense of ambivalence to its team.
Market research would say we like our players, we like our team, but the last few years would, to paraphrase Nick Cave, see the question asked of Australia “Do you love me?”
So what did Howzat show us? Well one of its opening scenes gave us an insight – Paul Hogan, Strop and Dennis Lillee sitting around having a beer as mates.
It might seem simple, and this may be a long bow, but can you imagine Clarke and co. sitting with the Chaser boys? DK and co were in that orbit.
But first, what are the times we live in? Simply in 2012, despite the supposed derisions of the term, hipster is king. It’s fashion, it’s haircuts, but most importantly it’s the taking of all corners of culture, both high and low brow, and having detailed rounded knowledge of what’s happening today and tomorrow.
And while sports all have varying degrees of hipster credibility, right now Australian cricket is not one of them.
What makes it more glaring in the face of other sports is that for the first time hipster and mega-stardom, traditionally the arch enemies of each other, are living together quite harmoniously, even if it is partly hipsters archly amused at the ridiculous lives of the stars.
The tweeting world has cultivated this relationship, and when Pitchfork, the indie music website that has grown the cult of hipster as much as anyone else, in 2010 awarded a perfect 10 to the latest album of the most ambitious mega-star in the world, Kanye West, the marriage was complete.
When NBA stars dress in hipster/ridiculous fashion (see Kevin Garnett’s backpack, Lebron and D-Wades bowties, Russell Westbrook’s glasses and shirt combos) to post-match press conferences it’s the holy trinity of power in 2012 – mega-stardom, sport and hipster.
It’s potent and it influences tastemakers and breeds fans.
The problem for the Australian cricket team now is that it is betwixt and between. Its stars aren’t big enough, and Twitter or any other medium has not revealed any extroverts or those with much of an interest beyond what you would expect, whereas other sports or teams have.
Ed Cowan is one potential exception, though in an earnest kind of way, and there doesn’t seem to be much else of anyone with anything interesting to say.
Compare this with what went on the WSC-era , and you had larger than life stars who reflected the times.
Whether politically correct or not, the beer-drinking, long-haired, moustached, expletive-sprouting, rebellious alpha-male that late 70s cricket featured become idols for the male population as a whole.
1977 might have been the year that punk broke in the UK (a nice synergy with the anarchy in the cricket UK), but for the general Australian population the DK Lillee and Chappelli look gave its own form of hipsterdom that influenced a generation.
Subsequently there was an investment in these personalities and an investment in how the team fared.
So where does it leave us today? Well it’s not the players’ faults, they simply are operating in the professional sports bubble that is further protected by the amount of time they spend touring.
It’s a bubble that pulls it away from the popular culture reality of potential taste-making fans that differs from the football codes. Hard to be experiencing the world the fans are experiencing when you are another world away.
The football codes’ players are the stars among us, Twitter reveals how they are working through the events around us like we are. The pool is also smaller, in an AFL sense there’s a smattering of the thinking, indie lefty types (see Bob Murphy) that sit alongside the glamour, bling, A-list stars (see Buddy Franklin) and communicate to the world accordingly.
In fact there’s probably that mixture in most teams.
The Australian cricket team through a combination of being outside the pop culture orbit and a generally rigid media approach come across as a homogenous group.
This then means we have no greater sense of feeling from one player to another, there’s nobody we identify with more than another so how do we have highs and lows and a sense of emotional investment in the team? A vanilla team means a vanilla-style support.
It’s consistent with the promotion of the game and the television presentation of the game. Both seem caught in a cocoon away from 2012, ironically with many of the personalities from 1977.
Twitter and a new generation of players coming through provide an opportunity. Yes they’ll be media trained to within an inch of their lives, but there is a simple key to this, taking in and talking about the world around them doesn’t have to be controversial.
Talk about film, TV, music, other sports, politics whatever- you don’t have to insult people you just have to reference it – that way we’ll see what’s under the helmet and we’ll realise they aren’t humourless robots, they are different and are worthy of passionate support.
Promote and market the product with the same methodology, take the world in 2012 and place cricket into it – show people how cricket fits in to the tapestry. Make it easy for people, there’s already the culture of summer to work with.
Oh and don’t be scared to take the piss or act the star occasionally. The people are going to love it.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.