Hear that sound? It approaches with the London Olympics, a distant rumble of drums. Crossing the horizon. Foreshadowing pain, a herald of war. Six beats, then three. In my fevered dreams it rings out, a clarion to all that is substandard in our culture. It goes… Aussie… Aussie… Aussie. Oi. Oi. Oi.
This is, of course, a chant. A war cry, some would say, forgetting the sanitised times in which this country is fortunate enough to exist. A means of affirming one’s allegiance to a nation, a culture, a common effort.
Countries are an abstract concept, cultures even more so. National cultures are an amalgam of collective delusion, exaggeration, reassurance, caricature, and amnesia, laid out in strokes so broad that they become road markings.
But even if our idea of Australian national culture were true – the laid-back fair-go bushman instead of the stressed-out, economic-rationalist urbanite – how do we express this culture to others? How do we summarise everything we claim to stand for, all the passion that our chant represents?
We say the abbreviated name of our country, several times.
Then we shout a monosyllable – one generally used for interjection, objection, or to attract attention – the same number of times.
Is it really controversial to suggest that this is up there with the least imaginative chants in human history? In the catalogue of lame, this is a one-legged dog with an ingrown toenail.
Don’t write me off as a total curmudgeon. There was a time when ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ had its place. It was a time of happiness and hope. It was during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Remember them? Before they started, like many Australians, I was sceptical. I’d heard the stories of what would go wrong. I’d had to look at Kevan Gosper’s head far more than any surgeon-general would recommend. I thought the whole thing would be a bloated snorefest.
But somehow, when it started, there was magic, and we were all caught up in it. We knew who Lauren Burns was. We had opinions on the archery. We tuned in to Roy and H.G. on The Dream every night, with a steadily increasing sense of elation. We melted our hearts for Fatso the Fat Arse Wombat; for Sid, Milly, and Dickhead; for the Chinese gymnastics team.
Such moments are, by their very essence, transient. The world moves on. Elation fades. The Dream becomes The Ice Dream.
But in that brief shining couple of weeks, ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ became the chant of the times. You could bellow it in the most unlikely circumstance, and still be rewarded with the appropriate rejoinder. Foreign athletes and visitors were charmed by it, locals were proud of it.
But the reason it worked? The clearly implicit sense of irony. The acknowledgement of silliness. Yes, it was dumb, and that was the point. That was the enjoyment. We all appreciated exactly how silly it was.
Jokes don’t easily bear repetition, their charm lying largely in their fleeting nature. This one has long worn thin. Not just that, but the actual sense of its humour has evaporated. It is now just a line to bellow because we have nothing else.
We are going to England, the home of sports chanting, the nursery of profane song, with a two-word offering, and no back-up plan. It’s less a knife to a gun fight than a microwaved sausage roll to an air strike.
Yes, the chant was endearing once. But there are points in a child’s development when its parents will tell you with chuckling pride about him pooing in his own hand and attempting a domestic cave painting on the hallway wall.
If the same kid is demonstrating the same ability eight years later, those same parents would conclude they have a problem.
Come on, Australia. Time to get out the Chux wipes and move on.
Chris Chard responds: Well, I’m going to have to politely and patriotically disagree with Geoff, communists, and nouveau-hipster fun police everywhere trying to desecrate our great chant.
Because, beyond a shadow of a benefit of the doubt, ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ is an Australian invention right up there with the Ugg boot and the rotary clothesline. A little daggy, perhaps, but iconic and incredibly functional.
Its place in the Australian sporting landscape, like canary yellow slacks and Australian of the Year nominations, should be beyond question, and indeed I motion that it be put in the Aussie Sports Hall of Fame somewhere between the Don’s baggy green and Phar Lap’s bloated corpse poste-haste.
Now I might not have read a lot of fancy ‘books’ or ‘papers’, but I’ve watched a lot of movies in my time. Perhaps all those naysayers out there are forgetting a flick from a few years back? A little film called Cool Runnings? Also known as the greatest Olympic story ever told.
Think back to the movie’s pivotal scene, where our dreadlocked Jamaican protagonists, mocked by their peers and languishingly meekly at the bottom of the bobsled ranks, summon the courage to once more hurl their crapbox down the icy precipice through the magic of a home-grown homily.
Yes they narrowly avoided a horrible, horrible death, but that’s really beside the point.
The point is, they did it their way. And we Aussies, well, we have to do it our way too.
Like the journeyman first-grader squeezing that extra season out of his limited skill set, let’s accept our limitations and concentrate on what we’re good at for these Olympics. We’re not a nation of chanters. Of choir boys. Of, well, even singers. Jesus, have you heard our anthem being sung lately?
But you beaut, fair dinkum, stone the flamin’ crows Ailsa, we know how to rip out a bloody good “Oi Oi Oi!” when our athletes are under the pump.
It’s also an easily adaptable ditty. You don’t even need to be at a sporting match to whip it out, that’s how good a chant it is. Maybe you’re out fishing. Maybe you’re mowing the lawn. Maybe after a morning’s hard yakka the smoko van has just rocked up on site.
“Smoko smoko smoko!” calls out the part-time promo model from the van’s oily orifice.
“Oi oi oi!” you reply joyfully as one, brothers in arms via the magic of our mantra.
Technically, yes, the pseudo-intelligentsia may argue that the chant is not in fact even ours, that it is a bastardised tune we stole from the British some years ago. But what can be more Australian than stealing from the Poms? That’s the reason most of us are here in the first place.
I hereby stand opposed to the exclusion of ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ from our sporting song book. It’s easy, it’s catchy, it’s versatile, it’s the constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s just… the vibe.
The vibe of our nation’s sporting soul. Now, who’s with me? Sing it loud and proud you little Aussie battlers.
AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE!
Is Aussie Aussie Aussie the best we can do? The Roar wants you to win. Big. Fire up the grey matter and give us your best new Aussie chant in the comments below – we’ll choose the best three, shoot them on video, and submit into Foxtel’s ‘Chant your way to $10k‘ competition.
This initiative is sponsored by our friends at Foxtel.