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A very bad week for Australian sport

Ben Pobjie Columnist

By Ben Pobjie, Ben Pobjie is a Roar Expert

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    James Tamou bailed on the Kiwis to play Origin footy. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    This has not been a great week for sport. Not a great week for those who play sport, not a great week for those who love sport.

    At least, it doesn’t feel great, but given the havoc that seems to be constantly wreaked on others by sportsmen, maybe it’s no more than we needed, and no more than we deserved. We can’t just ignore these things.

    I wish we could. I want sport to be like it used to be, and I know how foolish that is, because for one thing, you can’t reverse the march of time and the advance of progress, you can’t wish yourself into the past; and for another, sport probably never was like it used to be.

    Oh sure, back when sportsmen weren’t rich and idle and hyped to the heavens in social pages and stalked by paparazzi, they may not have been quite so prone to pathological narcissism, cosmic arrogance or hideous abuse of their fellow human beings, but we all know they were no angels.

    Things happened on tours, on end of season trips, on post-match all-nighters, and those things stayed right where they were and didn’t get revealed. And that wasn’t necessarily a good thing: codes of silence aren’t of benefit to society.

    But God I wish it could be like it used to be.

    I wish I didn’t know anything about what sportspeople did off the field. I wish all I knew was what they did with their bats and balls and hands and boots.

    Sport is art.

    Watching Roger Federer at his peak was like drinking in a masterpiece, each stroke of his racquet painting another line of vivid colour on the Wimbledon canvas.

    A century by Brian Lara was a symphony, his bat flashing like a baton, conducting the ball around the field as he desired, playing the bowlers like a violin, directing the fielders as he wished like an orchestra, writing the music he felt in his wrists.

    David Campese used to engage in a bewitching ballet, dancing through defences, making his opposition act as mere props in his dizzying exhibition.

    And to see Andrew Johns take apart an opposition on his own, running, kicking, passing, standing in tackles and stepping inside despairing air-grasps, was to see a sculptor taking the raw block of stone of a rugby league game and neatly and decisively carving away everything that wasn’t a monument to his own genius.

    And you can swap in any one of a hundred other names to that lot, artists all. Martina Hingis, Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater, Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Stephen Larkham, Dan Carter, Shane Warne, Gary Ablett, Michael Voss, James Hird… I could spend hours just making out a list and savouring the memories each one has given me.

    Sport is a fierce, brutal, violent art, but it is art, and it is beautiful.

    And I’m not sure there’s a single revelation about what sports stars do in their spare time that has made their art any more beautiful, that has illuminated the gorgeousness of their endeavours in the slightest.

    When I was marvelling at Andrew Johns’ ability to perform every skill known to rugby league better than the best, I wasn’t hoping to learn that he was spending his evenings drinking himself into a stupor and filling up on drugs, any more than I wanted to know his brother bonded with his teammates over the vicious use of easily-impressed young women like sex toys.

    I wanted to watch Shane Warne spin webs around batsmen and rip balls at impossible angles back from outside leg stump, I didn’t want to know how he looked in Playboy underpants or discover his textual seduction techniques.

    I want to see footballers thunder into each other with recklessly poetic disregard for their own safety, not hear all about how they wield their fearsome physiques as weapons to destroy the safety of others. I want to be impressed by courage and skill and the daring audacity to risk devastating defeat in the pursuit of spectacular victory.

    I want to hate the opposition for what they did to my team during the finals, not for what they did to their girlfriends later that night.

    I want it to be the way it used to be, but innocence is a non-renewable resource: once it’s been used up, it’s gone, and we’ve got to find alternative ways to fuel our love of the game.

    And if blissful ignorance of the ugliness behind the art is no longer possible, the only option left is to make that ugliness beautiful itself.

    I am just a fan, and my opinions are of less consequence than my own sporting prowess.

    But I’m begging you, my heroes, my artists, give me a chance again to wonder at your works without having to hang my head at the price the world is paying to let you perform them.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing 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 watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.

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    The Crowd Says (80)

    • June 21st 2013 @ 6:26am
      Steve said | June 21st 2013 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      Not a Jesus Kennedy fan I take it. I’m heading to Brazil after this week! What a great week!!

      • June 21st 2013 @ 8:03am
        Kasey said | June 21st 2013 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        Exactly Steve, I saw the headline and thought: you’ve got to be kidding? Its been a stellar week to be a sports fan if you’re a football fan. Even if you’re only partly a football fan; i.e. your primary love is something else and you only jump on the Socceroos bandwagon once every 4 years, its still been a great week.

      • June 21st 2013 @ 4:30pm
        liatrevlis said | June 21st 2013 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

        Aussie Aussie Aussie ,,,,,,,Oi Oi Oi , There a class act , maybe there not the best football team in the world , but there the Classiest football team in AUSTRALIA ,,,,,

    • June 21st 2013 @ 7:04am
      Jacques said | June 21st 2013 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Sorry but either you are ignorant or something, our national team has just qualified for the biggest sport tournament on earth in Brazil. It’s what matters

      • June 21st 2013 @ 1:13pm
        cliffclavin said | June 21st 2013 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        +1

      • June 21st 2013 @ 2:05pm
        Ben Pobjie said | June 21st 2013 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

        Let me take a note:

        THINGS THAT MATTER
        Soccer

        THINGS THAT DON’T MATTER
        Rape

        • June 21st 2013 @ 2:39pm
          Gareth said | June 21st 2013 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

          Haha. Touche.

        • June 21st 2013 @ 4:43pm
          Curly Jefferson said | June 21st 2013 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

          Ahh the irony of commenters using a great sporting achievement to counter your article as if the issues you’ve raised here are isolated to particular sports or countries.

          This was brilliant and summed up my feelings at the moment perfectly.

        • June 21st 2013 @ 4:57pm
          Chris said | June 21st 2013 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

          Wow you’d not wanna take that out of context. You might end up like Eddie McGuire

    • June 21st 2013 @ 7:24am
      Loyal tah fan said | June 21st 2013 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Perhaps the article should be titled what a terrible week in rugby league. I think it’s been unreal otherwise. Socceroos through to the world cup, Brumbies beat the lions and we have the wallabies test against the lions on Saturday night. I’m loving this week.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

      • June 21st 2013 @ 9:22am
        Mals said | June 21st 2013 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Agreed!

    • June 21st 2013 @ 7:27am
      Mike D said | June 21st 2013 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Errrrr….

      Not a great week for sport or just not a great week for the NRL and cricket??

      Socceroos qualified for Brazil, Brumbies downed the Lions on Tuesday night and the Wallabies v Lions coming up Saturday.

      Sounds like its been a pretty good week for everyone except cricket and the NRL.

      • June 21st 2013 @ 9:56am
        Elis said | June 21st 2013 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        …and AFL. I’d suggest Milne, Liam Jurrah and West Coast’s Murray Newman have all had better weeks than the last couple.

        • June 21st 2013 @ 10:07am
          Mike D said | June 21st 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          True – just showing my ignorance really. Between not really actively following AFL, being in Brisbane and finishing UNi work the exposure to those stories has been minimal for me.

    • June 21st 2013 @ 7:36am
      The eye said | June 21st 2013 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      There’s only really one sport worth caring about,Bens right.Couldnt give a fig about soccer or union,what World Cup ? What Lions tour ?

      • June 21st 2013 @ 7:40am
        formeropenside said | June 21st 2013 @ 7:40am | ! Report

        Well, I surely dont care about soccer, only Union myself. Really too, hoping other sports do badly is perfectly rational, since we are all fighting for a fixed dollar market.

        • June 21st 2013 @ 11:50am
          Jukes said | June 21st 2013 @ 11:50am | ! Report

          I only really care about football but I am still looking forward to seeing Australia vs Lions in the Rugby on the weekend. Absolutely massive game.

    • June 21st 2013 @ 7:43am
      Worlds biggest said | June 21st 2013 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Yep what Loyal Tah Fan said

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