South Australia was welcomed by the Supercars championship in 2021, with a single visit to The Bend Motorsport Park which has become a mainstay on the calendar with its Bend SuperSprint.
For the past 10 years or so, I’ve watched professional sport in Australia through increasingly tired eyes.
Maybe it’s just that I’m now one of those grumpy old men like the ones you see on British television, whingeing about things never as being as good as they were in their day.
I was getting pretty scared that not only was I turning into one of them, but had actually become one. At the same time, I couldn’t help myself.
The million dollar salaries, the ordinary behaviour I saw in the papers and on the internet. Then there was the lack of loyalty – you’d swear some of these guys changed clubs and teams about as often as they changed their undies (or girlfriends)!
Sport no longer seemed to be as enjoyable as it was in my day, 10 or 15 years ago. I was still interested, I’d watch it on telly, but the passion was gone.
And there was no way I was going to shell out my hard earned to go along and watch them live. Particularly if it meant I was contributing to what had become the over-inflated salaries jocks received for playing bloody games.
I had become so cranky I almost wanted to cancel our annual Christmas holiday. I’m pretty pleased that I didn’t, because one of my mates had gotten so sick of my belly-aching that he gave me a book about sport, I’m sure just to shut me up for a few days.
As my mate probably suspected, I was naturally skeptical at first. However Bubble Boys pretty much gave me a whole new perspective. The book really challenged my assumptions about the behaviour of pro athletes and the lives they lead.
The target audience could be anyone in the community as the book transcends sport. After having read it in a few short days, I can safely say that it’s got to be one the most balanced and insightful books ever written about Australian sport and how each of us sees it.
Author Michael Blucher didn’t just write about the behaviour of the athletes, he explored the reasons they behave the way they do. In his opinion – and I’ve not got any reason to disagree – most athletes are just products of their environment.
It seems that we teach them to behave the way they do. Boundaries are dropped, preferential treatment is the norm and responsibility goes out the window.
One of the examples in the book was of an AFL footballer in Perth, bringing back a brand new sponsor’s car with the front passenger seat missing. He got a replacement car, not a new seat – no questions asked.
If that’s the sort of stuff that goes on, how are they ever going to learn anything about actions and consequences? The sort of stuff I harp on about to the children.
There were other fascinating bits too: what goes on behind the scenes with all the hangers-on, the corporate jersey tuggers, the managers trying to fleece the sports stars, even the predatory females.
I don’t know where he got all the stories – there are dozens of them, quite a lot without names attached. Some are probably completely fictitious (or heavily exaggerated), but if even half of them are true it’s pretty scary stuff.
Every Monday morning water-cooler expert, every junior coach, every parent of every budding superstar should sit down and read Bubble Boys, as should the athletes themselves. They might learn about why we punters look at them the way we sometimes do.
I’m now looking forward to the footy season, and watching through my new rose-tinted glasses.
I might even take them to a game or two.