I’ve never been a big fan of The Footy Show, and I’m not just saying that because I know how to read.
It’s just that, whether in its AFL or NRL incarnation, the show’s innovative mixture of idiocy and stupidness never quite caught on with me.
I guess I always just preferred watching footballers playing football to watching footballers do literally anything else.
But no matter what you might say about The Footy Show – that it’s lowbrow, that it’s cliched, that it’s inarticulate, that it’s tired, that it’s boring, that it’s moronic, that it’s insulting, that it’s sexist, that’s racist, that it’s homophobic, that it’s degrading the very fabric of the Australian sporting lifestyle, that it diminishes the intelligence and basic moral worth of every unfortunate sap who for whatever reason ends up watching a single minute of it…sorry, what was I saying?
Oh yes – say what you like about The Footy Show, you can’t deny that it has always been at the forefront of breaking new ground in the field of athletitainment. It was the AFL Footy Show, remember, that first recognised the potential of Billy Brownless, a man who had previously been considered telegenic only by certain devotees of the occult.
And it was the NRL edition that spawned the stand-up comedy career of Craig McLachlan, allowing us all to know that evil is real, and has a face.
So it’s no surprise that the great leap forward took place last night on The NRL Footy Show, when Ben Ross, in an arm-wrestling contest against fellow ex-Queensland great Wendell Sailor, had his arm essentially snapped in half.
And for the first time in a long time, watching The Footy Show, I felt alive.
I realised why for so long I had preferred watching football to watching terrible shows about football: the ever-present possibility of serious injury.
Isn’t that the essence of sport: the fervent hope that at some point during proceedings an ambulance will be required? Isn’t this what gets the blood of the true sports fan pumping? As the old saying goes, “It’s not action unless it ends in traction”.
Since we all know this, isn’t it awfully stuffy of us to have restricted dangerous violence to the on-field portions of sports broadcasting?
It’s not as if we don’t recognise what fun studio-bound bloodshed can be. Remember when Normie Rowe and Ron Casey punched on on the Midday Show? That was amazing, and the important thing to remember is, that kind of thing will work even if you don’t have two participants who everyone inherently wants to see get punched. Because the greatest abiding law of human nature is this: people getting hurt is an enjoyable sight.
That’s why I hope and pray last night’s Footy Show wasn’t a one-off. I’d like to see them really commit to the concept. I want to see what happened last night happen every week. Not exactly the same, of course – we don’t need Wendell Sailor breaking Ben Ross’s arm every Thursday night.
No, I foresee a different special guest coming in every week to break Ben Ross’s arm. ‘Break Ben’s Arm’ could become the hottest segment on the show. And to that can be added new formats, like ‘Punch Fatty’s Stupid Face’, or ‘Burn Mario Fenech With Cigarettes’.
If anything is going to reinvigorate the show, that will.
And naturally the idea is extendable to the show’s southern cousin. Break Ben’s Arm can easily be adapted to ‘Break Crawf’s Arm’, and the league-centric violence can be shaped to fit an Aussie rules audience with such interludes as ‘Drive A Bus Over Sam’, or ‘Let Pensioners Bite James Brayshaw’.
It’s my hope that these ideas will not only ignite a new spark in the Footy Show franchises, but that they will spice up the duller parts of all sporting broadcasts. We all know, for example, how tedious the extended preamble to State of Origin clashes is. But how much more enthralling if, while delivering his analysis of team tactics, Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns were receiving massive electric shocks to the genitals. What if Phil Gould, instead of making a forgettable speech on the field of play, were attacked by dogs?
The sky is the limit, really, once you let yourself embrace the new paradigm. Friday night football can only improve once the commentary box is doused with petrol, and a new rule is implemented whereby Brian Taylor has a finger dislocated every time he says ‘Wowee’.
Yes, it’s revolutionary thinking. But sport has always advanced through such thinking. Where would cricket be if WG Grace hadn’t scandalised the conservative society of Victorian England by using a bat to hit the ball, instead of – as was thought “gentlemanly” at the time – a horse.
Now think of where cricket will be in the future if we insist on the archaic convention that Ian Healy is never permitted to stab Mark Taylor’s thighs.
Indeed, where will any sport be without bowing to market realities? Where will tennis be if Jim Courier continues to conduct on-court interviews free from barrages of rubber bullets? Where will soccer be if Craig Foster’s famously un-shattered kneecaps never get a chance to change things up a little? Dead and buried, I’m afraid – killed by competition with less tradition-obsessed entertainments that give viewers what they want.
Let’s face it, the love of violence is hardwired into our DNA, and we can never be truly happy watching sport unless a good maiming is at least imminent. All I’m saying is we should broaden the base so that it’s not just the players risking life and limb.
And if you can name a single sports commentator you don’t want to see injured… well, can you really call yourself a ‘fan’?