I’ve recently come off a two week sabbatical from being online. I’m thinking about some pretty big questions in life, career included, and I have felt my head get more and more lost in the outside world.
While the sporting viewing has been kept to a minimum since the year without sport ended, the proliferation of online content* has meant that I’ve struggled to keep my head in the game, focus on what truly matters and avoid the peripheral shenanigans that characterise so much of the online media. (* = crap)
Here are two major items that severely hijacked my time in the past few months –
1. Dwight Howard to ‘my’ Lakers. I know not everyone is a basketball fan, so here’s a little context to this one – the best big man and most sought-after free agent in basketball came to my team. A couple of years ago, my head would have exploded when this happened. This time, there was soooo much pre-emptive analysis that I was just glad it was over and done with. (And he’s now wearing purple and gold…!)
And that was just one trade. Multiply this by the amount of player movement and it quickly becomes relentless. This in a league with about 30 teams times 12 players times a sport where loyalty means that a player will actually have his agent notify his former team that he’s signed elsewhere, instead of having them reading about it on the news wire.
2. The Olympics. Not only are the Games themselves almost impossible to keep up with, especially when taking into account the time difference between Melbourne and London, but there are so many stories within the story of the Olympics.
‘Keeping up’, therefore, becomes an impossible task. Chinese power, Australian under-achievement, U-S-A!, Phelps, Bolt, Pearson, Lebron, why is Kobe sitting with Steph Rice, how can Ye swim that fast?!, what will Bolt do when he comes to Australia??
So, with those two distractions in the rearview mirror, the break from online reading was welcomed. However, when ‘the online fast’ broke last Sunday, I decided not to go back, just yet… You see, footy finals were about to start.
If there’s one game in this city that can draw you in and get you to care about whether so and so boofhead should have been suspended by his own team for drinking, or whether Team X will risk Player Y and his suspect hamstring, or where the hell Grumpy Old Coach Z will ply his trade next season, it’s the Australian Football League.
Footy here is our sport. I know, I know, rugby is a national and an international code, but you won’t find one statistic, one single KPI to demonstrate the fact that they are anywhere near the ballpark of the impact of the AFL – crowd numbers, tv, nationwide interest, plus rugby’s a rubbish game, so there’s that too…
And if you need any more proof, check out the reported offer that the NRL (National Rugby League) threw at the 2-IC of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan to be their Chief Executive … $1.5 million a year, which he knocked back!
Footy is our game. It was born, bred and embraced right here. We don’t need it to go international. We don’t want it to go international. For better or worse, and come on let’s face it, it’s undoubtedly for the worse, footy reflects our broader culture.
And its stars are our celebrities, well unless you’re Hugh, Kylie, and I’m throwing in Eric Bana … and maybe Hamish and Andy … actually not Andy, just Hame…
I’ve just re-read the last five paragraphs and I’d better stop right now before I throw on my duffle coat, pull a lukewarm pie from the oven and start singing the Bombers theme song …
But you see, try as you may to get a grip, footy can just draw you in.
Especially at Finals time.
You start to genuinely care about the rumours about whether a mediocre player at a contending club will actually play in the forthcoming final, or the ramifications for the team should their star cop a week for smacking some bloke upside the head.
(Which of course they’ll successfully argue was ‘negligent’ and not ‘intentional’ and ‘low impact’, even when blood streams from the victim’s scone. I love a tribunal of ex-players; they truly represent the values of the wider community…)
And what follows on from this is that so many of your conversations, thoughts, reading and viewing starts to completely revolve around details of a game, of a finals series, that you will not remember one iota of within two years, except for who played in the Grand Final, and maybe the preliminaries. Maybe.
And for me, that is the beauty of the year without sport. Being able to see ahead into that crystal ball meant that I have able to get off this new freight train of the 2012 AFL Finals Series before it again runs out of control. (I just removed a relatively unknown Denzel Washington reference. You’re welcome…)
It is so difficult to maintain your focus under the enormous pressures and influences of the culture around us, a culture that wants us to care about injuries, odds and possibilities instead of neighbours, friends in need and the family right in front of our noses.
The good thing about freight trains is that they’re not very subtle. If we all stopped, just for a moment, and listened, we could see and hear it coming, whether it be footy finals, fashion, Facebook, shopping, pop culture or house renos. I didn’t need a full 12 months to identify the ramifications of my own obsession; I knew before I began that it was an issue.
There’s always time.