It’s funny what a break can do for the soul, and how much can happen in seemingly such a ‘short’ period’ of time.
Believe you me, six weeks in the lifespan of this ‘year without sport’ is not a lot, considering the journey began over 20 months ago, but much has happened since I signed off 2012. (Ok ok, it was Craig O’Donoghue who wrote the final piece for the year…!)
Between Team Evans getting bikes, Australian Open tennis, 20/20 epics, NBA hoopla, cricket Test domination, tennis victories – for me personally, not Aussies at the Open or any of our favs for that matter, NFL disappointment, me using up all out internet usage on sport, Serena losing and taking it like a champ, A-League games of genius from the Melbourne Victory, Tomic doing his part to win back part of the Australian sporting public before – naturally – throwing it all back in our faces while hooning, one day 50 over internationals that no one wants to go to, seeing the GOAT of tennis (Greatest Of All Time) – Roger Federer in person and up close – for free!, Super Bowl blackouts, Warnie at the cricket, Warnie at the tennis, Liz at the tennis!, was Liz at the cricket?!, the list goes on and on. And on.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to write about, and the topics won’t dull down for quite some time.
Which is fortunate, as it seems right to end this blog when the one year anniversary of my return to sport occurs on May 24 of this year.
The writer and the reformer in me still wants to ‘put pen to paper’, and I believe there’s still outlets to enable this, however, this particular journey is nearing its end. So it seems right, once a year of reflecting and adjusting is up, to close the door.
But to kick things back into gear, I wanted to surmise one of the unexpected absolute highlights of my summer – reuniting with The Heard.
Who are these guys?! For the uninitiated, The Heard is a group of friends – and friends of their friends who have friends – who have gotten together at least once a year over the past 15 or so years to run amok at the Australian Open tennis.
They wear yellow tops, green and gold Vietnamese hats, and get behind whichever Australian happens to come across their path. And when I say ‘get behind’, I mean support with the fullest intensity that they can muster – chants, gags, Disproportionate Head Boy, Captain Australia, laps of Rod Laver, choral renditions, Mexican waves, slow-mo Mexican waves, giant phones, Where’s Wally?!, magicians, enormous ‘games of tennis’… As one onlooker tweeted a week ago, ‘The Heard have killed it’.
Ironically, with this year probably / potentially / maybe being their last, the media coverage which had been so sought after in years past, now came like on onslaught, without invitation. Newspaper articles, interviews, Channel 7 coverage, players organising them tickets (thanks, Tomic clan), Channel 7 recaps, photo requests, and of course Channel 7 advertisements. Yes, that was us singing Home and Away, or some butchered version of it. (A friend and I refrained from putting on the Home and Away singlet; we have [some] pride still left…)
Indeed they ‘killed it’.
Joining back in My re-entry to this great group of people came by chance – having ruled myself out of Round 1 due to family and financial reasons. Fortuitously, an SOS text was put out, less than 2 hours before Bernard Tomic’s second round match. ‘Tennis Australia have offered us unlimited tix to the Tomic game. Who’s in?!’
Well … me … I’m in!
Who cared that it was 39 degrees in the shade!? We were in the shade, and yes, it felt like 39 degrees. Who cares that you offset the ‘free’ part of the tickets just by shouting a round.
And when Tomic won, and amazingly, organised tickets in rows six, seven and eight for us in his third round match against the GOAT, who was I to say no?!
This was a rare chance to be a part of something completely unique. And incredibly fun. And energising. And unifying.
And what it did, and what sport does, is bring people together.
We threw caution to the wind and did the chants as loudly as possible, sang the songs, clapped the hands, amused ourselves at the antics of the various characters that popped up every now and again. We also checked in amusement the plethora of text messages that came through from friends who had seen us front and centre on the teev.
While he didn’t win, we got behind Tomic as much as we could, while still appreciating true greatness in his opponent, endeavouring to encourage him as much as humanly and disproportionately possible. But not making ridiculous noise right up until the ball toss has been delayed; we’ll leave that to the Fanatics. Sorry … I had to.
I got to spend these nights with friends that I had not seen in months or ever years. Some who I don’t know well who I know better after a few hours at the tennis. I got to sit alongside most of my very best mates and experience a great match with the greatest player. We’re probably not going to do that for the return of Home and Away, regardless of how amazing their promotional work is…
And sure some drunken Scottish idiot itching for a fight tried to ruin it all by throwing a beer at my head outside Rod Laver arena, but that’s just what Scots do; drink and fight, right?!
These pages have been committed to identifying and naming the pitfalls in our national obsession with all things sporting. And we’ll get to them as the weeks progress, don’t worry! Did I mention I used up our internet usage on sport over the hols?!
But many of my amazing experiences in my best ever long holiday over the last six weeks happened due to sport. Get togethers for cricket viewing, NBA, and NFL, bike rides, A-League, tennis matches, dog walks, beach shenanigans, The Heard – I got to experience so much of the good of what sport has to offer.
So we’ll aim for a better balance these last few months, acknowledging the unifying characteristics of our various sporting endeavours, as we have today, while also noting the undeniable issues with addiction, obsession and media saturation.
Now, about that Scottish muppet…