The Public Apology has been called many things. An esteemed online journal that takes an esoteric and contrarian look at modern sport. A poor man’s Grantland. A defamation/copyright lawyer’s paradise.
All or none of the above may be true, but what is accurate is our reputation as a welcoming, convivial forum that encourages debate among our readers, as well as contributions from writers. These writers are generally more talented than TPA staff writers, and because of our inferiority complex and lack of money, will never be financially remunerated for their work.
With that being said, below is a feature from contributing writer Nick Marshall on the ‘softness’ enveloping Australian sport.
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“What?” You say, blood trickling over the ridge of your forehead. “What do mean, soft!?”
What I mean, Nigel, is not that we can’t take a few blows to the head and happily have it stapled in front of viewers at home. Rather, we’re struggling to show the mental and emotional grit to grind out a win when the chips are down. Putting it bluntly, we’re losing our ticker.
Below are some musings as to why our bone jelly had turned into aeroplane jelly.
- We’ve lost the ability to laugh at ourselves
In the age of bearded hipsters, Aussies have lost sight of their brand essence: the larrikin. What forged our early sporting heroes into the legends they are today wasn’t just the ability to turn a red one with the force of a ruptured anus – it was their ability to cause humorous, yet harmless, havoc on and off the pitch. Like our famous female swimmers.
This mindset exemplified how we approached sporting contest, often in the face of stacked odds. It also defined how we reacted when faced with defeat – with a smile, wink and doubled effort to stick it back at ‘em.
If only our current sporting greats could look beyond the hairspray and earrings long enough to embrace a bit of comedy that didn’t involve molesting a small marsupial, maybe we’d see our fortunes turn in those tight contests.
Thankfully there’s still one bloke who remains a shining example to the attitude, fortitude and aptitude of the Australian sporting mentality.
- We’re used to winning
If too much winning was bad for a country’s sporting character, then we’re due a spanking. Like spoilt fat kids, the latest generation of sportsmen has grown up on a moveable feast of gutsy underdog wins, long-standing rivalries and collections of individuals who frankly shouldn’t have been born in the same era fronting our cricket team.
This perfect storm has lead to a disgusting trait usually reserved for the elite and 80% of French people – a sense of entitlement.
We expect to win, all the time. When we don’t, punters cast aside their monocles and Cuban cigars jumping to the next sport that’s going to give them that winning fix. Heads drop on the pitch and a collective sigh is farted out by the nation.
Nobody likes to lose – granted – but let’s accept that we can’t win everything. Even in the sports that we excel. It’s time we remembered why we play sport, of which winning is only part of the story.
- We’ve forgotten why we play sport
Whilst pinging a supernovae at an English batsman or steamrolling a South African scrum electrifies my spine like a cold handed caress of the testicles, I think we as a nation are misappropriating what this signifies. To many, these events represent winning. They display dominance over our opponents, exemplified by the piercing appeal of the face-medium paceman or earthen grunt of the tight five.
What if I told you however, that the most heart stopping moments for me happen when we’re on the wrong side of the scoreboard? When things are grim and we dig in with both heels? Well it’s true, and it’s related to an often overlooked element of the game – the contest.
Yes, the contest. That nosedive feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you’ll have to fight for every inch of turf, but know that you’re competitive. So much is placed on the winning feeling that we’re losing our focus the hard yakka and team spirit it takes to get there. That’s what defines sport.
This isn’t a case of ‘…how you play the game.’ Winning is fantastic. Pummelling the United States of Micronesia into oblivion on a weekly basis, however, would quickly become stale. We’d also never have the opportunity to see legends like the iceman in action.
No single concept has had such an equal and resounding effect across numerous codes, and it comes down to a common thread. Money.
Mullah, Benjamins, cheddar, papers, dollar, dollar, bills y’all. Monetise anything and it becomes sinister. Watch the old diehards who give their free time for a club replaced by chumps who are in it for the coin, rather than the sport.
That’s how we live in the era of supplement scandals, match fixing and urine bubblers. Ancillary elements of the game have more influence now than players and coaches. Punters are after drama, wherever they can get it. Why the hell are the media interviewing captains as they walk off at half time? If we wanted that much unrestricted access, Big Brother would do just fine.
I appreciate the positives of sport turning professional, however I’m not convinced Australia knows how to act professionally. Just look at our top financial and media leaders, who clearly need focus on their ground work before a stint in the octagon.
Is it all doom and gloom? No.
Take the Socceroos. Outgunned and internationally written off, they stuck it to some of footballs heavyweights.
Every Saturday I see weekend warriors playing the sport they love. After work I walk past inner city basketball courts that are heaving until 10:00pm.
And then there are there are the less commercial sportsmen – our rowers, sprinters, hockey players. Champions who have an eighth the air time of the other codes, yet work just as hard, week in week out.
Australia has a fantastic core sporting culture. It’s that drive and passion that has earned us a place as one of the world’s premier sporting nations. Let’s cherish and nurture that. Because without it, we’re pretty much like every English sports fan.
By Nick Marshall