Australia’s beef with Russia is ramping up big-time.
It all started with Russia’s suspected involvement in the downing of MH17. Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to shirt-front President Vladimir Putin over the incident. Now things have really kicked on to the next level with Russia sending warships towards Australia.
With the escalation to military posturing, it’s clear we have entered a second Cold War with our Soviet foes.
In this edition, the threat of nuclear apocalypse does not appear to be on the cards. Australians should therefore embrace this new conflict, chiefly because it will produce a great new sporting narrative for the nation.
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The first Cold War created arguably the best sporting narrative of all-time.
It was USA v Russia. Western liberalism v Eastern authoritarianism. Capitalism v Communism. Good v Evil.
Without directly fighting one another in an armed conflict, the two nations found other ways to compete. This took form in things like the space race, fighting proxy wars in far-off places such as Vietnam and Afghanistan, and most importantly, sports competitions like the Olympic Games.
Even better than genuine sport was Hollywood-scripted sport. The movie version of the Miracle on Ice was better than the real ice hockey game between the USA and the USSR; Rocky Balboa never had a greater opponent than the scary, robotic Ivan Drago in Rocky IV; and Hulk “Real American” Hogan was at his peak spitting on the Soviet flag in front of pro-wrestling’s bad guy Nikolai Volkov.
The Cold War was fantastic for nationalistic sentiment, and sport was the ultimate medium to propagate it.
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Australia has never been the main protagonist in a Cold War. That, in combination with years of successive hot wars in the Middle-East and creeping political correctness, has meant Australia’s greatest foes tend to be one of New Zealand or England – two nations so similar to ours that it’s hard to muster up any real hatred, aside from being slightly irritated by harmless aspects of their culture.
Needless to say, these are not genuine rivalries.
A sporting rivalry is best when the two competitors are fighting for a cause, preferably a national one. In the case of the Cold War, the fight is also between ideals and ideologies on how best to view the society, economy and our ways of life.
Australia needs this new Cold War with Russia. As a relatively young nation that grapples with identity issues, we need a cause. Even more so, we need an out-group, against whom we can define ourselves.
We need to make the Russians the bad guys again.
As a matter of urgency, we should send Anthony Mundine to Russia, maybe Siberia. Not for exile, as some have suggested, but to fight some intimidating, steroid-abusing Russian in a harsh, foreign climate.
Given The Man’s penchant for offending just about everyone he comes in contact with, there is a good chance he will not return home. By doing so, he will become a martyr and a national hero, thus capping off the greatest hero-to-villain-to-hero story arc of the modern age.
Anthony Mundine’s heroic demise will be the first shot fired in this internecine Russo-Australian sporting war. Soon the rivalry will consume both countries. Australians will abandon once-favourite sporting pastimes like AFL so they can compete with Russia in judo, weight lifting and bear wrestling. Russia will ramp up its interest in rugby league, giving the game a much-needed international boost.
Our whole social order and culture will be turned upside down in order to confront the Soviet menace. It will be a difficult period for Australia, but we will ultimately benefit from it.
Sport, something which has long since lost its way due to the nefarious influence of money and professionalism, will take on new levels of socio-political meaning.
And that is a good thing.
By Ben Shine