TPA’s Election Analysis: Week Three – The Big Issues

Like a raving mad homeless man on a city corner, this week McClintock is screaming about big issues. Although, in truth, he barely discuss them at all.

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The Big Issues

As Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski said, “I got issues, man.”

Or was it “a rash”?

Perhaps it was both.

Nevertheless, this country has issues, man!

We’re drowning in refugees, cheap milk, a budget deficit and The Great Barrier Reef is dying before our very eyes. All this while our planet slowly heats up in a desperate attempt to kill us all (can you blame it?). I don’t mean to understate it here, but I think we’re fucked. Thank heaven Bill and Malcolm have all the answers. Don’t they?

I’m not sure …

Trying to get a gauge on the major parties positions on big issues this week has been tricky. Especially as several of their own candidates have shown they don’t even know what they are. Usually this wouldn’t bother me so much – heck, I don’t even know my own position on some of the issues – but what was alarming was that a couple of the heavy-hitters were guilty of this heinous crime.

What do I care if some Liberal schmuck running for office in Shitsville, South Australia, doesn’t know his party’s policy on Medicare? No offence to those in Shitsville, but Julie Bishop and Sarah Hanson-Young are figureheads of their parties. Strong, articulate and powerful women who have their shit together, basically. But they dropped the ball this week. Will they come back like Thurston or capitulate like [insert any New South Welshman]? Only time will tell.

In politics, as in bowling and religion, you should never drop the ball.

The biggest issue this week was, of course, State of Origin. New South Wales and Queensland electorates certainly couldn’t give two hoots about what was going on in politics over the past seven days. Queenslanders especially.

Should another nation ever want to invade Queensland, Origin week would be a good time to do it. If they poured their army across the border on the Wednesday afternoon, I doubt anyone would notice. As long as they avoided Caxton Street, but they could always just dress their soldiers in maroon and most would think it a parade.

They would need to ensure full and secure control of all government buildings come Thursday though. Lest they’re faced with an army of wild eyed, fiercely proud, off-purple lunatics that morning. Nursing mild hangovers and a salivating, rabid loyalty to their state, they’re likely to come with everything they’ve got. Win or lose, the night before.

Vote for Robert Borsak!
Vote for Robert Borsak!

So this is perhaps why, in a week when Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party MP Robert Borsak admitted to killing and eating Dumbo, and probably also consuming Bambi’s mum, Bill Shorten’s blooper in calling Queensland ‘the Storm’ may have been the most costly by far. He surely thought it a harmless faux-pas, quickly forgotten and consigned to the chuckle factory, but he has certainly lost votes.

You might be able to fuck with a Queenslander’s Super and get away with it, but you certainly can’t disrespect Cam and the boys.

By Alasdair McClintock

Twitter: @AWJP83

Read Week One – The Leaders here

Read Week Two – The Major Parties here

 

The NBA Playoffs: Peak Sport

For a sport widely regarded in this country as a gangster’s paradise of thugs, new money and hip-hop, the NBA playoffs and its accompanying TV coverage oozes class. Australian sport would do well to learn from it.

Australia’s always had its NBA true believers. They get the game, they get the culture, they’re rusted-on. But there’s another, possibly larger, group of sport-lovers in Australia who don’t care for the brash swagger of American basketball. Whisper it quietly, but this group carries an unstated snobbery toward American sport generally – casting it as a fake, franchise-heavy exercise in new-money superficiality. Then again, when it comes to sport many in this group struggle to look beyond their state, let alone the Pacific. It took a trip to the US in 2012 during NBA Finals for me to stop being that guy.

Underpinning the whole NBA Playoffs presentation – from the TV coverage to the gameplay itself – is an unerring commitment to crisp minimalism.

Consider the trumpet in the intro tune. It’s deliciously regal. It’s normal to hum the tune as one strides to the bathroom with chest out, adding a sense of energy and purpose to the action. It’s a far cry from Channel Nine’s ‘Friday night’s a great night for football’. We sing that too, but it doesn’t confer the same gravitas. If those NBA trumpets could talk, they’d be saying ‘the champ is here’ and not ‘I’m here, champ’.

The people who voice the game, whether it’s the announcers or the voiceovers for the advertisements, are so velvety-smooth and stately you imagine they’re in dinner suits as they speak, a scotch by their side (neat), and a golden mic. Theirs is an understated shtick more tightly aligned to Benaud than Eastlake, lending elegance at odds with the prevailing American stereotype. This is not flash, new money, this is premium sport.

(If you’re not humming the intro trumpets as you again stride in to the bathroom, you’re probably saying ‘Tissot; OH-fficial timekeeper of the “N-B-A”.’)

And while broadcaster ESPN has its fair share of outspoken loudmouths, when you’re accustomed to lurid, moronic Sportsbet characters wailing at you both inside and outside matches, it’s a welcome change.

The Playoffs’ on-court fare is mind-bogglingly good too.

In sport’s modern age, where speed and action are king, the NBA offers small windows into those exquisite moments where time slows: the collective breath we take as the ball floats from the arc towards the basket, its rainbow shape cutting the air with perfect grace, juxtaposed against the power and sinewy movement of its protagonists. It’s apt that the act of shooting climaxes with the purest of sounds: the swoosh surely serving as one of the sweetest sounds in all sport. All clinically captured by the broadcast, of course.

It’s actually hard to think of a sport where outrageous skill is executed with such regularity. Of course all sports are hard at the elite level, but it is staggering how these guys continually sink baskets in the face of muscular, fast, 7-foot obstacles.

Unsurprisingly, the Playoffs’ slick production and ‘effortless cool’ is driven as much by business as it is by pure basketball culture. This isn’t some ideal, organic manifestation of global sport – the NBA has its dark side, too. However as Australians become increasingly familiar with the language of business and marketing in sport (‘growing the pie’, ‘new market segments’, ‘improving the product’), we also know bullshit when we see it. If the NBA is a festival of commercialism, it doesn’t appear to lose any of its heart or emotion. At Playoffs time, tempers regularly flare, players connect with their crowds, and home court advantage means something. Players definitely care. These aren’t the hallmarks of a cold, money-spinning machine.

Come playoffs time, there’s a growing body of Australian sports snobs happily seduced by American basketball. However it’s not a seduction of fashionable lust, there’s something a bit more. This feels like it could be something that lasts a little longer. This could be real.

Sam Perry

@sjjperry

In the Salary Cap of Sporting Emotion, Queensland are Rampant Cheats

We’re a land of the ‘fair go’ in Australia.

Whether you just read that in a Samuel-Johnson-Secret-Life-Of-Us voice, or a VB-advertisement-voice, it’s likely this is your truth. And although our country’s egalitarianism has more holes in it than a Panama Papers shell company, it’s still our prevailing identity.

That’s right, in Australia the only laws more important than the written are the unwritten, and our first amendment is that we get behind the underdog.

What’s your Fair Go poison? You might drink to the Eureka Stockade. Simpson and his Donkey: there’s a nice drop! Here’s cheers to Ned Kelly and the boys. What about the America’s Cup? Bob Hawke would have skulled from it – what about you?

In Australia, some think sport is just for the capitalists and the Machiavels engaging in a never-ending festival of alpha showdowns. They’re wrong. The Australian Spirit allows for some romance and humanity too. So sophisticated and poetic is our relationship to sport, we offer a Salary cap of Sporting Emotion: an equalisation measure to ensure that the more you lose, the more you’re liked.

The rules of the emotional salary cap are simple: if you win, you forego ‘battler’ status. If you lose, you gain said status. This is where the sporting ‘soft spot’ comes from. If you can’t win, at least you get to assume the identity of the ‘battler’.

Except in State of Origin Rugby League.

Even after a decade of systematic destruction at the hands of Queensland, the New South Wales Origin team has no battler tag, and no soft spot status. In a country (and article) of lazy stereotypes, this is particularly galling for Sydneysiders, for whom status is everything.

How does it come to pass that a decade of also-ran-ship fails to elicit any sympathy? How come the narrative hasn’t shifted? People may point to a century of Queensland oppression at the hands of New South Wales Rugby League, and they’d be right. But modern Rugby League, as with modern politics, operates in dog years. In 15 years the Rabbitohs have gone from battlers to blue bloods to somewhere in-between. Canberra used to be the upstarts, now they’re everyone’s second team. Even Manly made themselves semi-likeable for a while as a suburban recalcitrant in the shadows of corporate Rugby League after the Super League war. It helped that they were losing. When you lose a lot, being likeable is easy.

The institution that is New South Wales Rugby League hasn’t helped its own cause. Whether it’s their brand of street-brawling football, devoid of any playmaking creativity, or their relentless failure to back players for more than a couple of games, or just by virtue of having the strongest state economy with the highest median family income, every move they make smells of blue blooded entitlement. You suspect that Ned Kelly (Victorian) and Simpson (born in England) would be Queensland supporters.

And there is very little redeeming about this year’s New South Wales team itself. With the exception of Aaron Woods, who seems like a nice bloke who has a crack; Laurie Daley, who is largely pleasant and evokes memories of a better day; and the guys who have never played for New South Wales, the large majority of the rest really do battle for likeability. It’s all underworld cavorters, weird fly-punchers, glassings, Pineapple Cruisers, performance enhancing drugs rumours and Manly players.

New South Wales’ supporters don’t help, either. We are nothing if not splintered. We’re opposing lockout laws, backpacking, pretending we’re Bondi locals, living regionally, driving WRXs, watching the Swans, watching the ‘rah rah’, living in London, negatively gearing our third property, listening to Kyle Sandilands, or living in Melbourne. Culturally we’re all over the place, and despite Buzz Rothfield’s best efforts, we don’t bond as one over our deserved underdog status.

This is to say nothing of the Jedi mind trick that Queensland under Meninga et al have imposed over not just New South Wales, but Australia. Even in their pomp, the public reserved some rankle for their beloved Australian cricket team. Not Queensland though. This state has managed to hijack Australia’s most treasured sporting principle for their advantage – they take underdog, battler status, while relentlessly dominating their opposition.

How did Queensland become so likeable? As a kid I was brought up to believe that they were backward, redneck, isolationist, hillbillies. And yet their talisman, Johnathan Thurston, has emerged as a leader of his club, his state, and his people. Same goes Greg Inglis – a man we desperately mock for his ‘defection’ to Queensland, without ever considering the reasons why he did it. It’s whispered quietly but nevertheless well accepted that Queensland unfailingly provide greater support for their Indigenous players than New South Wales. What about Cameron Smith? All efforts to cast him as the nagging referee-whisperer are as comical as they are contrived. He’s a player that wins ruthlessly, and can string sentences together. Sadly, he deeply impresses us.

This year Queensland are more likeable than ever before. Their bona fide villains – Slater and Hodges – will not feature owing to injury and retirement respectively. Moreover, the common refrain that Queensland only win because of the abovementioned trio is losing lustre as the years plough on. Consider this list of elite Queensland players who’ve come and gone throughout the decade of dominance: Lockyer, Hunt, Folau, Price, Civoniceva, Crocker, Tate. At some stage you’d expect New South Wales to have rebalanced the ledger, but they haven’t.

The scariest prospect is that Queensland’s superiority is now systemic – not built on a couple of immortal players, but a culture and identity that stands to roll on generationally. They have eight guys banned from playing due to a misjudged circuit in January! They’re the next ones we have to worry about.

Indeed, these are dark times for New South Wales fans. Our ritzy, thuggish misfits and upstarts, versus Queensland’s imperious and villainless battlers.

I think New South Wales will win game one 14-12.

Sam Perry

Sam Perry will be commentating State of Origin Game One live for The Hill Radio on Wednesday, June 1 from 7.30pm AEST. Head to mixlr.com/thehillradio to stream the game from there.