Roll With It

Men's Health (Australia) - - Ed's Letter - Luke Bene­dic­tus Twit­ter: @Lukebene­dic­tus men­shealth@paci­fic­

So I’m on pa­ter­nity leave at the mo­ment, which mostly in­volves hang­ing out in the lo­cal park with my tod­dler, while my wife in­tro­duces our sleepy new­born to the world at large.

Joe, my 16-month-old, is a sin­gle-minded fel­low whose in­ter­ests re­volve around a large or­ange ball. I kick it along the grass, he tot­ters after it, gives it an af­fec­tion­ate squeeze and hands it back with a grin. This se­quence is stuck on a loop. We do it over and over again. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a dog tries to hi­jack the party, but then we quickly re­sume. Joe bloody loves that ball.

Ask your­self this: how many hours of your child­hood, of your life, have you spent chas­ing after balls of var­i­ous shapes and sizes? Maybe it was hit­ting a ten­nis ball against a wall or play­ing a two-man Test se­ries in a sub­ur­ban back­yard. Per­haps you prac­tised shoot­ing hoops at a ring set above a garage door. Or played 20-a-side games of touch footy with the neigh­bour­hood kids. I sus­pect you’ve spent aeons of time, vast hunks of your pre­cious life, run­ning after balls. And if that’s not enough, you’ve then squan­dered even more hours watch­ing oth­ers do the same on TV (al­beit with slightly more skill and panache). Think of those balls like dots, join them up and you’ve got the broad sweep of the av­er­age boy’s life in Aus­tralia.

I men­tion this be­cause sport has copped a bad rap of late. The cricket team ut­terly dis­graced it­self. A lead­ing rugby player keeps mak­ing un­nec­es­sary ho­mo­pho­bic re­marks. Dis­gusted by the in­dis­cre­tions of play­ers and the trib­al­ism of fans, cor­po­rate spon­sors are start­ing to pull out of deals pre­ma­turely. At the time of writ­ing, sport is lan­guish­ing in the sin bin.

Against this col­lec­tive hand-wring­ing, Men’s Health wanted to pro­vide some per­spec­tive. We don’t want to gloss over the bad stuff. But we also don’t want to over­shadow the fact that we be­lieve that sport is more of­ten a life-af­firm­ing force. It forges mate­ship, team­work and com­mu­nity. It pro­vides a wel­come dis­trac­tion from the tri­als of life. It gives you some­thing to de­bate in the pub over a beer.

That’s why on page 84 we asked a bunch of writ­ers to hon­our their per­sonal sport­ing cham­pion and share their most pre­cious mem­o­ries. From Adam Gilchrist to Roger Fed­erer, we wanted to hear about their he­roes and those mo­ments of sport­ing folk­lore that lifted their souls.

As for me, I’m head­ing back to the park with Joe. That ball won’t chase it­self.

“We be­lieve sport is more of­ten a lifeaf­firm­ing force. It pro­vides a wel­come dis­trac­tion from the tri­als of life”

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