Reality of more to life than sport
dom person singing Madonna’s Justify My Love. We saw a mind-blowing two-storey high water sculpture, a weird machine that was connected to the internet and spelt huge words made from water droplets based on real-time news searches on Google. We watched a genuinely unsettling short film called The Painter by the American performance artist Paul McCarthy, which was the closest thing to a perfect rendering of a nightmare I have ever seen.
And because this is a family newspaper, I will neither describe nor name the one piece of art I spent the afternoon trying to avert my then 11-yearold son’s eyes from. Those of you who’ve been there will know what I am talking about.
All of these are things you don’t find on the pages of the Football Record.
After such a boring Saturday and an exhilarating, mindexpanding Sunday, I found myself thinking thoughts that probably qualify me for immediate deportation to a lesser nation that doesn’t watch a minimum of 20 hours of sport a week.
Maybe sport isn’t just often boring. Maybe art is even better than sport?
There was great mirth last weekend when the Brisbane Lions cheer squad unfurled their player banner vowing that their team would kick the “winnig” score. Back in round three it was Pies fans who were the subject of ridicule after their banner promised that Carlton would go down “tonihgt”. Rather than telling a specific story about the alleged stupidity of Lions and Magpies fans, I’d argue that these banners are genuine signs of the times in a more general sense, in that our unhealthy and obsessive relationship with sport has made us all a little bit dumber than we would otherwise be.
Do the math, as the conclusion is irresistible. By my own calculations, I would spend at least 10 hours a week during winter watching a combination of AFL, my local footy league, and my son’s school team, cursed as it is to have me as coach. That’s about 200-220 hours a year. Over summer you can throw in 25 days lost for Test Matches, or 15 days with pitch doctoring, so add another 80-odd hours to the annual tally. 300 hours equals 18,000 minutes, which if you read a book at the rate of one page a minute equals 60, 300page books I have failed to read each year. And I wonder why I’m stupid.
Eddie McGuire made the terrific observation recently about the psychological horror of being a rusted-on sports fan, namely that “The highs are too low and the lows are too low.”
To that you could add the tedious bits in the middle are far too tedious. There are signs that a growing number of people are now reaching this conclusion, with AFL TV audiences down 13.9 per cent year on year.
This could reflect many things – congestion, nit-picking rules, blow-outs, the continued existence of the Carlton Football Club – but it may also reflect the fact that some people have simply concluded that there is more to life and maybe we have got the balance wrong.
Through my involvement with school footy, I even wonder whether sport is now so allconsuming, between the school team, the local club team, inter-school comps and zone teams, that it’s no longer a case of sport being an adjunct to schooling, but the schooling being squeezed in around the sport.
To finish with an artist not from MONA but the funny pages. Gary Larson’s cartoon of three cows in a paddock. One looks up and realises: “Hey, wait a minute! This is grass! We’ve been eating grass!”