Sport purports to be the formal representation of a fundamental human urge.
Somewhere between the ritual thumping of the neighbouring village in a colourful mock battle and Skrilla there exists the globally important and much-loved world of professional sport.
Skrilla was launched in December 2017. It is a digital currency that operates as a gambling chip in the virtual world of GAMURS that allows you to bet virtual money on virtual games played by professional nerds virtually engaged in a colourful mock battle while physically sitting at home in their tracky dacks.
Nature of pro sport
Professional sport occupies the back page of the handful of newspapers that still exist and shares the tail end of the news bulletins that a handful of us still consume with those other things that matter most to the mythical audience of the news producer: finance and the weather.
Professional sport appears capable of surviving doping scandals, rampant commercialism, a passion for litigation and a fear ridden backlash against litigation that is incorrectly called political correctness. Of course, the 2018 World Cup in Russia at the same time as that nation faces an Olympic ban due to their systemic and criminal doping regime may somewhat test those limits.
Like commerce itself, or the hereditary inbreeding of aristocracy, the rot at the top is constantly replenished and reinvigorated by the absorption of robust blood and energy from the bottom.
Local communities clear paddocks and carve sporting gear from broken park benches or the Camphor Laurel in the school ground; Parents desist from slashing the tyres of difficult umpires long enough to start a girl’s competition or build a curling rink in the shade of the recently pruned camphor laurel.
Thus professional sport is refreshed and rejuvenated through the pure good will of the little people at community-level while Montgomery Burns, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis feed lavishly by sucking at the engorged organs at the top.
Of course, we carefully avoid such cynicism as we urge on our tribe, huddled over our smart phone in the lunch room or basking in the glow of big screens on every wall with a pot or two at the local.
Ebbsy embraces the red and white jersey
It was with such pure sentiments I donned a white and red jersey and headed into the Melbourne sleet one Saturday morning with a bunch of mates to prove to our lovers, colleagues and mothers that we were still young, vigorous and capable. We had faced similar weather in the quickly gathering gloom on a number of winter evenings in preceding weeks, determining which of us could run and breathe at the same time, who could kick and who could catch.
It was invigorating, it was inspiring and the awe and wonder of our lovers, colleagues and mothers was seriously gratifying. I also enjoyed a hot bath more than I had for some time after one particularly cold, damp dusk in a North Fitzroy park.
Thus prepared to contribute my innocence to the greater game, I travelled with my housemates to the ancient and glorious stadium in Edinburgh Gardens described fondly and often by Barry Dickins and once home to the Brisbane (nee Fitzroy) Lions.
The men in gold and blue, set to face us on the field, seemed impossibly young, strong and large but we beat our chests confidently, punched each other’s backs and stamped our feet in the miserable mush while breathing out as much steam as we could into the cold, damp morning.
A run at rover
On the whistle, the big men flew, so did the ball and we started running. Being small and fast, I had been nominated Rover and so ran at the heels of the pack, barking and nipping as seemed appropriate for a sheep dog with rapidly decreasing lung capacity and calf muscles screaming with pain.
We seemed to be heading toward their goal a disproportionate amount of the time and so I grabbed the ball and headed in the other direction as often as I could, approximately twice, and was quickly overtaken by a large number of giants in aureate trimmed azure who miraculously plucked the ball as they swept aside my carmine and ivory swathed body and discarded it at the side of the action.
At the blessed relief of the whistle, a lover, colleague or mother provided us with pieces of orange and Neil, our anarcho-syndicalist coach, relieved me of duties as Rover and told me to lurk at half back. There was some scoffing that half-back required an anchor, followed by another comment about a boat anchor which I did not quite catch but gathered was less than complimentary.
Having determined that running behind the pack is not terribly productive I decided to use my new-found and well-anchored position to develop different tactics. I decided that by pure bravery and unexpected daring I would snatch the ball from the garishly clad monsters and thereby shower glory on myself and victory on team red and white – I am not sure we ever found ourselves a name.
A vile opponent
My opponent was a barrel with short bowed legs covered in red, prickly hair. I knew I could easily out-run him. He insisted on standing in front of me, whichever way I faced, and muttering the most disgusting insults under his breath. I failed to see the invisible foe he hated so passionately, though occasionally, he continued the muttering while looking at me causing me to begin to wonder if his insults might be somehow addressed to me.
Such idle speculation was interrupted as the thundering, grunting and calling pack of brightly coloured men headed our way. I ran toward them, easily leaving behind my opponent, carefully keeping an eye on the ball as, I know full well, this is a key to getting one’s hands (bat or racquet) to connect with that much coveted object.
My feet literally flew over the ground, my hair streamed behind me as I flung myself toward the fray, finally free of the fear that I would not get my hands on the ball and luxuriate in the fame and fortune that follows a firm handling of “the pill”.
Perhaps ten meters from direct contact the object of my desire was passed across the face of the pack. The lead runner was avoiding my certain contact by passing it to his right flank across the path of my team mate some distance behind him. I sprinted sideways, following the ball and preparing to launch myself obliquely at its new owner, if necessary. He bounced it, as one must in Australian Rules, to prove one is in control and not simply running about with the bladder stuffed under one’s jumper as they do in some other sports we shall not name.
I lifted my alertness a notch, in case the bounce should go wrong and afford me an extra opportunity to snatch the ball while its current claimant adjusted his stride. It bounced well, though, and he had it firmly in hand as my body met his in a resounding thump that prevented me from snatching the ball from him in quite the manner I had intended.
The next thump was me hitting the ground, and the one after that as the first of a dozen men ran over the top of me, grinding me more deeply into the mire with each footfall.
A roar from the sidelines and a flurry of aurulean and cerulean ribbon focused my attention in the present. The distant dissolution of the pack into a group of slumped red and white and exuberant blue and gold indicated that the enemy had scored a goal. My glorious save had been thwarted.
The kind and attentive face of the quarter-time, orange-giver floated into my consciousness and embedded itself in my heart as she helped me up and to the sidelines. I will love her forever, wholly, and deeply, although she be the sworn life-partner of our coach. Despite the non-hierarchical, non-sexist nature of their vows, the bloody circumstances in which she retrieved my battered body from the battlefield somehow deepens the tribal, instinctively animal nature of their bond in my moral universe. I love her, but she loves him and his elevation in the pecking order means that my love must necessarily be chaste as theirs is carnal. That arrangement fills me with warmth and belonging: a satisfaction so complete I care no more of broken bones, torn skin or the loud buzzing in my ears.
I simply wallow in my sacrificial place in the tribal nest, whole and wholly unconscious.
And that, dear reader, is proof enough for me, at the throbbing heart of the corrupt and cynical activities which precede the weather report each day, there is something fundamentally human and undeniably real. The temptation to describe it as noble, or attribute it meaning and moral value is, I suspect, a post-hoc rationalisation designed to make our conscious selves feel somewhat more in control of our destiny and decision making – and therefore more important – than they actually are. I don’t care, though, as I float in the tribal bliss of having the alpha female lick the wounds of my semi-conscious body before I slip completely into post-battle bliss, or is that stupor?
We may never know.
Because there are no actual images of the incredible match described I have included a few snaps to celebrate sport in all its glory!