Enjoying the ride

“Hard times come and hard times go.. just to come again…”
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking ball.

Is football fun, anymore? For players at the top level it seems more serious than ever. Coaches, too.

Is anything fun, anymore? I reckon that exposure to perpetual outrage is a difficult thing for the human mind to navigate. When that outrage is mixed with scorn, horror and shame, it can be harmful to maintain.

As citizens in a republic we should be aware of the very issues eliciting such outrage, scorn, horror and shame.  Awareness helps us to make sense of our world; for each of us to make informed decisions.

News or events eliciting these feelings make up our news cycle every day. Exposure to the issues for a half hour each night, or perhaps over a morning newspaper, is probably sufficient for awareness purposes. Exposure to the issues on a 24/7 news cycle is too much. And prolonged exposure to uncensored opinion typically manifesting as bile, is worse.

 

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
H.L. Mencken, Prejudices: First Series

 

Like all contributors to this marvellous Footy Almanac, I do so purely (as Martin Flanagan described a similar scenario here recently) for “the joy of participation.” For the joy of participation. I like that. And like other joyful contributors, I have a finite amount of time in my week. Reading stories here, often I wonder what type of story I myself might write next. What should the topic be? Should it be a serious one? The story of a game? Should I continue the fictional account of Daz Cooper?

 

“Johnny used to work on the docks.”
Bon Jovi, Living on a prayer

 

And oftentimes, as I scan various news feeds, I wonder what on earth I’m doing with my life. The idle flicking of a handheld internet screen itself seems a phenomenon of our time. Here, communications, news, opinion and entertainment morph together. And yet, for all the cat videos and sub-genres (last night I happily learnt of one featuring videos of dogs mistakenly thinking their master is drowning, and so leaping to their apparent rescue), many online threads tend to outrage.

Evidently there is a lot about which to be outraged. It is right to feel outraged.

 

 

“…the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
Hermann Göring, Nuremberg 1946.

 

Living in these times, feeling besieged, can be exhausting. There is a need for space, for clear air, in such tumult. Previously, many found relief from everyday concerns in weekend sport.

But demands on sportspeople have grown. Professionalism, too, has grown; as have expectations. We have reached a point at which the tenor and volume of outrage in sporting contexts runs similar to those in other facets of life. Outrage is routinely articulated around suspensions, penalties, poor performances, injustices… That hostile levels of outrage can be issued in pursuit of the apparently frivolous is a little staggering.

Why would anyone take up a keyboard, tap on a screen, to lambast a footballer? Why would this even happen?

 

“It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

 

The answer must be because sport is not frivolous. Sport matters to people. And people only become emotionally involved when something matters to them. Watching the tribe is belonging to the tribe.

 

“Kids out driving, Saturday afternoon, just pass me by.”
Cold Chisel, “Flame trees.”

 

 

Through this prism we can recognise sport as an agent of social change. The role of sporting bans in apartheid-riven South Africa, for example. Or pathways via Australian football for indigenous Australians.

So sport is not frivolous.
And yet sport is not important.
What, then, is the value of sport?
What is the value of any of this?

 

“You say we should look out further; I guess it wouldn’t hurt us – we don’t have to be around all these coffee shops.”
Courtney Barnett, Depreston

 

While on one hand, hatred and viciousness is being normalised in public discourse, on the other, we can look for stories of inclusion, of meaning. People connected.

 

“Fear and suspicion won’t help us live together. We have to cultivate warm-heartedness.”
The Dalai Lama.

 

 

Everywhere people live carrying their private stresses. A bloke in Collins Street just now, on a weekday lunchtime, gesticulates on the phone, pacing, facing the reflective glass, hunched shoulders.
“You FUCKING TOLD JIM?!?”
(Clutching his head)
“Ahhhhhhh!!!”
(Shaking his head)
“YOU ARE A FUCKING IDIOT!!!”

 

“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

 

This weekend footballers will play football. They will follow instructions, they will make it up. They will sometimes win, they will sometimes lose. They will try; doing things together. Some will be injured. Some, such as a teenager last week in Hobart – very badly. Very soon, some will retire.

Who knows what these players carry; what these people carry? Probably their own hopes and dreams. I started here with the question “Is football fun anymore?” I think it probably is fun if you look to enjoy the ride.

So as another home and away season ends, let us enjoy the ride.

Thanks Johnno. Thanks Jobe. Thanks Dale. I don’t know you, nor what you carry. But thanks for your efforts. Thanks everyone.

 

 

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

 

Enjoying the ride at Brunswick Street Oval

About David Wilson

@e_regnans muddling along.

Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says:

    Love this piece DJW.
    Football, and sport in general, matters. It’s recreational fun and a keen interest for many of us.
    It’s serious business and paid employment for some of us. Just like music, art, theatre.
    There’s expectations and critisisms and praises whether you are President of the Collingwood Football Club or the Pomborneit Cricket Club, or Paul Kelly putting out a new album.
    Part of the Australian fabric.
    The outrage in the media and social media is regularly over the top and ridiculous. That won’t change.
    Like you, I love the joy of participation of the wonderful Almanac community. Of the community of my cricket club. And, despite recent results, of being part of the Collingwood army at the ‘G.
    Thank you for your efforts D.Wilson.

    PS. Always enjoy an article that quotes C.Barnett.

  2. Philosophical and thought provoking as always OBP ( Well put Luke ) thank you

  3. ER – some timeless questions here. Outrage. Why is there so much outrage? I read a piece recently that argued that virtues are the product of reason, but that the old virtue-based order has been destroyed, replaced, instead, with emotivism. So reason; rational analysis, is dead. Without rational analysis we get emotive outrage. Without virtue we get narcissism.

    “If you had to choose between art and the slogan, or between history and the slogan, you might as well choose the slogan and have done with pretending even to care about art and history. The reduction of all things to politics must reduce them, in their own right, to irrelevance.”Anthony Esolen.

    But I love the end of this piece, thanking the retiring footballers. “I don’t know you, nor what you carry. But thanks for your efforts” That’s a terrific sentiment.

  4. E.regnans says:

    Thanks very much Luke, OBP, Dips.
    I recognise that the three of you give so much of your effort and thought and consideration to others.
    Dips- Interesting notion on outrage and the slogan. It has played out here in Australia in the past 10 years, certainly. Here I set out to write a general thanks to retirees and became sidetracked along the way. I’m glad you made it to the end.

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