by Sasha Lennon
I actually like Mike Sheahan. By that I mean I like (most of) what he writes in the paper and what he says on the telly. I especially like when, sitting on the couch alongside Wallsy he makes one of his softly-softly, it’s only business, I’m just doing my job kind of controversial statements about the current state of footy or one of its many parts. That sort of ‘sheepish precision’ for lack of a better description that he administers in suggesting things like Buddy might head west before he peaks, that North should actually go north, that Lloydy should retire or that Bucks should coach the Gold Coast (actually I really do like that last one). That look he gives, one of a three year old whisper-quiet, asking Mum for a second chocolate teddy-bear biscuit knowing full-well that a towering and gruff Wallsy is likely to give him that stern look, a shake of the head and an uncompromising “no look I don’t think so”.
In all seriousness, Mike’s almost daily contribution (like that of many great scribes) adds to the colour of our game, it helps to keep us engaged even when we’re not seeking it and it makes us think about things we like to think and talk about. In short, he makes us happy, even if consciously we don’t think so at the time. And like a K-Rudd policy statement on fiscal management or education reform, he can put forward an idea that he knows a lot of us don’t like at first, but after considered contemplation (and a little spin) we can appreciate that it might be for the greater good and for that reason we should support, or at least accept it without too much resistance.
But when one suggests the “Demise of the Bounce” (Herald-Sun, April 27th) with that 7.30pm’ish ‘Kerry we both know I’m right’ Ruddy smile on his dial, he’s showing some reckless disregard for that well-earned approval rating. OK, so some of the umpires are experiencing their own bout of the yips and as a result are intermittently failing to execute their skills under pressure. But in suggesting that we consider ditching something that is unique to the spectacle of this great game in the interests of the umpire’s collective confidence, I take umbrage!
OK, so Mike did suggest the alternative too, that the umpires perfect the art, and I’m just using his rather pithy article as an excuse to rant. But therein lies the operative word. The bounce is an art form, a thing of beauty, something that sets our game apart from any other, something foreigners marvel at in stunned disbelief when witnessing it for the first time (I’ve seen this happen). Have you ever taken the time to watch the opening bounce of a Grand Final in super slow-motion replay? When executed as the umpire intends it is like watching poetry in motion, and for that reason if not any other, the bounce should be enshrined.
And like a good Rudd Government policy position, it starts with investment in education and training. So Mike, lets push the AFL (and the footballing public) to embrace the right option, the culturally, socially and (without a shred of evidence) economically sustainable option by re-investing in our game’s skills base today so that the only ‘balls-up’ in future is the sort we can all be proud of.
(For the record, the author of this piece voted for Kev in the last election)