Summer

by Damian O’Donnell

A month or so back I wrote something silly about how silly Spring is. I was suggesting that in Spring we are frivolous and breezy in our attitude to life. We punt on horses, we marvel as the new garden emerges out of the winter ground, and we go outside for reasons other than to simply go to the footy.

Summer is altogether something else. Summer is a battle ground, a clash between the forces of loud, fast stupid activity and those of calmness and serenity.

Have a look at the TV advertising during summer. Young girls with impossibly white teeth cavort on the perfect dunes of a lonely beach with equally young, but muscular, men (who never have hairy chests) whilst stuffing down party packs of KFC or burgers the size of a small barn. They all throw their heads back and laugh and laugh and laugh because wildly tearing at deep fried chicken wings on a car bonnet is, well, fun apparently. And they never sit still.

We are also told to “rush in” and “grab” new things from sexy shops “while they last”. Prices get “slashed”, shop owners “go crazy” with the deals they offer, consumers are advised to “pay nothing for 12 months”, and small cars are given away with the new Gillette shaver. It’s completely nuts.

We watch the news and witness thousands of people rampage through the doors of large department stores a few days after Christmas like crazed wildebeest crossing the Mara River in Kenya. Both the wildebeest and the shopper are extremely anxious to avoid crocodiles. Rushing is mandatory.

The word “sale” appears everywhere as if it’s supposed to mean something. I wonder if there is a little bloke in a factory somewhere going flat out 24 hours a day seven days a week printing “Sale” signs in all different sizes. You feel the need to nail your children down lest they get placed in a shop window with the signs “Sale” and “Reduced” attached to their head.

But something else is also happening, something contrary to this lunacy: the cricket is on.

Cricket is the counter force to summer’s mad rushing and fake fun. Cricket is real. It’s the yin to summer’s barmy yang.

As a demented shopper closes in on a bargain, somewhere in Australia a bowler commences his run in. As the demented shopper takes ownership of the new clothes dryer the bowler steps to the crease, raises one arm and releases the ball with the other. It may be released quickly or slowly. The beautiful red leather projectile heads for the batsman. As the demented shopper fights off other bargain hunters who are rushing to grab things while they last, the red leather projectile in the game of cricket makes contact with a wooden bat.

“Crack”.

The sound of bat on ball. It echoes slightly, hangs in the hot summer air momentarily like a distant crow’s call, then dissipates peacefully. It briefly overwhelms the frantic yelling from boisterous cicadas, and it somehow cools the shade in which the spectators lounge, albeit fleetingly. The sound of bat on ball is comforting and unintimidating. It’s a very well mannered sound, a likeable interlude that says “Beg your pardon for interrupting your thoughts” before vanishing. It’s a sound that represents slow thoughtful progress of the game, not harebrained, flawed human activity. There are a few sounds that bring instant serenity; the sound of small waves breaking on a beach, the sound of a calming camp fire crackling in the night air, and the sound of a cricket ball striking a bat.

The ball hits the bat and trundles across a great expanse of grass and fieldsmen in white uniforms run and gather the ball and return it to the wicketkeeper. The batsmen may run or not as they choose. How very quaint this is, how very soothing.

Meanwhile the demented shopper has secured the new bargain clothes dryer and as the bowler returns to the top of his run the shopper dashes to the multi storey car park. There are many other shops and shoppers to conquer.

This battle between rational cricket games and foolish summer idiocy has been unfolding for some decades. I fear that the idiots are winning. Cricket is speeding up. It’s not good enough that the game has been squeezed into a day, it’s now condensed into 20 overs. The tranquility of the game is under attack. The subtlety is gone. Somehow in the short version of the game the sound of bat on ball has become vulgar. These short games have no meaning and they require no intellect because, just like a deep fried chicken wing, they don’t invite intrigue.

The game of cricket is turning into a post Christmas 24 hour “madness” sale. It’s completely nuts.

About Damian O'Donnell

OK – which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought ‘The Sorpranos’ was the best TV show ever made – by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne’s suburbs.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Amen to those sentiments Dips

    Although, I have to confess, I’m partial to the odd chicken wing.

    Cheers

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Great piece, Dips. Thank God footy brings us back to our senses hey?

    It’s just a different type of madness. But, I will say that damn word ‘SALE’ has cost me a fortune over the years.

  3. Dave Nadel says:

    “Sale?” That’s the hometown of future Collingwood legend Scott Pendlebury isn’t it? Does the word have another meaning?

  4. I’m probably just turning into a grumpy old man.

  5. “There are a few sounds that bring instant serenity; the sound of small waves breaking on a beach, the sound of a calming camp fire crackling in the night air, and the sound of a cricket ball striking a bat.”

    How true, Dips. I love all three sounds.

    I also love the word “pock”, as in the pock of ball on bat (although I just looked it up and it’s not in the dictionary).

    As you’re a former runner (third in the 1984 Stawell Gift), I reckon you might appreciate my loving the sound of a 200 metres field as it rounds the bend and enters the straight.

    It’s visually pleasing to see the runners round the bend in staggered formation. But I love the sound of the sprinters inhaling and exhaling – cheeks billowing with their exertions – and then the sound of spikes tacking on the cinders as the runners hurtle away from you and head towards the finish line.

    As a pro, you ran on grass, but the sound of spikes on the old black track at Aberfeldie in Essendon is one of my favourite sounds from childhood.

  6. Daff – nice word “pock” – I reckon that’s the right way to describe the sound of bat on ball when you hear it from a distance. Up close its more of a “thwack” or a “ka-pwack”. Suppose neither of those is in the dictionary. But “pock” does nicely.

    Talking of the 200m runners, one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen is watching Carl Lewis hit the corner of the 200 track in his Olympic runs. Just beautiful. As to the sound, I am more attuned to the grunts and groans of runners on grass, but I did train on a rubber track for a while – the only sound I recall from that experience was chucking over the wire fence after doing half a dozen 300s one night.

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