Crio’s Q: …time please, Gentlemen

Those of us who watch and comment on Test Cricket are convinced of its unique qualities and enduring fascination. We love it.

“Why…just look at the AUST/SA and INDIA/WI Tests completed last week.”

But others are less convinced. Slow. Irrelevant. Outdated.

“Look”, they counter, “at the crowds and coverage last week!”.


The Miracle Mile was on Saturday night. Smoken Up apparently ran 1.51. The horses today are faster and better than ever – and largely culturally irrelevant. Once a feature on Australia’s sports calendar – even televised live on ABCTV – the former Harold Park drawcard is slipping to oblivion at Menangle.

Try telling people in the decades following WW2 that the trots would fade from public interest. They were embedded in our society. The Industry now is in decline and in disarray.


Sports cannot assume legitimacy and enduring popularity in a rapidly changing world.

Even Thoroughbred Racing, still burping from its Spring Feast, is not exempt from the march of time.

Every Australian town seemed to have been established with a church, a racecourse and a local store at its core…. but that doesn’t guarantee the relevance or viability of any of them anymore.

Horse racing is unlike any other of the gambling mediums swamping and growing the market in recent times – if it is, it is doomed. By relying on off-course corporates and Carnivals racing it is sliding in to invisibility. Why not promote “Trackside”?- it eliminates so many factors and races under all conditions.

“This can’t be allowed to happen?”. It is already. Visit Flemington off-peak. Get to a Ballarat mid-weeker.

The creep has been relentless, probably irreversible, but nevertheless regrettable.


I don’t aim to be a doomsayer but History shows that fads and even ways of life change.

Neither chivalry nor duels remain from England’s glory years – though titles are still bestowed!

Fantasy sports, internet gaming and extreme martial arts are booming.

Boxing yearns for its glory days.

Sport is not exempt from its times.

Perhaps this insecurity drives the “code battles” that Administrations run to ensure “competitors” are marginalized? Bureaucrats, accountants and ratings charts shout numbers whilst attendances plateau and kids turn emphatically to new mediums.

Whilst we live in the present we are passengers on time’s voyage. Turn 50 and find out what it means to reflect on change!

Sport of some sort, I suspect, will survive. But in what form and for what purpose? Is it just gaming?

Which sports are imperiled? What is the future direction for participants and watchers of games?



  1. Dishlickers….need to get away from the old huntin’ dog philosphy behind greyhounds and get with the modern breeds. Shiatsu X Maltese racing, Border Collie V Kelpie chess games, Golden Retrievers V Labaradors PAL eating comps (think of the sponsorship opportunities), Mongrel V Pure Bred street cred struts…geez, the options are endless!

  2. Crio, much to think about in this extended play (Alice’s Restaurant) of your weekly question. Many good points to consider. What is substance? Meaning? My publicly-argued view has always been that things which lack meaning eventually fade away. Despite its shortcomings and its tendency to be driven by commerce the AFL continues to hold my attention because the game, and the following of clubs, remains meaningful to me. I may project my own meaning on to it; or I might find meaning in it. This is an age-old philosophical dilemma. But for me, I keep turning up. Cricket? I am finding it less meaningful – across the spectrum of the three codes – and yet I find the recent Test results (you can find many a fine test match over the last 6-7 years) absolutely brilliant. A key question is to find in sport that which has appealed since ancient times – a nice challenge. And I want my kids to know that feeling of Saturday-night tiredness after a hard-fought battle on the cricket field. How good do those beers taste?

  3. Cricket beers are up there with the great ones. Can be organised, beach, or even White’s Hill Dump pitches and they will always taste great!

    I’ve been feeling the demise of RL for a while now. The skilful moments are still there, but buried by the inanity of the protagonists (mostly off the field, but not limited to). Not to mention the dire-ness of the commentators. Plenty of people still find meaning within it though.

    A mate of mine now finds it the only code he enjoys watching live unless there is a friend/child playing.

  4. Gus is getting towards the biggest issue. I would answer Crio’s question with a subsiduary question. Ïs there room in Australia for four major football codes? Australian Rues (apart from being the best game in the world) is safe because it is so ingrained into the culture of four states and at least one Territory. Soccer will survive because it is the world game. But is there room for both Rugby Union and Rugby League?

    In the past, League and Union served different communities and different classes. The demise of Union amateurism changed that as did the hypercommercialisation of League, There are obviously different playing rules and different team sizes but the games are similar enough for a regular flow of players from one code to the other.

    Union is probably safe because it is truly international wheras Rugby League really only exists in four countries (Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea) Rugby League has further undermined its support base by trashing (or merging) a lot of its older clubs in both Sydney and Brisbane.

    I would hate to see Rugby League disappear – I prefer it to Union as a game and I recognise the importance of clubs like South Sydney or St George. But as the various codes fight for supporters and sponsors in western Sydney and the Gold Coast you would have to wonder about the future of League.

  5. Skip of Skipton says

    Sadly all at this time are in service to Mammon it seems, and with that must come economic rationalism which panders to the mass; and is indifferent to, if not consciously opposed to, what is desirable culturally or aesthetically when considering the greater good and raison d’etre. There is a football team being raised in western Sydney. Is the crusade there more beneficial in the long run than giving Tasmania what it deserves? Could 20/20 end up eating it’s parents, for which it was created to support?!

  6. Great question, Crio. Great discussion. Harms V Skip. Meaning V Commerce. I am on the side of ‘meaning’ but like Skip I fear it is a losing battle. Sport as a form of Huxley’s somnambulist little pills in our Brave New World? One of the most insightful quotes I remember is Russell Banks who wrote the Sweet Hereafter and Affliction – it was something like “we are the first generation to colonise our kids”. What he meant was that the boundaries for colonising nations and natural resources to feed the growth and profit engine had been largely exhausted. So Nike and Play Station and Foxtel were the new avenues for creating wants that needed to be met. What’s that got to do with Crio’s question? To mind its the ‘hollowing out’ of sports like cricket (20/20 etc); boxing (IBF/WBC/WBA/etc); Sky Racing (3 stations 7 days a week – full of endless maidens and C58’s that would do better service in a can of Pal) – to constantly ‘feed the need’ and fill the momentary voids in our ‘entertainment’ attention span. Sell your soul and ultimately eat your own children. And yet and yet. We yearn for a balance and nourishment – like the last month’s Test Cricket when I had given up on the game. We find a new balance – a new equilibrium – and a new generation. And despite myself, I can’t help thinking that Julia and Josh and Danni and my kids and nephews are smarter than I was at their age. So there is optimism – its just the fading of my cherished illusions from adolescence that I find disconcerting. Its like regrowth after bushfires.

  7. Sport, I suspect, continues to have meaning for the spectator but seems to be losing meaning for the participant. It’s a job, a profession. Just look to the USA where there are player strikes. Even in the AFL negotiations with players over the ‘new deal’ the words player strike were mentioned.

    Spectators have the jumper or the colours or the history to draw on. Players have the pay packet. That’s not having a go at the players, but it is reality.

    This is dangerous ground. Sports will start feeding off themselves, gobbling themselves up. If the players see no meaning the spectators must surely follow?

    The upside of this though is that it might return people to the grass roots of sport. If the AFL creates a monster (its on the way) people will go to their local footy ground and take in a game. So, it may well be that ultimately the sports without the local roots are the ones that will wither. Perhaps this keeps footy and cricket and soccer safe, but greatly endangers basketball and other games devoid of culture,

  8. Tony Roberts says

    Response to Adam’s first comment: what about JRTs?

  9. Aussie sport ‘ethnic cleansing’ Dave? By design, stealth of inadvertantly.

    Personally I am a great believer in the idea of biological and cultural diversification. I may not be as excited about cockroaches or League but I sure as hell believe it has a right to thrive if that’s how the gonzos who like them or support it get their jollies.

    Every species or culture we lose is one closer to us/ours.

    As Guru Bob would say ‘tink about dat one’.

  10. As I said Phanto, I would hate to see League disappear, but the net effect of all four codes now playing in national leagues and all being fully professional is that they are now competing with each other.

    Fifty years ago, when Aussie Rules was a minor sport north of the Murrumbidgee and East of the Diamontina and Rugby League was non-existent in the South and West of Australia. When Union was played by Private School educated Amateurs and League players and fans were working class graduates of State and Catholic Schools and soccer was mostly played by immigrants there was virtually no competition between codes. Now they are all fishing in the same pond there is potentially competition for players, spectators, sponsors and TV rights. Maybe Australia is big enough and rich enough to support all four codes. I hope it is. All I am saying that if there are not enough fans, players, money and television time for all four then League would appear the most vulnerable.

    Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

  11. Discussion about any meaning in sport is navel gazing. Meaning – the meaning of life – is gained from philosophy and to help us interpret our philosophy we use literature, art, cinema, theatre, religion and history. Sport is irrevelant. For us spectators and couch potatoes, AFL football and other elite level sports are nothing more than entertainment. Professional AFL footballers, professional golfers, tennis players, cyclists etc. are all sports people, but we spectators are merely entertainment consumers. What do all you marxists think of that?
    Some of the comments about the different sports in Australia are naive. The most popular sports in Australia are cricket, aussie rules football and rugby league football and I believe that this popularity will continue. In Australian capital cities people are mostly interested in sport as a passive entertainment activty. In regional/rural Australia, sport is a social activity. Most other sports are not popular. Soccer is a popular junior sport in capital cities, but will never be a popular elite level adult sport because of the elite level European compettions. The Australian A League soccer competition is a mickey mouse competition which is equivalent to a third division European competition. Rugby Union will continue to be a minor sport which is only popular in upper middle class private protestant schools. Horse racing is not a sport – it is an entertainment activity designed for the purpose of gambling. Horse trotting and greyhound racing are not sports – they are hobby activities.

  12. “The most popular sports in Australia are cricket, aussie rules football and rugby league football and I believe that this popularity will continue.”

    In terms of the number of participants I believe netball may be the highest.

  13. Tennis clubs enjoy the highest membership – not all are players though.

  14. Richard Jones says

    VERY nicely put, Mark. Of course horse racing is NOT a sport. It’s an industry where overbred and over-injected animals, often under the stewardship of shonks, race various distances and we’re supposed to get all anticipatory about the possible outcomes.

    I’ve attended in an official reporting capacity, Crio, not only midweek regional race days where the on-course bookies and their staffs almost out numbered the number of patrons in attendance.
    But also other scintillating race days such as Boxing Day at Kerang and “Cup” days in the north central district where dutiful cockies and cow cockies gamely turned out to support their clubs.

    I seem to recall Gunbower also staged a mid-summer meeting. My family used to stand open-mouthed when I told them I was off to cover the Gunbower gallops. Perhaps they were too polite to ask the vital question: Who cares ??
    Harness racing is certainly struggling. Once again the “shonks” element is ever-present and very real in this caper. Didn’t someone win a Walkley award the other day for exposing dodgy practices in the ‘red hots’ ??

  15. The “crims on rims” are in real strife Richard, even by their own dubious standards. The dominoes are tipping.
    That is really what I was pondering when I wrote this rant.
    To my grandfather anf my Dad, the trots were always there. With that is the common assumption that whatever is established will remain thus…as “Catch 22” tried to point out, that’s not so. Observe the Thousand Year Reich!
    I’m not saying necessarily that change or diversity is bad.
    Just noting that the “pecking order” now cannot be assumed to be forever.

Leave a Comment