The Barren World of Men and Grief in Sport

I grew up from the age of seven in a house of women. Not a house filled with women, just two sisters and a mother.

Then when I had my own family it was three more women, a partner and my two girls. We decided to find out the sex of our first daughter Greta early on in the pregnancy and I was thrilled when we learnt we were having a girl. The second time around, we left it as a surprise. When Silke arrived at 8 in the morning I was somewhat distracted by her light purple colouration. She looked the colour of a washed out piece of grape Hubba Bubba and so I forgot to check the sex. When a friend of ours asked me if I wanted to find out I looked down and let out an exalted ‘yes’. Yes, another girl.

That desire for girls was maybe the hope for the familiar or perhaps really a desire for emotional ballast and repose. But from that assured emotional harbor, or the idea of it, I engaged in the world of sport, a world actually full of sublimated and distorted emotions.

The world of sport has no meaning other than that which people invest in it and men invest in it heavily. The figurative stands in for the real and we see men cry from time to time, become desolate. In a parched world of machismo, tears flow from unexpected quarters. Like uptight matrons weeping at the death of a princess – a lost game, a last game, a sporting death reminds men of their mortality and the end of things. The meaningless and futile investments men will make of their lives against other possibilities. So when a soldier dies he doesn’t cry for a loss of male camaraderie but for his mother, lover or children. And he damns to earth the world of man before he sinks back into its soil.

When I split up from my partner, listening to sports radio made me incredibly sad. A lot of things made me sad, but this world – dominated in its late hours by men who had long given up on a world of authentic human love for a passion, or were about to – was too acute.  This world of studying the entrails of football which had been a theatre of entertainment for me was now an empty shaft.  Like the scales had dropped from my eyes.  And I thought of all my empty exertions.  And I read to my daughters like a mad man and sung them songs in bed as tunefully as I could.  Like a crazy pre-season dad I pushed a thousand swings, vacuumed the carpet every week, made hot breakfasts, put flowers in vases, ironed gaudy K-Mart t-shirts, kicked the ball down at the park from behind my sunglasses.  Hoping the dividends were coming and coming soon because I wasn’t feeling them.

And I thought back a lot about the emotional investment I made in football, which is a game, but which people tip so much emotional energy into.  That included and still includes me because it’s a massive cultural phenomenon where discussions so readily feed into our ideas of virtue and of ourselves.  When we think about Adam Goodes being booed we think, or at least I do, not only about this man but what it is to be a good man, what a code means in this mortal coil.

I wrote a history thesis on Australian Rules a few years ago and tried to infuse it with, and extract, as much nobility as I could.  But history is a game for hopeless romantics.  For people who want what is simply not present, at least not in the quantities you’d hope for.  The present is for hope and I’m trying to turn a new page amidst some massive grief which I’m working through.  But I feel like I might be ready to sport one of those Woody Allen ‘Divorced Father and Sons All Stars’ windcheaters if there are any takers out there.




About Dave Latham

Dave Latham has recently finished a history thesis on class and Australian Rules football in Melbourne between the years 1870 and 1920.


  1. Ahh, that’s a beauty Dave.
    Who knows what’s going on in this world? Probably no one.
    But we make our way.
    We take our cues.
    We invest our meaning.
    We be.

    Go well.

Leave a Comment