Fooket, we might as well enjoy this eclipse in style
When I was 14, I paused Blue Lagoon for a moment and gathered with my family in a darkened corner of our Sydney garden to watch another heavenly body streak across the sky.
Like many other teen activities, anticipation was better than the actual event. Halley’s Comet didn’t streak. It didn’t even shoot. Obviously the hermitic fireball couldn’t see Brooke Shields from outer space.
Given their distance from our far-flung vantage point, awesome facts about cosmic objects often eclipse the actual sight of them, even if those awesome facts are impossible to grasp. Light years are like national debts – add a zero here or there and it makes little difference to our perception of them. Perhaps that’s where their fascination lies, in their incomprehensibility.
Twenty-five years ago in that Sydney garden, as we squinted at the heavens and wished we owned a telescope, my father informed me that if I was lucky enough to see the celestial stain again then I would live to be 90, because it wouldn’t be visible from Earth for another 75 years.
This seemed like a long time given he also informed me that, despite the comet’s apparent inertia, it was travelling at a smudge over 250,000 km/h – a speed I cannot conceptualise but which I’m confident is fast enough to earn it double demerit points on a public holiday.
In stark contrast to that distant display, next Wednesday’s total solar eclipse will be so much bigger, brighter and ‘closer’ that some suggest it will be too dangerous to observe. Bloody astronomy! It’s like hanging a painting with the missus – you never can quite get the position right.
Some experts have even warned that viewing the eclipse through special glasses could result in retina damage. But in a world where you might find the words “not to be used as a toothbrush” written on a drill, you could argue that we have an overabundance of caution and a scarcity of common sense.
If the price of a plane ticket to Cairns next week is any indication, thousands of stargazers are willing to risk their retinas. They will no doubt have Bruce Springsteen playing on their iPods as they brave the crack of dawn. “Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but mama, that’s where the fun is.”
And staring at the sun for a few second sounds less dangerous than some of the satellite events the eclipse has spawned. It’s well known that the cosmic calendar impacts human behaviour. When we catch ourselves behaving erratically we often blame a full moon.
This might explain Fooket, which sounds like something you would say after stubbing your toe or finding a parking ticket on your windshield but is in fact the world’s weirdest new sport, conceived in Far North Queensland despite being off the planet.
And I reckon spectators will need special viewing glasses to believe their eyes when they watch this game of AFL and cricket played on the same field at the same time. Organiser Greg McLean obviously has a sense of humour, which will probably come in handy at the Port Douglas Sport Complex on Saturday afternoon. I’m thinking of heading up there to check it out. Might take the car but lean out the window and ride a motorbike at the same time.
Despite sounding like a swear word, Fooket is fun for the whole family – as long as they have health insurance. Officially it’s not yet on the list of world’s weirdest sports, though it can’t be too long before it’s up there with the 400-year-old sport of Shin Kicking or the eccentric English practice of Ferret Legging, which seeks to find who can keep two angry ferrets down their trousers the longest.
Suddenly Fooket sounds rather highbrow.
And if it takes off and no one gets killed then hybrid sports could be the next big thing. The combinations are endless. I’d like to see motor racing crossed with tennis, diving crossed with water polo, weightlifting crossed with the high jump, darts crossed with Tom Waterhouse…
Between Fooket and the eclipse, whichever way you look at it, the coming week will be an eye-opener in the Far North.
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