Let sport have its moment in the sun
There has been some debate over the last few days regarding how excited we should be that Cadel Evans won a bike race.
First things first… can’t we just enjoy the moment and soak up the celebrations before these arguments kick off?
His celebratory champagne had barely stopped fizzing before our collective joy was being rained upon.
I recently witnessed a man propose to his partner atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I said: “Congratulations, good on you both”. I thought: “What’s the point of getting married? It’s a massive waste of money and what a corny clichéd proposal in front of a group of strangers”. But I kept those thoughts to myself because I could see how happy they were and it would be selfish of me to not let them have that moment in the sun. I’ll give them my unpopular anti marriage speech next time I see them.
Can’t we have fun and smile and celebrate and feel good without being mocked? Since when is joyous, peaceful, community celebration a crime?
“It’s only sport”, they say. I genuinely feel a little sad for people who say that. Many of my sweetest childhood memories exist within the framework of sport.
Sitting on the hill at Adelaide Oval watching Test cricket with my Dad, watching the 1978 VFL grand final on our colour Rank Arena with my Mum, Dad getting me out of bed to see the final moments of the Americas Cup in 1983.
I can’t even count the strangers I have hugged whilst watching both the Socceroos and Chelsea play soccer. Not much else would push me to hug a stranger but the scoring of a goal in soccer creates an instant moment of shared joy and exaltation.
I can remember my grandpa telling me that during the great depression Don Bradman, Phar Lap and the footy were the things that put smiles on faces and kept a nation distracted from the wear and tear of daily life.
Following his release from Robben Island Nelson Mandela chose the Rugby World Cup to let the world know that South Africa was back, baby!
Tell Jesse Owens or Muhammad Ali that ‘it’s only sport’.
Tell the hundreds of excited Auskickers who run out onto the MCG each Saturday that ‘it’s only sport’.
Tell the thousands of athletes around the world who have used their prowess to escape poverty, crime and desperation that ‘it’s only sport’.
Tell the 220,000 people jammed into the MCG every weekend that ‘it’s only sport’.
Sport binds us together – families and communities alike. We follow the journey or race together and we celebrate as one. It’s shared good news and the fact that we can share it with so many people amplifies that joy.
Cadel’s achievement, by any measure, was very special and cause for great celebration. Even my girlfriend who generally is not a sports lover stayed awake with me and marveled at his grit and determination over the last two nights.
“He’s not a hero, he’s a sportsperson”, they say. I’m happy to accept that in a broader sense athletes are not heroes. However, within the context of their sports they can put in heroic performances. Cadel’s was a heroic performance.
“I wish we’d acknowledge real heroes”, they say. Ummm, we do - all the time. We absolutely acknowledge them, as we should when such heroic deeds are performed.
We will never fill the MCG for a research scientist because staring at a petri dish for twelve years isn’t that exciting even if the microscope is projected to the big screen. But we will absolutely applaud the results of that research.
There are Nobel prizes, Australia Day honours lists and various other acknowledgements offered to Australian scientists, doctors, politicians, teachers and authors.
Moira Kelly was deservedly acknowledged by all and sundry for her tireless, selfless and committed work in bringing Trishna and Krishna to Melbourne from Bangladesh for their life saving operation.
The public and the media always acknowledge the bravery of CFA rescue workers during all manner of fire, flood and storm.
The work of Fred Hollows continues to be acknowledged to this day.
Digger Benjamin Roberts-Smith was recently embraced by the nation after receiving a Victoria Cross.
The difference with these heroes is that their work, sadly, is attached to bad or difficult news. So it’s with head bowed and tear in eye that we nod in their direction.
Sporting achievements are attached to good news, which is why, in a world bereft of truly good news, we jump up and down and punch the sky and call for a day off. Sporting achievements on the scale of Cadel Evans’ performance don’t happen very often but when they do, let us have our moment in the sun.
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