The last great unifier in a deeply divided nation
We can’t agree about anything these days. Every debate on pretty much every aspect of Australian life is hopelessly polarised.
Remember the old Holden ad with its famous lyric about football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars? In the 1970s it was almost impossible to take issue with this assortment of dinky di Australiana. Today, their mere mention invites argument.
Football is any of about four different sports, meat pies cause obesity, kangaroos should either be eaten or not eaten, culled or not culled. And as for Holdens, well, you’re either a protectionist or a person who believes a dying industry should no longer be propped up at taxpayer expense.
Australians have always had our differences, as you’d expect in our robust democracy, but it seems these days we argue about all kinds of stuff that once united us.
You run a great Australian event like the Melbourne Cup and everyone wants to harness the day to push their barrow on animal cruelty or the evils of gambling. Even Australia Day itself is now a day of confrontation on several fronts.
Ah, but there’s always the cricket.
Have you seen the latest Cricket Australia ad? The goose-bump inducing 30 second production is amazingly prescient. It features Michael Clarke handing Peter Siddle the ball for the crucial last over, which is exactly what panned out in the Adelaide Test. Well played, Cricket Australia’s ad agency.
The ad isn’t perfect, not least because it lacks women. But it’s spot on in its theme that in summertime, cricket becomes our national conversation. At work or at play, it is the one topic that unites us.
Granted, not everyone joins the conversation. But huge numbers do. Most years, cricket claims the title of the sport watched by the most Australians on TV, with AFL second.
Cricket has a huge and often understated advantage over AFL and all the other winter codes. Loyalty in winter sports is divided between 16 or 18 teams whereas in cricket, fans have eyes for just one team.
That means our conversation focuses on the same 11 or 12 blokes playing the same match. Watching the cricket, we share the same triumphs, the same moments of despair. We share a mutual desire to see the national team prosper. It is a national dialogue without compare.
Interestingly, both during and after matches, that big national conversation tends to skew very quickly towards selection issues. The question of who deserves a spot in the team engrosses us as much as the match itself. It definitely engrosses us more than the question of which spineless, focus group-driven monkey deserves a bench in Parliament House.
Politics is a distant, abstract thing. Cricket is there all day on our devices. And so we argue. In pubs and offices and on internet forums, we debate whether Hilfy deserves to keep his spot over Starc, or whether Ricky Ponting’s career is cooked, which for the record, it absolutely is.
Sometimes our cricket arguments are heated, especially when they branch off onto the topic of Twenty20 vs Tests. But mostly they are civil. And always, they aim for the common good. In this day and age, that’s a rare and beautiful thing.
By the way, if they pick Mitchell Johnson for the fifth Test or any Test ever again, screw it, we might as well just appoint Bob Katter PM.
Argue with me here @antsharwood
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