In 2008, when working for a national sports magazine, I wrote an NRL season preview. In it, I noted that the Bulldogs looked terribly inexperienced, and that if some kind of misfortune were to befall their best player, Sonny Bill Williams, they’d have no chance.
I duly tipped the Bulldogs to run last. And what do you know, after Sonny Bill Williams left the club mid-season amid an acrimonious spat over money, the Doggies indeed claimed the wooden spoon. But not before I’d received some of the most vitriolic letters imaginable.
Boy did I receive hate mail for my prediction. Good old fashioned snail mail too, scrawled in illegible chicken scratch by people who could neither spell nor contain their anger inside the margins of the page. But that’s nothing compared to the abuse I’ve copped this week.
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Anyone searching for evidence that the world is becoming less pleasant and more stupid should look no further than some of the commentary around AFL footballer Kurt Tippett’s defection from the Adelaide Crows to the Sydney Swans.
Even as a Crows supporter, and one who believes Tippett has treated our club and his teammates quite poorly, I would nevertheless argue that the debate around his departure is a profoundly depressing case study in the modern phenomenon of total ignorance combined with unchecked aggression.
It is social media, of course, which provides the vehicle of choice for all this stupidity. As always, anonymity plays a key role in the nature of the vilification. As with the Charlotte Dawson affair, where the host of Australia’s Next Top Model suffered a depressive episode after a gang of anonymous heroes goaded her over Twitter with the charming slogan “gohangyourself”, Tippett has found himself on the receiving end of death threats for daring to change AFL clubs.
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Adelaide Crows coach Neil Craig is a man of unique vision. We know this because he has told the public as much on several occasions. Where Crows’ fans see a rabble who currently sit 14th on the AFL ladder with three wins from 12 games, Craig sees great things ahead.
“It’s the most exciting group I think this club has ever had. I can just see this group of players doing great things,” Craig said in April, after his side’s loss to the Blues. Even this weekend, after yet another loss, he was largely upbeat. “It’s an inexperienced team that I think is showing some really good signs,” he babbled.
Visionaries are great. Without them, the oceans would never have been sailed, the heavens conquered, nor the Snowy dammed for hydro power and water. But true visionaries are rare. It’s one thing to claim to be able to see over the horizon. Another entirely to fail to see the bleeding obvious two feet in front of your face. Which brings us to Julia Gillard…
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Can a football team change a town? Can sport become a symbol of renewal, and give a community a sense of optimism and purpose?
Elitists who regard sport as a mindless pursuit would scoff at the suggestion. They would probably hold that the only change a football team can make to a town is to pollute people’s brains with useless trivia, distract them from pressing social realities, and eat into valuable self-improvement and family time.
The 20-year history of the Adelaide Crows – sorry, the mighty Adelaide Crows – provides a compelling counterpoint to those who would dismiss sport as frivolous or meaningless.
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This is my first column for The Adelaide Advertiser since last month’s South Australian election and as such I feel duty bound to reflect on the wash-up from the result. But not for the first time, I’d rather write about footy.
Just to keep the political tragics happy, the shorthand version of the SA poll is that almost one in every 10 voters abandoned their support for Mike Rann because they find him kind of annoying, but he got back anyway because Labor had such a strong majority.
Which brings us to the Adelaide Crows. History shows that when a successful footy club goes bad it can shed around 10 per cent of its membership. Like Labor under Rann, the Adelaide Crows enjoy a comfortable buffer in terms of their support.
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