Image Description: St Kilda coach and captain (Grant Thomas and Lenny Hayes respectively) holding the 2004 Wizard Cup trophy with sad expressions on their faces.

 

By Campbell Williamson

 

“It’s just a game.”

This is a common axiom that gets thrown around in a lot of sports by a lot of people which I’ve always hated. “It’s just a game” is a real dad sort of saying (accompanied by a stupid hand on the shoulder), which tries to put things in perspective but more often comes across as patronising. Yet, it does seem broadly applicable given the state of things.

It’s funny that after restarting the beloved (yes beloved) Pelican Sports Section, there’s less sport than ever to cover. The NBA has been suspended, the Premier League has been suspended, The Masters has been… well I don’t watch golf anyway. The AFL, AFLW and NRL have been closed to the public and right now my attention for sport is divided between everything else that’s going on.

And I think a lot of people are in the same boat. I can’t help but notice that I’m having fewer conversations about sport and more conversations about how these are “mad times we live in. Mad times.” I get it. It’s hard to get wrapped up in the Women’s World Cup Final when Europe’s in lockdown.

There’s so much happening on the news that it almost feels disingenuous to even think about the sporting things. The spectacle of the news has, in some ways, replaced the spectacle of watching sport. And yes, at this stage I think that the news is still a spectacle.

Many of us are still watching the news from the safety of home or the quiet insulation of the pub and I don’t think we are yet living the crisis proper. It remains at a sort of 1.5 meter distance, for the time being at least.

However, with the flu season poking its tiny dishevelled head around the corner and the number of Coronavirus cases continuing to rise, it’s quite probable that the 2020 pandemic will get worse before it gets better. Ironically, when I think about a looming crisis, I find my attention turning increasingly to sport.

It’s perhaps a cliché, but we live in a time where many are so focused on their own personal needs that they forget the needs of others. The rise of individualism is broad and multifaceted, but I would argue that it has been at least partly caused by a loss of faith in big political and religious institutions (after their great many scandals). Without these unifying ideologies, people often decide to focus on themselves.

One of the few institutions to survive this loss of faith might just be the unifying institution of sport.

At their best, sports help build into an idea of teamwork, of having mutual respect, and of showing grace under pressure. Sports give people the common ground to find commonality. They can teach us to put aside our own wants for the sake of achieving a common goal.

And I reckon that’s important now.

But who knows. Maybe when times get tough, you’ll look at sport and think that it was all truly just a game and then you can place a patronising elbow on my shoulders!

 

Campbell Williamson – isn’t bitter about those eggs. Stop asking.