Ashes Aside, Australia Still Kings Of Marginal Sports
‘DURING the last Ashes series in 2002, we wrote about the tiresome claims of Australians faithfully echoed by our own (largely Australian-owned) media that theirs is a nation of sporting champions.
We easily demolished this fantasy, pointing out that Australians, like the Americans with their so-called World Series baseball, are careful to concentrate on sports that nobody else plays or at least, nobody English.
We pointed out that cricket is a peripheral pastime in this country, and that when Shane Warne one of the best players of all-time played for Hampshire he got paid for a whole season what a top Premiership footballer would earn in a week. The only time most Englishmen watch cricket is when the Australians come to town, and then its a bit like watching the Harlem globetrotters lots of clever tricks, but of no real importance.
The other sports at which the Aussies excel are similarly unimportant. Rugby Union is more popular than cricket, but is basically a marginal sport and the Aussies couldn’t even win the World Cup in their own country. Rugby League (or football as they insist on calling it) is an even more irrelevant sport than Union, when considered world-wide.
When we turned to two genuinely international men’s sports football and boxing
We pointed out that the Australian record is woeful. Football (or soccer as they say) is still basically the province of immigrants in Australia. Admittedly, some half-decent Australian players are emerging, but they have to move to Europe in order to ply their trade.
Until the Australians have a proper football league, they simply don’t register on the sporting radar. They hold the record for the biggest ever win in a World Cup qualifier, but that was against a team that included a child, and didnt even have its own kit. Their win against England in a meaningless friendly was treated as though they had won the trophy.
As for boxing, Australians are OK at fighting kangaroos, but have made no impact whatsoever on the proper Queensbury variety. The best-known Australian pugilist is Aussie Joe Bugner the Hungarian-Brit who went to earn a living out there once his days as a serious fighter were over.
It’s a curious fact that, for all their macho posturing, Australian males prefer to avoid the boxing ring, and concentrate on tennis, swimming, and other girls’ sports that Englishmen wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. One need only consider their preposterous Aussie rules’ game, with its tight shorts and boob tubes, to see that something pretty rum is going on.
‘What about Australia’s legendary drinking culture?’ I hear you say. ‘What about David Boon’s 52 tinnies on the plane in ’89 surely thats pretty macho?’ Hardly. Australian beer bears about as much relation to the real thing as American root beer does, and frankly, one wonders why Boonie could manage only 52.
Even with booze that a baby could safely drink, the Australians can’t master the basic pub games. The Australian record at darts is dismal, and in pool the situation is even worse, with Australians conspicuous by their absence in
the game’s upper echelons, despite the fact that more than 30 per cent claim to play ‘cue-based sports’.
As for bar-room brawling, forget it. Those humorous ‘No Fighting’ signs on pub walls are purely for the benefit of English tourists.
Upon publication of the above argument, all hell broke loose. Or rather, a typically feeble Australian version. Hiding anonymously behind their computer monitors on the other side of the world, they laboured night and day to manufacture their puny grenades. Our inbox was crammed to the gills with furious emails from thin-skinned Aussies unable to take a joke or, in some cases, to even understand one.
We were shocked by the level of abuse in the sense that it was shockingly feeble, even by Aussie standards. Most of the correspondents were too timid to spell out their attempted obscenities, and coyly disguised their weak ejaculations with strings of asterisks.
They received short shrift for their troubles, as we informed them that no self-respecting Englishman would enter into an argument with a man who couldnt even swear properly. To do so would be like hitting a woman or a pensioner wearing glasses.
Revealingly, many of them referred to us as fat, and here they were on to something. Such shrill abuse failed to hide an underlying insecurity. Although they had never seen us, they clearly realised that, as true Englishmen, we habitually enjoyed our fill of beef, Yorkshire pudding and good British beer.
In some messages we detected a masochistic, almost homo-erotic tone. Unsurprising, really, as they subliminally loathed themselves, and longed to emulate the alpha-males from the mother country.
Needless to say, this was all meat and drink to us. Australians in full tantrum mode are an amusing, even endearing, sight. After all, when a child throws his toys out of the pram, the instinctive response is to laugh.
And now it is time to laugh again. The England cricket team has decided that it has let the Aussies preen and strut too long, and is gradually beginning to flex its muscles. English crowds, though small by football standards, are beginning to enjoy watching their team reassume rightful position on top of the world.
Cricket is still a minority sport, of course, but it is our sport, and it is right that Australia should no longer be allowed to use it as an excuse to hoodwink impressionable types into falling for their world champs line.
So as Michael Vaughans men move on to Trent Bridge, we here at Anorak are bracing ourselves for more feeble flak from Down Under. But not very hard.
Ed Barrett (first published Aug 17, 2005)