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Bastions of Gladitorial Eloquence: Intellectualising Sport

The art of the post-game interview is evidently a fickle one. Listen in to the end of any live sportscast and you’re all-but-guaranteed to hear a flustered and exhausted combatant searching for both words and breath as a hurried reporter jabs a microphone at his think-tank.

It’s a highlight of my viewing week.

Said exhausted gladiator will invariably pay the sufficient amount of ‘credit to the boys’, reference the general hardness of the contest, and do his darnedest to suppress a brimming F-bomb. He’s tired from running up and down a great big grassy oblong for eighty consecutive minutes, and the last thing that he wants is an over-eager line of questioning about his preparation,  dedication or (in the event of a loss) his lack thereof.  Truly, quality viewing.

But suffer as they may at the hands of sideline reporters, and struggle as they may to fill gaps in the awkward silence with meaningful cliches, there’s no denying the intellectual backbone of sport:

These people aren’t paid to talk. They’re paid to execute complex game-plans: to get in formation; to show the opposition one thing, and execute another. It’s a particularly cunning magic truth – as much as we berate our sportspeople for their foibles under the scrutiny of a microphone (… or in a nightclub), they’re resoundingly good at what they do on the field.

That’s why it was comprehensively lovely to hear Brendan Cowell, Malcolm Knox and Tony Wilson validate sport as an intellectual social medium at the Weekend Australian tent of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival this morning.

Each addled by an indubitable love of sport and careers as paid writers, the men questioned the standard of separation between sport, as Cowell mused, as ‘the bastion of gladiatorial eloquence’ and an arts community that would follow a play-the-ball down the bridge of its collective nose.

“It seems like you can be a beer-drinking, poo-throwing footy fan, or an artsy wanker,” Cowell said.  “I want to be a beer-drinking, poo-throwing wanker!”

As a die-hard enthusiast of the long-suffering Cronulla Sharks, Cowell  has every right to right to be.

But don’t we all?

What precludes us from enjoying an out-and-out fisticuffs of instinctive competitiveness? If there’s a superiority complex at play, it’s a bad one: sports fanatics cheer for their teams for the same intrinsically human reasons that theatre junkies weep at a Shakespearean double-suicide and that the foodies on MasterChef laud a palatable plate. Competitiveness. Surely, art and sport cannot be mutually exclusive.

At the risk of any future success I may have in writing, I’ll spill some of my own beans. The St. Louis Rams are the best franchise in professional sports, bar none, ad infinitum.

I’m Max Quinn, and I’m a proud sports fan.

Max Quinn is a Southern Cross University media student


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