Diary of a Big Week

ON REBECCA WILSON

In last Thursday’s Herald Sun, Rebecca Wilson stated that:

“[Gary] Ablett Jr will make almost $10 million over the next five years at the Gold Coast Suns. He stood to gain a lot more by staying in Geelong, but a $10 million pay cheque was not part of it. Not for Ablett Jr a lifetime of adoration and opportunity in a town that adores its footballers – current and retired.”

What Wilson doesn’t understand is the fact that Ablett is not LeBron James. James left Cleveland with nothing – they hadn’t won a championship with him, and their team was spending such a high percentage of its salary cap on him that there wasn’t much of a team left when he departed. Ablett leaves Geelong with two Premierships and with a damn strong team for 2011.

Wilson also clearly hasn’t been living in Geelong for the past five years. While many young kids are demoralised at Ablett’s departure, the town itself completely understands his move. This, plus the nature of Geelong and the premierships and memories Ablett has brought the town, means that he has a lifetime of adoration and opportunity here whenever he wants it, no matter what happens from this point foward.

Disappointingly, Wilson also argued that:

“If there had been any doubts that tradition and old-fashioned values still existed in professional football, they have now been dispelled…It is one thing to move to another club when you are traded or completely discarded. It is entirely another to turn your back on the place that made you great, and the teammates who helped you win two flags.”

Wilson, of course, knows better than that. Players are drafted onto teams that they haven’t chosen to play for, and this week players will be traded by their clubs too – potentially across the country. Wilson knows that clubs often treat players as commodities, but as soon as a player decides to earn as much as they can during their relatively brief career and move clubs in the process, she argues that good old-fashioned ‘loyalty’ is the tragic casualty.

ON POISONED BEEF

Every time another rider tests positive, the blanket is lifted on my enjoyment of cycling once again.

How many times can we escape into the joy of a stage or a whole Tour de France only to find later that the contest was not fair and that the big names we’d been following had been cheating? How many names – Landis, Contador, Vinokourov, Basso, Pantani, Rasmussen – must be tarnished in retrospect before we simply can’t bring ourselves to go back for another race where the winner may be ousted as a cheat a few months or years hence? How long before we start to believe in the comment the Herald Sun made a couple of years ago, which suggested that cycling is just “professional wrestling with better scenery”?

And yet, Cadel Evans argues that a sport that actually manages to catch the cheaters should be praised and believed in. The man has a point.

The biggest casualty, of course, is our belief in those who haven’t yet been caught. Let’s say that Contador did not just eat contaminated beef, but was in fact cheating during this year’s Tour. As he only defeated Schleck by less than a minute – and only after a controversial stage when Schleck’s chain fell off – then aren’t we being asked to believe that a clean Schleck can be the equal of a cheating Contador?

ON EXTRA TIME

There’s something beautifully old-fashioned about how the AFL holds a replay for a drawn Grand Final. There are no gimmicks, no shootouts, and no unfair advantages.

Both teams prepared for 80 minutes, and both played 80 minutes. They then went away to prepare for another 80 minutes, and potentially extra time. There is nothing fairer, nor more honourable to the game, nor exciting for the supporters.

It feels like something that should happen about once every forty years – a genuinely rare event that sparks the fascination of the footballing public.

ON MY STREET

The beauty of an international sporting contest of the highest caliber brings people together.

This week, the World Road Cycling Championships were held in Geelong, and the end of my street was part of the circuit. During the time I stood by the road to watch the final 10 time trialists whizz past, and during the 11 passes of the peleton I witnessed during the Road Race, I spoke to more of my neighbours and other members of my community than I ever had before.

The town looked beautiful on television, and the men and women on their bikes all proudly represented their countries, evoking inspiration and excitement from we locals.

Sport has the power to bring such inspiration, joy, wonder, purity and delight to communities like Geelong in a way that so few other things can. And everyone in the peleton played their part in an event which we’ll remember forever.

Which is why if the new World Road Race Champion Thor Hushovd cheated, or if Lance Armstrong cheated during his career, or if Usain Bolt – a man who has run 0.2 seconds faster than every doping sprinter in history – is cheating as we speak, one wonders if it’s actually better for our souls if we never find out.

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One Response to Diary of a Big Week

  1. Carty says:

    You should read “Lords of the Rings” – which blows the lid off the Olympic movement.

    Or perhaps you shouldn’t – your head might explode!

    Refreshing commentary about the Ablett affair – if I was a betting man I would have though you would have sided with Rebecca. I’m with you – AFL, Geelong, sponsors are all making money – why shouldn’t the player. Take the dollars when you can. At least he did it with a little bit of class – unlike Lebron.

    Not sure I’m with you on extra time though … a chat for another day my man.

    Cheers
    MC

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