THIS is tricky…
If I were gay, or had an unsightly growth on my backside, it would be easier to admit.
I may have to leave the country.
The thing is…
I’m not interested in the Olympics.
Don’t ask me why. I have tried, but I can’t get excited, even though that’s a criminal offence in Australia.
Maybe it’s because I was a dumpy little lad and girls used to beat me up.
I particularly can’t be thrilled about swimming — and that’s a hanging offence in Queensland.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t learn to swim until I was 45, when I arrived here from England and discovered that water doesn’t always come with ice and turds in it.
I have tried. Honestly! I’ve read the newspapers every day this week. I saw the photos of the American relay team celebrating their win.
Snarling their win, that is.
I thought sportsmanship was about magnanimity in victory and trying hard.
But it’s not. Not anymore. We have psyched up our young people (that’s another bummer with sport – they’re mostly young) not only to want to win very badly, but also to want to beat the other guy.
Beat him to guacamole, preferably.
And frankly, I find it hard to feel national pride because someone who lives on the same lump of land as I do can run faster than anyone else in the world.
I mean, I’m very glad for them. It’s an incredible achievement.
When Jody Henry won the 100-metre freestyle yesterday her euphoria was so palpable I wanted to cry.
But that’s her victory. Not mine.
If there was a Political Olympics, on the other hand, I could get excited about that.
If John Howard won gold for integrity, truthfulness and ethics, that really would be a case for national pride. And it would be my gold medal, too.
Well… it would have been if I’d voted for him.
The bad feeling I’m getting is that we don’t actually care much about how we win, so long as we do win. That doesn’t sit well with a spirit of mateship and barracking for the underdog.
But then, there’s nothing in the rules that says the underdog has to be us. It’s easy to cheer the bloke who comes second, when you’ve already won.
Except that the American team didn’t.
Look, before someone booby traps my front gate let me say hastily that I am perfectly capable of feeling a thrill when someone wins — if they win well.
When Cathy Freeman won it was special not because she was mine, so to speak, but because she was a nice person.
When Maria Sharapova won the Wimbledon Women’s Singles I cheered. Not because she was Australian (she wasn’t — she was Russian) but because she was a nice lady.
In a way that’s one of the good things about being Australian — most of our athletes seem like nice people, so it’s easy to be glad when they win. Glad because good things should happen to nice people, not because they happen to live where I live.
So before I cheer and stamp and shout hooray there are some things I need to know about the competitors.
Are they nice to waiters?
Do they keep in touch with their mums?
If they get stopped for speeding do they say “It’s a fair copy, officer, give me the ticket.” instead of trying to lie their way out of it?
Do they kiss babies?
If so, then they’re already gold medal winners in my book.