Sunday, August 16, 2009

A night at the football

So we're in the Aussie Nash before the game, and C is saying that the only drug he does regularly is this one, and he points at his beer.

Because he likes to do this weird thing that reminds me of those ultra-portentous American docos, where facts are not permitted to seem humble, but must be dressed up with increased drama.

And I say, no man, you are what, thirty...
Thirty-three, he says.
So you should be doing hookers and blow, I say. And Chinese girls.

Because I have yellow fever and I'm pretty sure C does too. I mean, who doesn't though?

Isn't coke really dangerous and addictive though? he is saying, which is a bit wtf, because you don't do serious research before doing coke. You just do it if you can get it.

Well yeah, I say. I guess feeling really fucking good about yourself could be addictive, but I don't see how it's dangerous.

Well, I say. You could burn out your nose.

I ask the barmaid for two schooners of heavy. Heavy is bitter. But not bitter in the way English bitter is bitter. It's odd though, when I first went to the pub, bitter is what you drank. I mean, if you said beer, you meant bitter beer. Now lager has crushed bitter. It is better out of a can. If I had to guess the reason it won, that would be in the mix. And it is light.

She gives me a look that you would consider saucy if you were not me, which you're not, so you may. But I figure this is just what barmaids do, right? They make you feel you are attractive as part of their shtick. They are told to smile and when they are not rushed off their feet, they remember to do what they are told.

So we are drinking heavy and talking about shit. I don't talk about the thing I want to talk about, because I can't talk about it with him. He would only say something incomprehensible and possibly stupid. I don't hold it against him but he's not someone I'd bother talking to about anything that was troubling me.

Nor though is M, who I went to the football with. I mean, I'd go blah and blah, and he'd just not seem all that interested, because that's his demeanour. And what would be the point anyway? I would not feel unburdened and he would feel obliged to express his opinion, perhaps. And to be honest, I don't care what anyone thinks.

So why say I want to talk about it? Because I am vain. And I have a tiresome desire to express what has meaning for me.

So I have to tell you that Australian Rules football is incomprehensible and does not have enough nuance for someone brought up on real football. The best thing about it is that there are men in bright yellow kit whose job is to chase the players around the park, haranguing them as instructed by their coach.

And I now know what malt is. If you already know, look away for this paragraph. So you let barley sprout and then kill the sprouts by applying heat. It's one of those things you can imagine the accident that led to its discovery.

And I know -- I mean, I knew before, but this made it something I viscerally know -- why Australia is so grimly determined to succeed in sports. The twins had their sports day. It was horrible. They made the kids run sprints (which were far too long for them at a hundred metres -- terribly discouraging for Naughtyman, who is not very strong in the legs and has therapy for it) with heats and finals. So the kids do not understand that winning and losing is not a reflection on you, but on what you consist of. S, a girl in Zenita's class, is much bigger than Zenita, and nearly a year older, so she can run considerably faster. I try to explain to them that you cannot choose how fast you can run. You can only choose to do your best. Or not. This proceeded for a couple of hours. I'm not kidding: I sat for two hours on an increasingly hot day (28C in the middle of winter -- I'm not shitting you, it felt every degree of that) watching children get humiliated, and so did my kids.

England is better. We had fun sports days when I was a primary schoolkid. The events were designed to level physical advantages and disadvantages. The fast would be paired with the slow in the threelegged; the balancing act in egg and spoon prizes rapid grasp of technique over footspeed; and the sack race needs a skill that you do not often use, so it can be something of a lottery who turns out to be good at it. Everyone got to do all of them. But a lot of Australian culture, using the term widely, is powered by humiliation and the desire to avoid it. Fear is the most reliable motivator here. As I am watching the football, it occurs to me that the roles are very simply defined in Aussie Rules, and players are ultimately judged by how often they fail to do the simple things they are asked to do, rather than how often they succeed. But this may be because I don't understand the significance of the statistics used to measure success game by game.

I now also know that it is less easy to convince someone to do something they want to do than to do something they don't. Doing what you don't want to feels noble, but doing what you want feels indulgent. At least, that's how it feels to me, and I imagine that I'm human too.