Everyone knows that Australians are great sports lovers and that they’re great barrackers but does anyone ever mention how much we like being able to boo? And hiss? And hate? On a whole variety of teams, for a whole variety of really rude and entirely subjective reasons? Not enough, no. Unless of course the subject at hand is Collingwood, which is an unlikely prospect on this blog. Supporting a team to the point of just about having a stroke every time they play over the course of a season is a rich and satisfying occupation. Barracking is but part of this experience.
It was in this spirit that I engaged in an expansive conversation with my brother, via text, regarding our shared loathing of the Rabbitohs yesterday. It was great. How could it not be?
Apparently – and this is what started it - Daly Cherry Evans is being pursued by the Rabbits. By which of course I mean that the at once attractive and repellant Russell Crowe, equipped with that formidable gravelly voice, pungent charm and considerable authority, is wooing him, all whips cracking. I’m not used to saying it, but this doesn’t bother me. Cherry Evans plays well and seems friendly enough but he is obviously devoid of humour and personality and is therefore of little emotional interest to me. He’s very vanilla, isn’t he? Or white bread. He’s the human equivalent of a piece of white bread, untoasted, and spread with Flora margarine. And Crowe, well, I love a wildly egotistical and morally muddy man, so I have no issue with him either. HOWEVER. On the morals thing: Cherry Evans needs to be prepared to watch his evaporate should he sign with the Bunnies. He will also need to ensure he is in rude good health, mentally, because goddamn if the Bunnies don’t turn most of the players they buy into burnt out husks with piss-hole eyes and poorly disciplined games within two or three seasons of being there. How do they do this??? They are astonishingly, mesmerisingly adept at it. Whatever the process, the reality is that the club does not encourage towering individual performances. My brother said as much yesterday, texting about our hope that Coal Train Taylor goes back to the Broncos: “Yeh he was better when he was there. In fact, everyone goes crap when they go to souths. Greg who?” Touche.
In any case, I approve of Russell Crowe’s involvement in league. It adds an element of absurdity to what is already an acutely absurd theatre sport. Matty Johns, who suddenly seems to have developed a diamond-sharp edge of anger to go with his mongrel-instinct intelligence and now sports a hairstyle reminiscent of Tony Mokbel on the worst day of his life, said the other week that league is a pantomime and you have your good guys and your bad guys. This struck me as very clever. Soon after, some deranged Warrior fan tweeted him asking if he was on drugs and he barked “No you have me mistaken for someone else”, and this struck me as very cruel, especially as he accompanied it with a steely-eyed look and I thought of Joey’s sad canine eyes and soft-shell crab demeanor and felt awful for him. I love Joey. I love Joey to such a degree that every time I see or hear him I instinctively think and usually murmur “Oh, Joey” and feel my heart wince. He has that certain haunted look that I very much admire - eyes imbued with the hollow despair of the damned that indicate he has looked into the face of something horrible. He’s lovely.
Anyway, Crowe could, I imagine, turn a brain-numbing preamble about contracts and salary caps into the most gripping of soliloquys and effortlessly shift the mood from comedy to edge-of-seats suspense and back to comedy before the more slow-witted members of the football fraternity knew what had hit them. In saying that, I think the more intellectually lively players know what’s up. This is why, for example, Sam Burgess is a Bunny and Cooper Cronk is not. Not that there’s anything wrong with Sam Burgess. That great big head atop that great big body? Fantastic. A drooling Great Dane of a man with a peanut-sized brain rattling exuberantly around inside that big British skull? What’s not to like? I also like the fact that Crowe, clearly suffering from a chronic irony deficiency, seems to fancy himself as the Jim Jones or David Koresh of league. Well, why not? Every pantomime needs a handful of charismatic and unhinged egomaniacs; they add an unintentionally surreal and comic edge to proceedings. So, go forth Russell. Woo and charm and seduce and sign and never surrender to the soul-shrinking pointlessness of trying to buy a powerful Bunnies team. If nothing else, my brother and I appreciate the high comedy of the effort, and the ongoing opportunity to hang shit on the entire Rabbitohs organisation. It’s the Australian way, this booing and hissing and dancing on the grave of a despised team’s failings, and we are nothing if not patriotic.