||Issue No. 147||09 August 2002|
A Call to Action
Interview: Save Our Souls
Unions: Rats With Wings
Bad Boss: If The Boot Fits
History: Political Bower Birds
International: No More Business as Usual
Corporate: The Seven Deadly Sins of Capitalism
Review: Prepare To Bend
Satire: Bush Boosts Sharemarket Confidence: Shares his Cocaine Stash
The Locker Room
Week in Review
The Locker Room
Dogs And Underdogs
Team sport at it's very best becomes a classic example of co-operative endeavour, despite the best efforts to turn it into yet another corporate commodity.
In the early eighties we saw the demise of the South Melbourne Football Club and the Newtown Rugby League Club, followed by the abandonment of the Fitzroy Football Club. Some of these defunct clubs were reinvented as merged or interstate entities. This masked the poverty of tradition that exists with club sides that are imposed upon communities from above.
Souths fought back and won, but now we see the appropriately named News Limited appealing that decision in the higher courts. Those clubs that have fallen by the wayside in this brave new corporate football world were, by and large, struggling clubs at the time they were axed. But even in this role they played an important function, that of the underdog.
The role of the underdog becomes a very powerful symbol, which is why so many sections of this society are prepared to accord it respect and admiration.
The underdog shows us people working together to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It shows us the importance keeping a sense of hope. It shows us the value of loyalty and solidarity in a crisis. And it also illustrates the nature of life - which is as full of disappointment as it is of reward.
It's a more mature and realistic worldview than the impossible rhetoric of unlimited and constant success that is foisted upon modern society.
These underdog clubs acted as powerful metaphors for the modern world for tens of thousands of Australians. Clubs like the Broncos or Carlton could win any number of flags, but Fitzroy or Newtown supporters could celebrate a win in the home and away rounds with as much relish.
Organised sport stemmed from communities developing institutions that used sporting endeavour to represent them. These communities were geographically based in Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules, and traditionally ethnically based in soccer. The passionate tribalism that characterises club support in this country developed from this base in the community.
Corporate sport revolves around the idea that the game is owned. It ends up being owned, at the competition level, at the team level and at the media level. In the last twenty years major sports in this country have borrowed from the United States and English Soccer in terms of merchandising, club organisation, marketing and promotion.
Recently we have seen individual teams in various codes being owned, not by the communities they 'represent', but by individuals. And increasingly they are run as companies - with the idea of making a profit.
The corporate world relates closely to sport through the powerful metaphor of competition. The problematic nature of unfettered competition is that it produces only one winner and a multitude of losers - hardly conducive to either a democratic outcome, nor is it consistent with the greatest good for the greatest number.
While losing on a sporting field is one thing, losing economically does horrible things to people - physically, mentally and emotionally. It is a form of violence as sure as if someone had come along with a baseball bat and beat the living bejesus out of a person.
Corporate Australia and its economic evangelists mine heavily the metaphor of sport. Using such language as the level playing field, playing by the rules, obeying the Umpire, etc.
Sport, and contact sport in particular, is organised conflict. Conflict can be dramatic and entertaining, especially when it involves specific mental and physical skills.
Sport has played out dramatic conflicts of society and class (How great it was to see Manly beaten by Western Suburbs in the eighties, or Melbourne beaten anytime!) This is when sport has acted as a great symbol of community solidarity.
Now corporate Australia seeks to tap into that solidarity when it is successful, and turn it into a commodity. It's done it with environmentalism, with feminism, and now it is doing it with one of the last great bastions of community and public solidarity, popular sport.
This also destroys the co-operative role of sport, as the goal becomes less the fate of the team and its players and more related to the financial performance of the club and it's financial backers.
The disgusting thing about this is that corporate Australia has done jack shit to support the passionate sense of community that underlies sport, and in other areas it has actively opposed it. And now, because sport has grown and thrived through the sacrifice of thousands of passionate individuals, it seeks to step in and take the public for a ride by flogging fourteen or sixteen different flavours of the same product.
Phil Doyle - going into the final round six under the card
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