Being Somebody – My Musings During the Melbourne Cup

Yesterday Melbourne was in a grip of a racing fever. There’s been a lot said over the past few days about the Melbourne Cup all over the internet and traditional media, so I’m not going to talk about it. I’ll leave it to others to talk about the winning horses, or talented trainers, or incredible jockeys.

Zap Fitness gym

Inside one of Zap’s many locations

I want to talk about something completely different. At about the time when Race 7 was stopping the nation, I was in a middle of my own race – on a treadmill in my local gym. Coincidently, there was a lot of people around me, who cared very little about the races, but who cared a lot about deadlifts, bicep curls and reps. While running, I was listening to  Lay Me Low – a great song by an extremely talented Nick Cave. I must’ve been hearing this song for the hundreds time, but for some reason, this was the time when something about the lyrics attracted my attention. In particular, these lines:

They will interview my teachers (Lay me low)
Who’ll say I was one of God’s sorrier creatures
They’ll print informative six-page features
When I go

 

This made me think – how many of us will merit a six-page feature when we go? How about a one page? Or even a single line? Too many of us go through life without really doing anything outstanding, without caring about what’s happening around them, without being a Somebody.

Freedom of thought

Engage your mind.

I remember years ago, as a young man I was working with a cynical old-timer. He used to tell me “Never get a reputation”. I asked him once, “Don’t you mean never get a bad reputation?” “No” he said, “never get a reputation of any kind. You will be expected to live up to it”.

Now decades later, listening to Nick Cave, I remembered this conversation and thought that I would rather, in a words of a song, Make a Stand. I would rather get a reputation.

Be known for something. Be known as someone.

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Cheating in Sport is no longer the exception, it’s the rule

Drugs in sport

Cheat to Win

What’s the big deal about Patriots cheating with the ball? It’s not as if nothing like this ever happened before. I mean, today it’s the Deflategate, yesterday it was the Spygate, tomorrow it will be some other “gate“.

Personally, I question the perceived advantage. It is known that a deflated ball is easier to throw, especially in bad weather – but surely it would make it easier for both teams?

American Football

American Football

I have watched about 10 minutes of American football, and now I feel qualified to pass a judgement, so here it is: To me, the whole game of football in America is based on cheating. How else can you explain the fact that they play a game of ball wearing what amounts to a full Knight’s armor?

 

Aussie Rules

Aussie Rules

In Australia we play ball too, but at least in Aussie Rules players come out on a field in pretty much their underwear! 🙂
No cheating ever happening in Australian sports… Unless you count an occasional drug scandal of course. As I wrote a couple of years ago, we had few clubs taking some pills “by mistake”, we had Warnie trying to convince us that all he did was take a couple of tablets that his mom gave him, but cheating? No!

And to finish it off on a lighter note….

Q: Why did the coach give his football team lighters?
A: They kept losing their matches.

Australian Athletes Behaving Badly

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games are now finished. Australian athletes performed impressive, as usual, however their performance has been somewhat overshadowed by the altercation between Australian weightlifter Francois Etoundi and Welsh weightlifter Gareth Evans. I’ve heard some people commenting on it “boys will be boys”, “just a bit of testosterone release” or “no harm done”. Maybe so – although head butting another person in a face is probably taking things a bit too far.

Sporting heroes or thugs?

Sporting heroes?

What I don’t like about it, is that each and every one of our athletes at the games is representing Australia. They are our collective face, our collective voice, our collective image.  Aussies are generally known as laid-back, easy going bunch, and incidents like this are doing a lot of damage to our reputation.

Unfortunately, Etoundi is not the only one doing the damage. During 2012 London Olympics rower Josh Booth has been booted from the games after he had “few too many” and proceeded to destroy display windows of local shops. During the same Games, our swimmers Cameron McEvoy, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, James Magnussen, Matt Targett and Tommaso D’Orsogna have received suspensions and been ordered to pay fines to Swimming Australia for the inappropriate distribution of prescription drugs, prank calls and door knocking late at night, and general misbehaviour. And what about Aussies at the New Zealand Games back in 1990, when a couple of our boys decided it’s a great idea to run through the Game’s village naked? Or our team in India, letting things to get a bit out of control and throwing a washing machine out of the 7 storey window?

Australian athlete has been arrested

Australian weightlifter Francois Etoundi

Some of these incidents seem more serious than the others, some seem totally harmless, but the reality is – they all contribute to creating the image of us that we would rather not get. An image of rowdy bums who like to get drunk, get into fights and cause nuisance.

 

 

Now, I’m not a whinger, but…if you put that Green-n-Gold uniform on, you are not just an Australian – you are The Australian, so make us all proud.

My musings on joining a gym

This week I celebrated my second anniversary. Second anniversary of going to gym that is. Yes, I belong to a gym now. Well, let me rephrase that: I don’t belong there at all, but I go.

For the whole 2 months I was coming to this place, doing things to my body that no body should ever endure. I was making it run, lift weights, bend into weird shapes. I hope one day my body will forgive me for making it do all these crazy things.

Zap Fitness gym

Inside one of Zap’s many locations

Some would say that two months is not a big deal, that people are going to gym for years. Well, it is a big deal for me. You see, when you are on a wrong side of 40 years, on a wrong side of 100 kilos, and when the only exercise your body knows is lifting a fork full of herring salad and a glass full of vodka, any additional effort can potentially become that infamous straw that broke the camel’s back.

When I was shopping around for a gym, I looked at about half a dozen of them, most within walking distance from me. One was too “boutique” for my liking, another one too “hardcore”, yet another one too expensive… But one struck the right balance – it was reasonably priced, seemed nice inside, the fact that it’s open 24/7 was also a factor. But what really swayed me over was the location.

Grilled, Zap Fitness, Cellarbrations

Perfect location for any gym

Talk about perfection. Such thoughtfulness, such attention to detail. On a way to gym you can pop into Grill’d, get one (or two, or three) of their “Hot” Mama burgers, move next door in an attempt to lose just acquired calories at a gym, fail miserably, leave the gym disappointed and move on to the Cellarbrations to drown you sorrows in alcohol – all without having to cross the road or move your car.

I guess there is a lesson in this. All these things can co-exist. One can eat out, have a glass (or two) of alcohol, and still be a gym-goer. There is nothing wrong in indulging in life’s little pleasures, as long it is done in moderation.

What’s common between Aussie Rules Grand Final and Illegal Immigrants?

Like most Australians, I was glued to the TV today, watching the Holy Grail of the Aussie Rules. Both teams showed true premierships qualities, played good game of football and provided plenty of entertainment. In a tradition clearly borrowed from the American Super Bowl, we even were treated to a half-time entertainment show from an Australian legends, Hunters & Collectors.

Aussie Rules Grand Final is no place for politics

Aussie Rules Grand Final is no place for politics

And that was the point at which I just had to say: I am not a whinger, BUT…..what the hell was Mark Seymour thinking when he decided to put on that t-shirt saying “asylum seekers”? He has an opinion about illegal immigrants? Good for him! Now take that opinion and shove it where sun don’t shine, because I’m not interested in it. Here’s a news for you: AFL didn’t pay you for your political views. They paid you to come out and sing a couple of songs. If anyone ever will become interested in your views on Australian politics, you would get an invite onto different kind of show, where people talk about politics, not sports or music.

Unfortunately, this is not a single case, for performers all over the world make dubious choice of hijacking a musical stage to drive a political agenda. Today it was Hunters & Collectors, before them it was Jamie Foxx and Dixie Chicks, Pussy Riot and Madonna. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not against expressing political views through music. Just look at the history of another Aussie legend – the Midnight Oil. Their songs are as political as they get, they never minced their words, making very clear where they stood on any given issue. When you went to their concert, or bought their CD, you knew exactly what you were getting. They’ve come up with a whole lot of hits, true Aussie anthems, and they did it while being honest about their views.

Don't talk to me about politics, go back to snorting coke

Don’t talk to me about politics, go back to snorting coke

So here’s a bit of advice to all those actors, singers, musicians who feel compelled to impose their political views on the rest of the world…..DON’T. Just because you have (or think you have) a talent in one area, doesn’t mean you understand anything about what else is happening in a world. So why don’t you do us all a favour, and go back to singing, dancing, snorting coke, or whatever else you occupy yourself with.

My Mum Gave me Drugs, or Why Our Athletes Choose to Cheat

Australian sport is going from one drug related scandal to another. In a last few months we’ve heard all about Cronulla Sharks, Essendon Bombers, and now Sydney Roosters looking down the barrel of the ACC’s investigation. I don’t think anyone’s really surprised anymore to hear about yet another drug scandal in sport.

Of course, nothing’s new under the sun. We all remember Ben Cousins’ drug scandal in 2007, Shane Warne’s ‘My mum gave it to me’ saga (did anyone actually believe that one?), Tour de France’s greats Lance Armstrong shocking allegations of 2011, and Floyd Landis before him, back in 2006. One good thing that came out of drugs scandals in Tour de France, is the numerous jokes it generated. Here are just a couple: “Amsterdam is like a Tour de France. Just a lot of people on drugs riding bikes.”

Drugs in sport

Drugs in sport

All this got me thinking. I understand the motive behind the decision to cheat. For some, it’s the ambition to be number one, for others it is the temptation of money, for yet others it’s the promise of fame. So when did it all start? When did the sport lose its purity?

The sad truth is, it all started millennia ago. In ancient Greece, the original Olympians used extracts of mushrooms and certain plants to create performance enhancing mixtures. During Roman period, gladiators were given drugs to make their fights more “spectacular”.

Drugs in sport

Cheat to Win

Once again, I am not a whinger, BUT… Here’s what I don’t get- why would anyone with half a brain risk taking drugs? Forget about the issues of morality, honesty and integrity. I’m talking about the health risks that associated with drug use. It should be obvious to anyone that long-term negative effects of drug use outweigh any dubious short-term “benefits”.

And just to finish it off:

A female athlete is preparing for the Olympics. She goes to the coach and complains about the tablets he is making her take.

“They are causing hair to grow on my breasts.”

“Ah whats the problem, a little bit of downy hair. everyone has a few little hairs’

“They are not downy and they are not little and they are not a few’

“Well exactly how much is there?’

“They grow all the way down to my balls, and that’s something else I want to talk to you about’

Footy Finals, Kennett’s Curse and Weird Superstitions in Sport

So it finally happened. From twenty points behind at three-quarter time, the Hawks turned the game around and finally broken The Kennett Curse. As entertaining as the game itself was, this isn’t about the Aussie Rules. It is about something strange, something out of left field. This post is about superstitions in sport, and boy, there are some weird ones.

So, what superstitions are out there?

Lets start off with one of the best tennis players of all times – Serena Williams. Most of us would cringe at a thought of wearing our socks more then once. Serena doesn’t mind it. She actually likes it, likes it so much that she only wears a single pair during any given tournament. Really? Eeeew!

Change of socks anyone?

Change of socks anyone? (image courtesy npr.org)

Even Big Bad Bezza is not as gross. Footy legend Barry Hall admitted that he wore the same pair of his favorite underpants for every game. Naturally, he made sure to explain that he washed them in between games.

Switching to cricket, Ricky Ponting’s level of play was not the only consistent aspect of the legendary cricketer’s career. Despite numerous pleas to get a new cap, Ponting refused to wear anything but his trusty baggy green. Another cricket great, former captain of the Australian Test cricket team Steve Waugh, played every game with a red handkerchief given to him by his late grandfather in his pocket.

Moving onto track and field, Fabrice Lapierre, an Aussie long jumper, begins every approach by putting his gold necklace, an 18th birthday present from his parents, into his mouth and biting down before his launch.

Want to have a swing like Tiger? Not a problem. Tiger Woods wears a variation of a red Nike polo during the final round of tournaments. The red color supposedly is linked to Stanford, where he spent his college days, and gives him an increased sense of aggression.

But my personal favourite is the story of Socceroos playing in 1970 World Cup qualifiers. Apparently, according to legendary Socceroo Johnny Warren, the team hired a witch doctor to curse their opponents (supposedly for a bit of a laugh.) Australia beat their “cursed” opposition Rhodesia 3-1, but then decided to screw the witch doctor out of his $1500 fee. Rightfully upset, the witch doctor reversed the curse onto the Socceroos. They lost their next match to Israel (Partly because three players succumbed to illness during the match) and ultimately failed to qualify. Apart from a blink-and-you’d-miss-it appearance in the 1974 World Cup finals, the Socceroos didn’t return to the FIFA World Cup until 2006. What’s real spooky here, is that their qualification occurred shortly after comedian John Safran travelled to Africa in 2004 and hired another witch doctor to reverse the curse.

Kennett's curse is over

Kennett’s curse is over

But going back to Kennett’s Curse… According to Melbourne master of darkness and The Haunted Bookshop owner Drew Sinton, Hawthorn’s midfielder needs to pee in each corner of the ground to help break the Hawk hoodoo. It makes sense. Geelong are Cats, and cats can give a spray. So the Hawks should mark their territory. It’s an animal thing and it’s highly symbolic.