It’s funny how the something we take for granted as an everyday part of Australian life is viewed by those unfamiliar with our lifestyle, but a friend’s reaction to the concept of camel racing – and betting on it – drove the reminder home last week.
“You’re going to race what?” she said with stunned confusion via Skype after I’d explained the concept of the Boulia Camel Races.
“So they’re like those feral camels you see in the desert and people actually ride them like horses?”
After I reiterated what the iconic event was all about and that there were also on-track bookmakers, she started laughing, shaking her head at the idea of wagering hard-earned money on the ships of the desert.
“Man, you Aussies will literally bet on anything,” she said with her thick New York accent.
Her comments about Australians having a penchant for betting on anything that moved made me think, and after our conversation ended, I sat back and contemplated the gambling eccentricities of punters in this country.
That’s when it hit me.
We actually will bet on anything we can get odds on, including what are essentially feral pests.
It’s part of what makes Australia the unique country it is but when you consider what else we place wagers on, an annual punt on camel racing doesn’t even make the top three weirdest things to race and bet on.
I don’t know why, but Australians love to bet on pests.
In addition to camels, cane toad and cockroach racing round out the trifecta of animals-we-could-do-without that we’re happy to support with our wallets, as long as they’re racing and not invading our houses.
While the noxious cane toads are raced weekly in pubs from Cairns to Coolangatta, it’s the cockroaches that raise the eyebrows of most tourists when they witness them racing for the first time.
Perhaps the most iconic of all cockroach races in Australia is held every Australia Day in my old stomping ground of Brisbane, at the Story Bridge Hotel in Kangaroo Point.
According to a spokesman for the annual spectacle, the event “has had a long and distinguished history” that set the foundation for cockroach racing in Australia.
No, I’m not kidding.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried but it gets better: organisers fly in cockroaches for racing.
Yes, racing cockroaches apparently travel to compete, just like Black Caviar.
“We actually buy them [the cockroaches] and fly them up from Melbourne,” the spokesman said when I posed the question last week.
“It’s a huge event.”
If insects and feral animals aren’t your style, you can always bet on the lizard races in Eulo.
Feel like a seafood fix?
If so, crayfish racing may be your forte.
The first time I saw a crayfish race was on Magnetic Island in about 2004 and while the crustaceans are hardly the most enthralling
racers, they are certainly supported by spectators like they’re running in the Melbourne Cup.
Worse still, punters who decide to bet as well as splash out the $10 or $20 needed to purchase one of the ‘thoroughbreds’ act like they have just purchased Makybe Diva for $15,000.
The only difference is that, if your crayfish doesn’t perform well during the race, you can always commiserate eating with a little bit of garlic butter and a cold beer.
I spoke to my friend in New York again last night and after I rattled off the list of amphibians, insects and crustaceans Australians regularly bet on, she burst out laughing and said it proved her point.
“Do you guys just look at random animals and decide to catch them, race them and bet on them?” she queried.
Who said horses and greyhounds were the only animals you could bet on?
Australia’s love of a punt is evident in the crazy things we race and wager on but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, if you are betting on something ridiculous – including the proverbial flies on the wall – in Australia this weekend, take a moment to reflect on how unique what you are doing is as you put your betting slip into your wallet.
With many sports quickly approaching finals season, I think we all need a timely reminder that there is more to sport than winning.
There, I said it.
And I meant it.
I’ve spoken to several people representing a myriad of sports over the past few weeks and a disappointingly familiar message was sounding: sport isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be.
Lamentably, it wasn’t just competitors whinging about it.
Numerous spectators and fans of both local and professional sport have told me they don’t find watching the games they love as pleasurable as they used to.
One rugby league fan – who could best be described as a diehard-cum-fanatic – told me about how the recent State of Origin series caused him no end of stress.
The gentleman, who is a Queensland supporter, explained to me that he “bleeds maroon and football” but was finding it hard to enjoy watching the game he apparently loves.
“That second game [when New South Wales won 16-12] nearly killed me,” he recounted dramatically.
“I couldn’t sleep for a few days after it because I was so p—– off that those b——- won.”
When I suggested he was taking it a little too personally, he snapped back at me.
“Rugby league is life.”
Really, that’s the official line we’re running with these days?
Am I the only one who noticed the sun still came up on the Thursday morning following the loss, just as the sun rose on the horizon for New South Welshmen after the Maroons won their seventh straight series on July 5?
Following the 21-20 thriller at Suncorp Stadium, a friend suggested on Facebook that it was the best day of his life.
This is a guy who, according to his error-plagued social networking post, had never experienced anything greater in his 30 years walking the earth.
While I’m a sports fan, a football match – or any sporting event for that matter – doesn’t count in the top 100 things I’ve done in my life.
I don’t think it should for anyone, and that’s where I think we are going wrong.
The more I listened to people’s tales of woe, the more I thought about it until I finally came up with what I believe to be the cause of the feeling.
People are taking their sport – and themselves – far too seriously.
Whether you are watching or participating, be it a junior game or World Cup final, sport should be fun.
If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.
The Oxford English Dictionary indicates sport is an activity “in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”.
See, it’s all about the entertainment.
Without an element of enjoyment, sport quickly becomes nothing more than a quest for victory and supremacy.
Don’t we have enough competition and seriousness in our lives without exacerbating the situation by pretending our lives depend on each shot at goal?
Just because you miss that three-point throw doesn’t mean you will lose your job.
Your family won’t desert you because you hooked that eight iron shot on the fifth hole.
Stepped over the sideline as you sprinted towards the try line? It’s okay, it’s not the end of the world; the zombies aren’t going to suddenly attack because you missed an opportunity to score four points.
As a collective sporting community, we need to step back and take a look at what small percentage of our lives centre around the games we love.
While this may pain some to read, sport isn’t the be all and end all, irrespective of what you believe or are told.
When we finally accept this statement to be true, everyone is suddenly going to find sport – whether as a player or fan – a lot more fun and interesting.
It’s simple: the more you enjoy your sport, the better you will be at it and the more pleasure you will derive from it.
It’s not rocket science, but it seems to be a lesson that’s easily forgotten.
So, when you run onto the sporting field to play or sit on the sideline to barrack for your favourite team this weekend, remember there are benefits to sport that transcend trophies and silverware.
Okay, I’m just going to say it.
I don’t want to hear the name Black Caviar uttered for at least three months.
When something without opposable thumbs has more than 19,000 followers on Twitter, enough is officially enough.
The fact that a horse has a Twitter account in the first place defies logic, but common sense and the Australian public have never been bedfellows when it comes to the champion mare.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am not questioning how good a thoroughbred Black Caviar is – the proof is in her 22-0 race record – but I’m beginning to tire with the incessant media coverage and public hysteria surrounding the five-year-old.
Like almost 20,000 others around the globe, I follow Black Caviar on Twitter, which probably makes me part of the problem.
I originally followed her account to keep up-to-date with news pertaining to her on-track performance but as her number of followers swelled, something very strange happened before she departed on her much anticipated
Royal Ascot campaign.
She started tweeting in the first person.
Given the Peter Moody-trained superstar has hooves, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest she may have a little help in the social media department.
That said, if it is in fact her tweeting, she’s transcended just being one of the world’s best sprinters to be the only horse in the world capable of operating a BlackBerry.
“Luke is feeling that what happened the last few strides will detract from my win, is breaking his heart. It shouldn’t, WE WON TOGETHER.” she tweeted on June 24 in defence of embattled jockey Luke Nolen.
What have we become as a sport-loving nation when we are falling over ourselves to read – and respond to – messages apparently from a non-toilet trained five-year-old?
Cleary, Sydney Morning Herald chief sports columnist Richard Hinds agrees with me.
In his column on June 24, Hinds pondered Caviar fever and wrote, “Not even the lack of opposable thumbs – or, actually, any thumbs – diminishes our wish to believe it is Black Caviar tapping away on her iPhone, not some clever proxy.”
I’m glad I’m not alone as I question if we have gone too far in our love of a racehorse.
With all the hype, rock star treatment and 24/7 coverage, it’s easy to forget she is just that: a horse.
Yet the Australian public has gone Caviar crazy, embracing – and purchasing – every conceivable novelty bearing the mare’s name or famous salmon and black colours.
Thousands of Australians packed into Royal Ascot at the weekend wearing Black Caviar ties, vests, shirts and, unfortunately, dresses.
I’m sorry, but there are few things on this earth more disturbing than a middle-aged woman wearing a shiny salmon dress covered in black polka dots while drinking champagne as the world watches.
Some have taken it further, demanding their local tattoo artists give them a permanent reminder of the country’s wonder horse.
Collingwood Magpies star Dale Thomas is the most high-profile person to sport a Black Caviar tattoo, but at least his is the result of losing a bet to one of the horse’s owners.
Many Australians are getting ink depicting the mare just because they can.
What’s next, getting the entire Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams tattooed on your back just because you are getting into the Olympic spirit?
While there’s no doubting Black Caviar is an incredible animal and one of the best Australian thoroughbreds of all time, I think it’s time to step back and smell the metaphorical roses and horse manure when you begin covering yourself in salmon and black tattoos or believing a horse – living in a stable – is utilising social media to communicate with her fans across the world.
The mania surrounding the mare won’t stop on its own.
The media organisations – who make a fortune every time a Black Caviar story airs or goes to print – and the five-year-old’s connections – who are also doing very well, thank you very much – will publicise her until they are flogging the proverbial dead horse.
I have no problem with supporting our best export since Phar Lap but I do have an issue with Black Caviar’s publicity people trying to convince us she’s capable of sending personal messages of insight and inspiration, 140 characters at a time while they get rich because of our apparent gullibility.
Irrespective of what Black Caviar – or someone cleaning her stable – tells you on Twitter, you don’t need a spare tyre cover with the five-year-old’s head emblazoned on it for your four-wheel-drive.
Just because the Channel 7 presenters tell you “everyone will be showing their support by wearing her colours” when she jumps from the barrier doesn’t mean you should spend $2000 on a tailored, three-piece suit in salmon and black.
The next time you feel like adorning yourself with a Black Caviar tattoo or donning a suit that mirrors Nolen’s silks, remember the mare is just a horse who defecates where she pleases, which may have included on the roses at Royal Ascot.
Today’s The Dissemination of Thought piece is the result of an unusual combination of writer’s block, laziness and a simple yet incredibly amusing blog post I read last week. More specifically, it was this piece from Miranda Ryan of The Naked Envelope fame.
The concept is simple. It’s a blow-by-blow account of how she spent a day in her life. Nothing overly exciting happened to her on during the 24-hour period but it was fascinating to see how someone can make the seemingly mundane entertaining by just looking closely and taking notice of what goes on around them.
I’ve decided to follow suit. I want to be able to sit back and reflect on how much time I actually waste in a normal day. Hopefully, you’ll find my minute-by-minute account of June 25, 2012 at least slightly engrossing.
6:21am – Open my eyes and try to figure out what day it is. When I determine it’s Monday, I contemplate staying in bed all day and wonder whether I’ll be missed in the newsroom.
6:22am – Ask myself why it’s so dark. Fumble aimlessly for my BlackBerry, check the time and realise it’s stupidly early. Throw aforementioned device back on the bedside table and curse my stupid body clock.
6:23am to 7:18am – I have no idea. I can only assume I drifted back to sleep or was abducted by aliens.
7:19am – Check BlackBerry again and die a little bit inside when it dawns on me that I’ve got less than 60 seconds before my alarm goes off.
7:34am to 7:45am – Mentally check off possible jobs I’d enjoy in lieu of being a journalist while having a shower. Hot shower tester is high on the list, as are professional bed warmer and drunken, disgruntled novelist. Notice I need to buy more body wash.
7:51am – Realise I had an 11-minute shower and consider the negative impact on the environment.
8:03am – Walk into the newsroom with my first latte of the day and loudly sing the first lines of ‘Peace Train’ after confirming I am alone.
8:06am – Stare at a blank page in my diary. Consider the benefits of being more organised. Reassure myself that organised people aren’t any happier than me and continue to drink my latte.
8:21am – Start writing a story about golf and stop to check Twitter.
8:28am – Close the internet browser and tell myself I have to avoid social media and get my work done. Pat myself on the back for being so assertive.
8:30am – Check Twitter on my BlackBerry. Quietly swear to myself about social networking and its addictive qualities.
8:31am – Notice my latte is gone. Think about writing a piece investigating the electronic heroin that is Twitter as I wait patiently for the espresso machine to provide me with another caffeine hit.
8:32am to 10:02am – This period of time is a little bit hazy because I forgot I was compiling a blow-by-blow account of my day. Judging by the number of empty cups in my bin, I had another latte. Judging by the random doodling in my diary, I wasn’t paying attention in the news meeting. Again.
10:31am to 11:06am – Interview a 12-year-old tennis player who is the number one seed in his club’s A grade competition. Watch him serve and feel ridiculously inadequate about my ability with a racquet.
11:19am to 12:48pm – Do boring journalist stuff. This includes checking emails, adding finishing touches to the doodle from the news meeting and contemplating what to have for lunch.
1:37pm – Send my final story for Tuesday’s paper to the sub-editor. Mentally fist pump the sky and refocus on what’s on the lunch menu.
1:39pm – Decide on something healthy for lunch.
1:44pm – Find myself placing my lunch order at Red Rooster.
2:03pm – Finish off the last of the chips and congratulate myself on a fantastic choice. Almost burst out laughing when reflecting on the fact I was contemplating a healthy option.
2:11pm to 2:28pm – Have a hot chocolate while sending witty text messages and wonder why there are so many boring people on Twitter.
2:31pm – Check my latest mobile phone bill.
2:34pm – Try to figure out how the hell it’s physically possible to send more than 5200 text messages during a one-month billing period. Send a text message to a friend asking them how many they send. Quietly thank the mobile phone gods that my plan includes unlimited SMS.
2:47pm to 5:03pm – Do a few interviews and complete the sports stories for Wednesday’s paper while scoffing Turkish delight and drinking another latte. Wish I bought more than one Turkish delight as I stare sadly at the empty wrapper on my desk.
5:04pm to 6:10pm – Forget once again that I am meant to be documenting every minute of my day.
6:16pm – Excitedly throw my leave application at the editor as I scurry from the building.
6:41pm to 7:03pm – Eat dinner and drink the best part of a bottle of red wine while contemplating the universe.
7:06pm – Decide opening another bottle of wine would be a poor option.
7:07pm – See no issue with having a beer in lieu of wine.
7:49pm – Put the three empty beer bottles on the coffee table beside me into the bin.
8:01pm to 8:39pm – Type up my hastily-scribbled notes and wonder who the hell will make it to 12:00pm without wanting to bang their head against a wall.
8:41pm to 8:43pm – Try to figure out why <i>The Dissemination of Thought</i> hasn’t had a new subscriber in more than a fortnight. Was about to blame WordPress for a technical glitch but then remember what I am actually blogging about.
8:44pm – Feel genuinely sorry for my subscribers.
8:49pm – Realise the intricate filing system on my laptop is nothing of the sort. Contemplate doing something about it but dismiss the notion as requiring too much effort.
9:16pm to 10:34pm – Listen to Blunderbuss for what feels like the sixth thousandth time. Wish I was Jack White.
10.37pm – Check my bank balance and wonder why they don’t advertise for ‘people who like being poor’ when seeking journalists. Make the executive decision not to go near eBay and bid on things I don’t need until I get paid.
10:45pm to 11:03pm – Have a shower while thinking about the awesome left-handed bass I want to buy on eBay.
11:05pm – Realise my excess water usage is probably destroying the planet.
11:09pm to 11:32pm – Bid on stuff I don’t need with money I don’t have on eBay. Judge an original Rubik’s Cube from the 80s – still in the original packaging – to be worth $40.
11:33pm – Decide $40 probably isn’t enough to win me the colourful little piece of nostalgia.
11:35pm – Grab another beer and ask myself why I’m bidding on a Rubik’s Cube. Secretly hope I get outbid in the closing stages of the auction.
11:41pm – Increase my maximum bid to $45.
11:44pm – Go to Google to try and figure out what a mint condition Rubik’s Cube from the 1980s is worth.
11:59pm – Post this piece and realise I’ve wasted a day. Look at the time and realise I’m tired beyond belief. Laugh manically when I remember I have Tuesday off, unlike many of my reader who will waste 10 minutes reading this post in its entirety.
So there you have it. A day – or what I can remember of it – in the life of me. If you haven’t abandoned reading mid-sentence or thrown your iPad against the wall in a fit of enraged boredom, follow me on Twitter or like the Facebook page. Hell, if you really liked the nonsensical gibberish that is The Dissemination of Thought, you can do both. Or send cash.
For a change, I don’t have much to say. I’ve spent my day off avoiding words and opting instead to draw. It was ridiculously refreshing not to have to think about sentences and conveying a nonsensical message.
I’m getting a tattoo – my second – when I head back to Brisbane in September and have come up with a rough concept I’d like to share with you. Obviously, the tattoo artist will work their magic in coming up with the final design, but I wanted the opinion of my readers about the original scribbling.
So, what’s the verdict? Do you have ink? If you do, what and where? If you don’t have any tattoos and find the mere thought of them repulsive, why?
Should on-field loyalty for a club be greater than that shown by its supporters?
That is, should players be more loyal to the team colours because, put simply, they are the heart and public face of the club?
I wrote a column in Each Way Bet a few weeks ago discussing loyalty to your team from the perspective of a supporter, and whether it was acceptable to have a ‘back-up ‘ team.
You know, the team you turn to when your favourite team – the one you would allegedly support come hell or high water – goes through a rough patch.
The feedback I received was interesting.
Opinion was split on whether it was okay to have a second – or even third – team in the event of poor performance.
Surprisingly, the responses were more cut and dry when posed the question to players about loyalty.
I asked seven amateur sportspeople – both male and female from a variety of sports – and was told in six out of seven instances that they would consider jumping ship if their team went for a sustained period without victory.
Ladies and gentlemen, the SS Loyalty has left port.
Aren’t two of the biggest drawcards of amateur sport the social aspect and the opportunity to compete side-to-side with your friends, through good and bad?
Aren’t those aspects somewhat removed if you are prepared to move to a different team the moment you experience a string of losses?
More importantly, are we that obsessed with winning that we are prepared to abandon our teammates – often mid-season – in the pursuit of victory?
Based on the evidence at hand, apparently we are.
I ran into a well-known sporting identity at Buchanan Park on Saturday and after the sixth race had finished, got onto the subject of loyalty.
This sportsperson has had a pretty average season personally and their team is struggling for form, which is the polar opposite of last season, when it won the grand final in its respective division.
As we discussed form and turning the season around, I was surprised to learn they were attempting to change teams because “they were sick of losing each week”.
“We did so well last year but we can’t take a trick this season,” they said.
“I want to be a part of a winning team; I’m better than losing week after week.”
When I questioned their loyalty to the team and how they could contemplate ditching their teammates after the premiership season, I was advised it was all about winning.
“I play to win,” they told me with just a hint of venom in their voice.
“If I can’t win with them, I’ll find another club.”
Puzzled by this apparent lack of loyalty and ‘fair weather sailing’ approach, I asked a friend of mine in Brisbane – who plays the same sport as the aforementioned individual – what they would do.
“No one wants to play on a losing team,” he told me.
“What’s the point of playing if you aren’t winning?”
So, that’s the attitude we are taking into our amateur sport these days?
The belief that if we aren’t winning, it’s not worth competing?
Let’s consider that for a moment.
If the only important thing in amateur sport was winning, you would have one or two strong teams with dozens of players clambering to sign up, while the other clubs in the competition would be struggling for numbers.
Without numbers you can’t participate, so some clubs would be forced to pull stumps.
With fewer teams, the quality of the competition would dilute to the point you had nothing but one-sided score lines week after week, which would make more and more players on the losing sides go and play somewhere else.
More clubs would fold.
Eventually, you would only have two teams going head-to-head each week, which isn’t really a sporting contest.
That’s why we need loyalty on the sporting field: to see us through the tough times and ensure that our respective sports have a future.
You won’t always win.
Sometimes, victories will be few and far between, but it’s how you stay committed to your club colours and teammates that makes winning even sweeter when your team does experience it again.
The true test of someone’s depth of character on the paddock – or on the court, track or water – is how they react when the chips are down and they are staring defeat in the face.
Deserting your teammates like a rat on a sinking ship makes you a poor sport, irrespective of how skilled you.
Ask any coach or club stalwart: they’d rather have 20 players of average ability who worked as a team and stuck together through thick and thin than 20 superstars who contemplated changing teams as soon as theirs fell behind on the scoreboard.
In amateur sport, genuine allegiance to your club is the key.
It’s something to consider the next time your team loses and you contemplate taking a cruise on the SS Loyalty.