Posts Tagged ‘journalism’
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.
With the opening State of Origin clash only 12 days away, I thought it was time to inject a blue and maroon theme into this column.
Should rugby league’s most revered contest be played in Melbourne, or is that tantamount to sporting sacrilege?
Most diehard Queensland and New South Wales supporters will tell you that Melbourne can “get stuffed” and keep its own football code when the subject of which cities should host the three matches is broached.
In fact, three Mount Isa rugby league fans gave almost verbatim responses this week when I posed the question about State of Origin in Melbourne.
Fan one: “You’re f—— kidding, aren’t you? They [Melbourne] already have aerial ping-pong down there; why should they get our game, too?”
Fan two: “It’s rubbish. The games are between us and New South Wales.”
Fan three: “It’s Queensland versus New South Wales. The games should be kept in those states.”
Unfortunately for the fans, the decision to play a State of Origin game in Melbourne isn’t one based on state pride.
As with all things in professional sport, the decision was based on economics.
That, and the ongoing exposure and development of rugby league outside of the game’s spiritual home and holiday house in Brisbane and Sydney.
A huge – and very profitable – rugby league market is emerging in Melbourne, and the powers that be are planning taking advantage of that.
It’s incredibly unlikely the people making the decisions will be swayed by the heartfelt pleas and sky blue and maroon-tinged anti-Melbourne arguments of fans who remember the first game in 1980.
When players run onto Etihad Stadium on May 23, they will do so in front of more than 60,000 screaming fans keen to witness rugby league’s greatest spectacle.
That’s good for the sport, and good for the coffers of everyone involved.
Besides, why shouldn’t Melbourne host a game?
We can’t restrict a competition that spruiks itself as the National Rugby League to just two states, even if we are talking about a contest played between just them.
The lone Victorian-based NRL team, the Melbourne Storm, has been one of the dominant teams in the competition in the past few seasons.
They are undefeated after nine rounds in 2012.
The team’s three biggest stars – Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – will all pull on the Maroon jersey 12 days from now, and are referred to as “our boys” by most Queenslanders.
With that in mind, isn’t it a little hypocritical to suggest Melbourne isn’t entitled to one State of Origin game each year?
Former Brisbane Bronco and Queensland player Ben Ikin is a firm believer in the fact Melbourne – and eventually, the rest of Australia – needs more exposure to the game.
In his column in the Brisbane Times this week he said, “As much as we’d like to, we can’t keep State of Origin all to ourselves.”
Ikin suggests that the first and second game in each series should be played in Brisbane and Sydney, with the third going to Melbourne, but he ventures further by saying other Australian cities should eventually host matches.
“When we determine the Melbourne rugby league market has reached its target maturation, we look for our next area of growth and send State of Origin there for however long we need to,” he said.
Ikin makes a strong point: if the game is going to continue to go from strength to strength in Australia against fierce competition from the AFL, soccer and rugby union, it can’t just be seen as the game of cockroaches and cane toads.
State of Origin is all about where the game has come from, but for it to prosper, we need to take a moment to look at where it’s heading.
Another week, another opinionated column. Here’s a taste of the column I’ve written in today’s The North West Star about the current embarrassment that is professional soccer in Australia, and why the billionaires involved need to step back and take a few deep breaths.
For those who have emailed me asking why I’m writing about sport so much, the answer is simple. I’m a sports journalist. It’s kind of my job to write about it. A lot. That said, many will be happy to know that I’m currently working on a few non-sporting pieces for The Dissemination of Thought.
Voting has now opened for the People’s Choice Award component of the Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition, which is run by Sydney Writers’ Centre. If you could click on the link and vote for my humble – and occasionally nonsensical – blog it would be greatly appreciated.
To keep an eye on the competition’s progress on Twitter, search for the #bestblogs2012 hashtag or follow @SydneyWriters.
What is going on with soccer in this country?
After Football Federation Australia stripped Clive Palmer the Gold Coast United A-League licence almost seven weeks ago, Australia’s premier round ball competition has looked like it was in a state of disarray.
When Nathan Tinkler, another mining magnate with his finger in a few sporting pies, decided he no longer wanted the Newcastle Jets licence this week, the A-League was about to experience a total meltdown.
It’s a pity, because the apparent battle of the billionaires is taking the focus off the key element of the A-League: the soccer.
The verbal stoushes between Frank Lowy, Palmer and now Tinkler are almost farcical.
Am I the only one who feels like I’m watching the sporting equivalent of a Days of Our Lives episode?
It’s almost a reality show where contestants go head-to-head in a clash of the chequebooks.
When news of Gold Coast United’s demise became public, FFA chairman Lowy said he was disappointed but that he had no alternative but to revoke the licence following Palmer’s “flagrant disregard” for A-League rules.
Never the wallflower, Palmer fired back.
“We don’t know what the charge is and Frank Lowy has behaved like a dictator. This course of action should not be allowed to stand in Australia,” Mr Palmer said.
“Frank Lowy has started this fight and we will finish it.”
The comments were almost as unbelievable when Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group handed back its licence for the Jets, albeit with the role of instigator reversed.
“Unfortunately, having lost confidence in the FFA management and its ability to find a resolution, it is clear we have no other option,”HSG chief executive officer Troy Palmer said.
FFA CEO Ben Buckley hit back by saying, “Let me make something very clear here. We have had countless meetings with Troy Palmer to address these issues.”
It’s a pitiful look for the sport.
There has been little comment from the players on how they feel about being used as pawns in what looks, at face value, like a “my wallet’s bigger than yours” contest between three of the richest men in the country.
One would have to assume that, like the fans, they’ve had enough.
Among the threats, laughable quotes and chest puffing, many have forgotten there’s still on-field action in the A-League.
It’s disappointing that the most important part of the sport has been relegated to the naughty corner like a small child, when in fact the child has done nothing wrong.
The poor cherub has been punished for the actions of its bickering parents.
Perth Glory travel to Gosford tomorrow night to challenge Central Coast Mariners for a spot in this season’s A-League grand final against Brisbane Roar.
There is some tremendous soccer talent in this country, and it’s about time we remember that.
The talent of the players needs to take centre stage again, as does the dedication of the clubs’ coaches, management teams and administration staff.
It’s time to give the fans what they actually pay for: the best soccer Australia can offer.
There are some glaringly deep issues with the way the A-League is being run, but that’s an issue for another day.
The billionaires have run out of yellow card chances: it’s time to begin sending a few egos off.
Here’s a piece I wrote for my sports column in today’s The North West Star about the vast gap between prize purses in men’s and women’s sport.
Why is there such disparity between the prize money offered to male and female athletes?
Last year’s Australian PGA Championship offered $1,500,000 in prize money to the men who donned their funky golf outfits and battled the Hyatt Regency Coolum Course.
The winner, Greg Chalmers, pocketed $270,000 for his 12 under par victory.
In February, only $500,000 was offered in total for the Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters.
Holland’s Christel Boeljon scored a one-stroke victory at the event but only received $75,000 as recompense for doing so.
Both the Hyatt Regency Coolum and Royal Pines courses are par 72.
Chalmers completed his four rounds in 276 strokes, while Boeljon went around the Gold Coast course four times in 267 strokes.
The Australian PGA Championship and Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters are this country’s ultimate golfing events for men and women respectively, yet the boys get to play for about three times the prize money.
By offering so much more for competing, are event organisers suggesting Chalmers, Robert Allenby and Adam Scott are three times better than Boeljon and other female players like Nikki Campbell and Sarah Kemp?
Of course not.
But if that’s the case, why is there such a ridiculous difference in prize money being offered for exactly the same amount of golf, based purely on whether the player sits down to pee?
The answer is advertising.
Professional sportswomen don’t get the media coverage that male athletes do. As such, they don’t have the public profile advertising executives look for when throwing money around.
Money that ends up in prize pools.
Essentially, less public recognition undoubtedly means a smaller prize purse.
Advertisers want a brand, and without increased media exposure, female athletes will never be able to become a brand.
Unless they are, to put it boorishly, hot.
Everyone knows who Tiger Woods is.
Can you name the world’s current top female golfer?
No, me either.
We have been conditioned by advertising and the media to recognise male athletes by their strength and ability with a club, a bat or a ball.
With male sporting stars, it’s all about the actual sport.
As far as our best sportswomen go, society as a whole only recognises them as exceptional athletes if they have great legs or look sensational in a beach volleyball outfit.
In a nutshell, we are told men are apparently tough and should receive maximum reward for their athletic performance, while women should, it seems, get paid peanuts for their sporting skill and rely on sex appeal to supplement their income via endorsements.
Am I the only one who finds this very 19th century?
If you are in the upper echelon of players in the country in your chosen sport, why should your ability to earn money by competing in said sport be influenced by whether you are male or female?
Tennis is beginning to come around as officials start to offer equal prize money for the guys and girls, but a lot of sports have a long way to go.
Without getting into the economics of male versus female sport and advertising, there’s an incredibly simple answer to the prize money gap: pay the girls more to play.
If they are playing the same sport as their male counterparts, why shouldn’t they be getting paid equally?
Shouldn’t it be about skill and not gender?