The non-sports fans guide to appreciating sport

Has the biggest sporting weekend on our calendar left you wondering why all the fuss? TBS Editor Mathew Mackie explains why Sport matters.


For outsiders, the world of professional sport makes no sense. It’s a mass of subhuman morons who mash high liquidity with a lack of tangible assets who somehow get paid far above people who build cities and save lives. A billion dollar industry built around the meaningless pursuit a plastic orb.

Which, in some ways you are correct. But also completely wrong.

Sport matters because it doesn’t matter.

It’s drama within a lifetime of drama, but unlike others we face, it is a controllable one. It matters because your heart is in it, but you can also turn your back on it. There’s always next season.

Life can bring you to moments of true beauty, followed by moments of utter desolation. Life cannot be spent sweating on test results, or enduring identical morning commutes to the bed you’ve made for yourself. Life’s disappointments are permanent, be it Family, Love, Career or Location, it’s a lucky few who can honestly claim that they’ve got everything they’ve ever desired.

For the rest of us, Sport is a catch-all that doesn’t judge.

Our disappointments are temporary, as we ride the waves of elation and bitter realisation as our better hopes are dashed. But by the time the fat woman reaches the chorus. It’s irrelevant. Because it’s now time for ______ season. For those who have thrown themselves to the altar of sport, it’s a year-round salve on the bitter wounds of reality, a distraction that never ends.

The reasons ‘why’ you pick a team doesn’t matter. It could be something minor, or major.

It could be the place you grew up in, where the Industry has died, the carcass exhumed offshore, the opportunities nil, and the main export may now be Meth-Addicts; but it’s yours. Filled with people and memories you treasure, you seek a positive channel for your disappointment. And the Town has a football team. And yes, on a logical level, it might be a battle between two animals that don’t exist, but it’s something to be proud of.

Somewhere to go to feel like you’re part of something.

My life has been coloured by Sport. It changes the seasons I walk through. When it grows hot, the days feel different. The cold smell of the sea, clashing with the warm smell of cut grass; I know Cricket is around the corner. With it, Long Afternoons lost in the verdant staid green spectrum, dotted with the white pillars, those skilled craftsmen who represent us, as I subtly get intoxicated or/then fall asleep to the obvious expositional ramblings of those who once played the game.

But, I suppose you’re saying. “I can do that to Weatherwatch” – which is true.

However, you’re missing the towering narratives that lie within. While it pains me to say this, we share a great quirk with our American cousins, we both use Sport as a platform to speak where we can’t, perhaps because the topics are too great or too acidic to address.

Be it Jackie Robinson in 1947, cutting his rapid swathe through the Colour-Barrier as he dominated the basepaths for the Brooklyn Dodgers, or Cathy Freeman’s uniting dash at the 2000 Olympics, proudly carrying both flags and us with it, or the outpouring funereal grief of Philip Hughes’ passing, and the honouring of a life cut short by the stoic healing powers of David Warner’s expansive strokeplay.

Equality, Grief, Empathy, Unity. Aspirational relatable life lessons compacted into a block of small moments.

Not convinced?

What about Jonathon Thurston?

The small company he worked for (NQ Cowboys), was one he single-handedly dragged up to relevance by his obvious business acumen, and despite doing the majority of the work, he was left largely unrewarded. He was headhunted by others, and while he could have easily transplanted his skills to a large International Conglomerate, he remained loyal to his station.

Flash forward to last night, and he was rewarded for his hard work, with one more public opportunity to prove himself. Fatigued beyond fatigue, his body rebelling in shock, carried injury and crippled doubt, we watched that ball viciously wobble, hopes flying with him, as the trajectory betrayed the narrative structure, yielding to the frank cock-blockery of the post.

Fortunately, sweet exodus was his moments later, at the bittered expense of another. While there is nothing intrinsically valuable about hurling a piece of plastic over a metal bar, the meaning behind it is.

For Thurston, it was a lifetime of forked paths chosen leading to a grassy cul-de-sac. At his feet lay the basket he placed all his eggs in, and too, the Drop-Goal that eliminated the Broncos also erased the Question Mark that followed him.

It was pure validation, and it was a moment that we’d probably never experience. That one timeless ‘forever’ moment where we proved ourselves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by irrefutably standing on the grandest stage. We may never reach it, but we can dream, and we can live vicariously through those who have.

Sport is a means to forget, and a means to remember.

And it has nothing to do with those who participate, it’s about you.

Pick your Shirt.

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