Mathew Mackie

Is Wollongong ready for the Ball family circus? absolutely not

With the news that LaMelo Ball is set to play for the Illawarra Hawks, it squarely places a family made famous by arrogant self-promotion in a town that hates it.

 

 

This morning, it was confirmed that the youngest of the family Ball, LaMelo, will be heading to my hometown to play for the local basketball team. This move, of course, was emboldened by the sins of the father and his empire, a Rome built on media-savvy trolling, over-priced shoes, and terrible parenting decisions.

 

 

You see, if there’s one thing we can’t handle, it’s celebrity, and if there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wankers.

If rumours are to be believed, the Hawks are also on the verge of signing Nick “Swaggy P” Young, a man made famous by putting his thing in Iggy Azalea, celebrating a shot that didn’t go in, and being a meme from 2014.

 

Wollongong?

 

Possessing both may be the greatest source of town schism since they decided to move the Visitors Centre up the hill, as we’ll arguably possess what we covet and loathe. The vaguely famous who love themselves a bit too much may be too much to bear. Not outwardly at least, as we’ll welcome anything we need to Google, but we’ll rupture our kneecaps with our fingernails when they act up, whilst simultaneously fearing that they’ll leave us.

We’re suspicious of outsiders, but we long to be validated by them. We never want to be Sydney, but we constantly want to beat Sydney by doing Sydney things. The gentrification of the once-1980s Mall we loved/hated has given us something like Chatswood Chase near some sand. We’re about appearances. We’re tryhards, but we hide it through our announced love for our hometown, and pride of our beaches/lifestyle/whatever.

We suffer from little brother syndrome. This certainly goes for our rivalry with the Sydney Kings. The Kings, who are also trying to impress Los Angeles by being Los Angeles, both in the metropolitan swarm it feeds off and the colours they wear. Sydney wants to be LA, Wollongong wants to be Sydney, et cetera. The Kings have a proud history of throwing money at the washed-up once-demigods of the National Basketball Association, repeatedly giving us the tableau of a confused tall man holding up an unfamiliar shirt with their basketball-famous name on the back. Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Josh Childress, and their Xanadu, Andrew Bogut, have all groaned up and down the court for the Kings; but signing an ex-Laker (and one whose brother was drafted by them, and their father who wants to be a Laker) is probably the greatest example of Wollongong outdoing Sydney according to Wollongong.

As a franchise, we’re a trifle confused. The Illawarra Hawks are modern throwback to the long-dead fiction the town was built on. Once upon a time, people worked here. Be it the Steelworks, or the Coke Works, or the mines atop the escarpment, it was a place where the working class could work. While the employment has dried up (and the academics have moved in) the narrative remains. We’re working class, doing the best with what we have. Sidebar: Jimmy Barnes’ whoa-ode to the working man was filmed at the local steelworks…before it was sold to China.

It is a town that celebrates the monotony of the usual, and our team is very much that. We have a proud history of semi-skilled labourers. The prototypical Hawk is usually good at one thing. X passes, Y shoots, Z rebounds. We have one job, and we do that as best we can. Our team basketball is the division of labour. We are so proud of being the sole founding member of the NBL that we’ve not really moved on from 1979. It is a team frozen in the past, something to illuminate the leagues’ pool room. Our two greatest players are spotty dorks from Bendigo, one forever known by his culinary soubriquet, both who purely shot from this new-fangled invention called the “three-point line”. Our only chant (other than the universe request for defence) informs that team that we love them because they’re from the town we’re from. Our games are emceed by a tubby dad figure, a folksy mononym who wears a hat inside, and our mascots are a pair of bird puns.

 

The Illawarra Hawks Twitter bio

 

 

The Hawks have long entertained the fare that would roll them in the aisles in latter 19th century, as we readily promote latest collegiate dropout from the Americas, one who threatens to “slam dunk” the orb through the hoop for our rapturous merriment. We reached our zenith in the 2010-11 season, when we employed a tattooed child as a fairground attraction, transporting “the shortest player in NBL history” to the world of giants for our amusement. When said youth scored a solitary point (a free throw no less), the town lost it. We’re about grit-and-grind winning basketball, but we’re also about loserish sideshow nonsense with some gravel rubbed into it.

 

 

It speaks long to the Wollongong mindset. We seldom win, but when we do, we’ll ruin it by behaving like absolute tits. Which brings me to the Balls. LaMelo’s adventure has been a fraught one, as he was pulled out of school to play in Europe, before he was pulled out of Europea to play in Australia by the same person. LaMelo’s teammates outed him in the media, calling him “lazy” and “arrogant”. Lavar (the patriarch Ball) quit before they could sever the contract, stating that “…we’re not going to waste our time no more”.

This came after aforesaid club bent to the whims of that Caesar, orchestrating a pre-season tournament against weaker teams to showcase his sons. I’m not blaming LaMelo, as he’s still a child, but he sadly arrives as a package deal. I fear the excessive baggage arriving at a town that dutifully counts theirs before flying could spell trouble. With that being said, we could take LaMelo to our bosom (as he’s clearly dealing with tough constraints beyond his control), but that depends on his father being his father – of which we can’t handle. As we’re simple folk, we’re not above dealing in doses of violence to make ourselves understood. We’ll either knock him out or make him our Mayor.

It’s a confusing town.

Above everything else, Wollongong places a premium on earning your place. We’re a town of high unemployment that hates the unemployed. Even if there’s no opportunity, we feel you should grab it. If there’s one thing we can’t handle, it’s those lazy arrogant bludger types. While we do love a circus (as we still have the kind with animals), and we do love a joke, but not at our expense. I believe we’re wholly unprepared for celebrity (as we only got Elton John in 2017, who mocked us), and I think we’re absolutely unprepared for the media insanity that the Balls will bring.

 

 

Why? we’re a proud people, but we don’t like how we look naked. While we’re glad for this faux-celebrity pity bang, just tell your fancy friends in Hollywood that we were good…and be good, LaMelo.

But not too good.

 

 

 

 

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