Australia’s unhealthy obsession with sport.

I won’t beat around the bush: I have no interest in watching sport, whatsoever. Living in Melbourne, that can make one feel somewhat like an alien, as the media here is utterly obsessed by it (although, given that only 1.2 million people here watched the grand final on TV, it occurs to me that there are 67.6%25 of people who, like me, couldn’t have given a bugger about it).

Australia likes to project an image of being a country of sports players. I reject this image completely; we are, instead, a country of sports-obsessed couch-potatoes, with a minority of players who are given far more money and admiration than they deserve.

And like all obsessions, it’s getting rather unhealthy. This week, the federal government launched their
Guide to the Teaching of Australian History in Years 9 and 10
, a course that the government is saying must be taught in schools in order to receive federal funding.

So, what important Australian historical events does this 18-page guide document? The Eureka Stockade, which has been often cited as leading to the birth of democracy in Australia, perhaps? Australia’s shameful involvement in the second Boer War? No, on both counts. Cyclone Tracy? The 1999 republic referendum? Nope and nope.

What do we get instead? Cricket. 1868: First Australian cricket tour of England. 1932–33: ‘Bodyline’ cricket controversy. Listings of no less than three cricket players. Why is any of this even notable?

I was subjected to a documentary on the Bodyline “controversy” by my sports-obsessed school, back in the 80s. It was the most deathly dull thing I’ve ever had inflicted upon me and I distinctly remember being more interested in the carpet on which I was sitting than I was in watching the TV. It is of no more relevance to students today than would be an in-depth look at the history of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, and arguably, far less useful.

This booklet has the cricket-tragic fingerprints of the Prime Minister all over it. It’s highly likely that the election will be finally called, this weekend. Is it too much to ask for us to get a leader who, in the same vein as other notable politicians like Paul Keating, Bob Carr or Barry Jones, has more interest in art, science, music, literature or anything, other than sport?

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