Cultural anthropologists would have a field day if Facebook walls were physical and people were looking at what happens in May/June in Australia each year with the benefit of 200 years of hindsight.
I love sport. I love league. And I enjoy watching Origin even when my team loses. Which for the last seven years has been a pretty regular phenomenon. I enjoy a bit of the tribal aspect of sport. I get it. But I wonder at what point the “otherising” that goes on alongside sporting success is healthy – both within the Christian community and as an indicator of our culture more broadly. I get that winning is fun. Nobody likes losing, and nobody likes when a team they have some affiliation with – by choice, or by birth, loses.
But it’s a game. A sport. A contest between 17 guys who have been chosen not as representatives of a state and all that it stands for, but as 17 guys who the selectors hope will beat the other 17 guys and provide a modicum of entertainment for the masses. To invest a game of football with inane tribal parochialism is to explain why the intellectual set get dismissive of sport.
If, as Tim Keller suggests, idolatry is what happens when we take good things and make them ultimate things, then for about 6 weeks of the year, football becomes an idol for the vast majority of Queenslanders. Now it may be true that New South Welshman are just as guilty of this – I don’t know, I can’t really remember the last time New South Wales won a series, and I certainly can’t remember when New South Wales won the last series while I lived there. But I think our culture is shifting in Australia to the point where to be an “other” in Queensland, even amongst Christian circles, is an interesting and character revealing experience. It’s also an interesting, and completely non-scientific, exercise to look at what my NSW friends have been talking about on Facebook in the last 48 hours, and what my Queensland friends have been posting.
It’s possible that this is something that should be reflected on with more distance from the event, and the experience, so that accusations of “sour grapes” and hypocrisy are less likely… but from where I’m sitting, reluctantly in the trenches as a New South Wales supporter not really savouring the prospect of a seventh year of defeat, and the parochial vicarious gloating that comes with it, from residents of a state with an in-built siege mentality based on some sort of inferiority complex, a state where an unpopular Premier is lauded for getting up during a natural disaster and rousing the proletariat’s collective spirit with the tearful catch-cry “we are Queenslanders,” as though the post code one lives in is somehow a determinant of character… what’s going on isn’t really healthy (nor is the length of this incredibly complex sentence). Somehow we’ve allowed where we live, and where we’re from, to become an acceptable idol, a point of difference, something that is acceptably the butt of jokes, where to replace the punchline with other differences would probably be in breach of vilification laws around the country.
I’m not really setting out to be a killjoy, nor am I particularly offended by these examples of humour… it’s funny though, every time I say, on Facebook, or in person, that I don’t really care about the result – people call that into question. Sure. I watch the game. I like it better if we win. But I don’t lose sleep over it, and I’m certainly not going to run around producing a bunch of meme styled photos when, as it is historically inevitable, New South Wales eventually wins a series. I talk about it. I post the occasional Facebook status as part of the fun, and sometimes to bait Queenslanders into doing exactly what I’m accusing them of here – buying into cheap tribal parochialism, just so that I can turn the table on them and exert some sort of enlightened cultural superiority in a post on my blog.
Being from New South Wales means transcending the silliness of the short man syndrome that is identifying primarily by the state that you come from.
In conclusion, while I think I can say, without a shadow of hypocrisy, that I don’t care about the game at least in the way that Queenslanders do, I do care about the reaction to the result, and about the bizarre situation where suddenly it’s ok to make jokes about an other on the basis of the success of the people you affiliate yourself with. I am wondering what they say about the human condition, and about our culture more broadly.
That is all.