One of the greatest things Australian sport has ever given the world was to convince everyone of its complete supremacy. That's not to say that Australians are not good at sport. Far from it. Its just that we're not actually as good at it as you might think.
The illusion of superiority is so complete that nobody really thinks to question it. Everyone's just believed the press.
This is something that has been occurring to me for some time now. Throughout my childhood, I was led to believe that Australia is completely supreme in all things sport. And of the sports we don't play, we'd naturally be the best if we could just be bothered playing it (Handball, I'm looking at you).
So, naturally, when I turned 16 and found myself student exchanged to a French department in the Indian ocean, I discovered a horrifying truth that shook the foundations of my very identity. As it turned out, Australians weren't as good as I'd thought. Shock. I'd turned up on the eve of the Atlanta Olympics, armed with a plethora of information to educate my host family on the wonders of Australian culture... which revolved, in my teenage mind, around sport. The myriad of stars that were about to win gold, gold, gold for the green and gold. I primped. I preened, I watched the French telecast, waiting for the medals to start raining. They never did.
In the end, I never saw one shred of green and gold on that French television screen, and learnt a valuable (and slightly embarrassing) lesson about the potency of patriotic media hype in Australia (or any country, for that matter). In that year Australia ended up seventh on the medal tally. Not a bad feat in itself, but for the amount of pre-emptive media crowing that went on prior to my departure, my 16-year-old self had to be forgiven for believing the team would be able to run to the moon and be back in time to finish that 1500m swim, marathon and dressage events without breaking a sweat.
All of this segways nicely into another sport currently on the agenda in both England and Australia. Cricket. And as I write this, countless Australian news outlets, and a large chunk of the general public ar carrying on like veritable pork chops about the resurgence of the Australian team. Perhaps none more so than the local television commentary team during Australia's recent test series against India. Such was the unending discussion around Australia's obvious world dominance in the sport, I felt compelled to mute the television and switch on the more reasonable (and funny) national radio broadcast. Because, after the harsh lessons of a teenager, I'll never fall for believing one's own press again. Yes, they were indeed talking about the same team who were whitewashed by England in the last ashes series. The very same team who were upended by South Africa and rolled by New Zealand in 2011. The very same team who were destroyed on both occasions by a baying media hungry for revenge on a team that they saw as a leaderless, posturing, posing, and simply quite lost.
How the mighty hordes forget so quickly. Don't be fooled by it all. We know a large part of sport is about who you can convince of your supremacy. Damn fool is the one who believes his own press, or the press of his opposition. Yes, the signs are better, and some change has occurred. A new captain, and several firing young guns, but some problems remain; several players who probably should never have been picked, and some whose solid recent performances do little but paper over the inevitable moving on, depending on your point of view. The trampling of India arguably had more to do with an over baked and over distracted Indian side than with a sudden and dramatic improvement in the Australian team. Nor, for the same matter, should England be so disheartened by their drubbing at the hands of Pakistan. Both results were situational, a captured moment in time that, given the chance again may not have played out quite the same; and both England and Australia would be wise to avoid embellished extrapolations on what both results mean for the health of the sport in their respective countries.
Don't believe the hyperbole, and its going to make for one cracker of an Ashes series next summer.Suggest a correction