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I think anyone who is drinking and getting...
I think anyone who is drinking and getting drunk underage should be arrested
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Fault lines appear to topple the pedestal
Team games as we know them were basically invented by the middle class midway through the 19th century and the process that made them could now unmake them.
The book that best reflects their rise to eminence, Tom Brown's Schooldays, begins with a description of the old village games that preceded the Industrial Revolution, which not only destroyed a lot of villages but drove their inhabitants into the new industrial cities, making them pits of disease and crime.
They say all revolutions begin in the middle class and, by comparison to Eton and Harrow, Rugby (where Tom Brown's Schooldays is set) was a middleclass school. Its headmaster, Dr Thomas Arnold, earnestly applied himself to creating new leaders for the new age that had dawned.
The idea formed of the muscular Christian. Of opposite character to the reclusive monk, the muscular Christian was the young man who could walk with firm tread and steady eye through the uncertainties of the emerging world.
The idea dovetailed neatly, if not logically, with the need for young men at such schools to train for war. The football jerseys of the Rugby school in the 1850s took their symbols from the insignia of the various European powers.
Rugby was a war game. "A German distinguishes himself in the study," a Rugby headmaster of the period remarked. Grace. Grace was the sporting figure who gave the book's imagining an immense physical presence he was
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as English as an oak tree.
In the 150 years since, team games have evolved as subcultures, which have become intertwined along the way with potent national mythologies such as Anzac Day. The crisis for these subcultures now is that they are finding themselves at odds with the mainstream cultures in which they once stood so confidently.
Australian football needs every supporter, regardless of race or gender, to survive.
Cricketers, for example, have been slow to grasp that coloured people no longer accept being spoken to as they were 100 years ago, when it was thought to be a white man's world. In Australian football, the race issue was even more intimate, since racism towards Aboriginal players made the game a vehicle for the larger national drama.
That was us at our best, really. After a largely uninformed discussion had lurched along for a couple of years, Michael Long won the day with quiet dignity and the strength of his resolve. The more ignorant voices were shamed into submission and the game became a source of national pride, particularly in the John Howard era, when such issues were otherwise ignored and a sham unity erected in their place.
The rising wave of sexual scandal has the potential to alter the place of male team sports within this culture in a way previously unimaginable. The AFL's response to this week's rape allegations involving St Kilda players has been radically different to that of the Canterbury Bulldogs, who made it appear they resented being asked about a gang rape allegation against a group of their players.
But the fact that the cultures of rugby league and Australian football differ in many ways might soon not matter at least as far as the public mind is concerned, where the battle for the future of these games is ultimately fought. There are two issues here: reality and perception.
In 1993, I spent a year with the Footscray Bulldogs. The culture was frankly heterosexual, but I did not see any of the behaviour now being discussed. True, I did not go looking for it, but I was a lot closer than many of the people now passing opinions on the subject.
Since that time, both games, particularly rugby league, have changed. Rugby league was withering back to its old working class roots when its players were suddenly dazzled with previously unimagined sums of money during Rupert Murdoch's attempted takeover of the NRL.
The players' new income levels meant a game that already had a ghetto aspect to its culture became doubly so. Rugby league, even more than Australian football, is becoming a television game.
Australian footballers did not get as rich as quickly and our game involves a wider crosssection of people, but our leading players still encountered the blight of celebrity and, as has been observed elsewhere, the nicknames of the two who fell most spectacularly from grace, Gary Ablett and Wayne Carey, were God and the King.
Australian football needs every supporter, regardless of race or gender, to survive, and the reality is that half our crowds are female. We have women on AFL boards. In Sydney, the Swans' following is said to be predominantly female.
There is no questioning the place of women in the game and football culture can expect to change accordingly.
On Thursday night, when The Footy Show addressed the subject with unaccustomed gravity, Eddie McGuire asked if, given the number of reality TV shows that revolve around sexual duplicity, the fault was with society or football. It's a fair question, but what happens from here might not have much to do with fairness.
Everyone thinks they know about sport. The fact that a lot of people are boring on the subject always suggests to me that they do not know as much as they think, but these same people make decisions about whether their kids play sport and which sports they watch on TV.
This, in turn, determines the standing of games within the culture. If there comes to be a widespread association in the popular mind between footballers and predatory sexual practices particularly of a group kind male team sports as we have known them in this country are in big trouble.
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