jewin' the fat

Playing Games
January 14, 2010, 3:56 PM
Filed under: Comment | Tags: , , , , ,

It is clear to any fan of a sporting code these days that sport can no longer separate itself from Politics.

It started in the 1930s, during Hitler’s Berlin Games and reared its ugly head again in the 1968, with the Australian 200m Silver medalist Peter Norman deliberately left off the 1972 Athletic squad for his complicity in the pro-African American human rights protest during the national anthems. 11 Israelis were murdered in the Olympic Village in Munich in 1972, the Indian cricket team withdrawal in protest over the British government’s support of the South African Apartheid government, which threatened the integrity of the 1988 Commonwealth Games, six Sierra Leone athletes, who disappeared from the 2006 Commonwealth Games were later granted asylum in Australia. As recently as last week, an Angolan separatist group carried out the deadly ambush on the Togolese national football team at the African Nations Cup, and has vowed to strike again.

And now? An Indian far-right Hindu group, Shiv Sena, have threatened the Australian Cricket team, should they attempt to play in certain parts of India, because of the government’s inability to curb violence against Indian students living in Australia.

What happened to the notion that sport was about skill and grace, that teams meeting on the grassy battlefield of football and rugby, parched dirt of tennis or rapids of the pool transcended border conflicts and community conflict? It seems politics and sport are unescapably intertwined, and have been for decades – often with violent and bloody consequences.

But for a country like Australia, whose people hold sport above everything else, including politics, and for whom sport is the natural expression of their national pride, it is a bitter pill to swallow that something as petty and insignificant in their eyes, should get in the way of a good Indian thumping. On the cricket pitch, of course.


Older and/or Wiser

First things first – Happy New Year y’all. Here’s hoping that resolutions were made and broken, champagne glasses emptied and dignity lost in the fun and fury. It’s 2010, and we are officially living in a sci-fi novel – Brave New World indeed.

Secondly, an apology – I have let life, love and living get in the way of blogging. Especially because, if you weren’t aware, I’ve been Mid-East side for the past month or so. And in among all the crazy, I have let slide this little venture. … Mostly because I didn’t want to spill Jameson on my lap top. And despite being in the thick of it, with a million and one things to write reams and reams about, to put it simply, I’m on holiday, and cbf. So Sorry.

But then again, it has been a fairly decent while in cyber-terms, so here’s my resolution. I will make a concerted effort to not be a lazy ass, and get back on the blogging-bandwagon. Starting now.

2009 was a memorable year. It taught us the value of money, once we lost it, and the stupidity of trusting financial institutions. It also taught us that hiding $1 million in a mattress can backfire. It began with a bang that shook Gaza, and is still shaking the world, and ended with a silence on Darfur that is deafening.

 2009 was brought to you by the colour Green, and Twitter became (and still is) the protest medium of choice for thousands of young Iranians. 2009 was the year Australian politics got (mildly) interesting – and the first year an Abbott and a Bishop ruled the Liberal Party. It was also the year that his Honour, the Honorable Honorary Jew himself, Malcolm Turnbull, found himself out on his ass (but still with that amazing BRW Richest 200 fortune to fall back on), Nathan Rees locked us out of parliament, and the year Kristina Keneally found the spare set of keys.

Melbourne trains got an overhaul, Brendan Fevola got pissed and lost his shit at the Brownlows, and Nate Myles got pissed and actually took a shit in a hotel corridor. The British Supreme Court ruling against the Jewish Free School told us how to be Jewish, and John Safran’s Race Relations showed us how to be crude – ish.

Settlements, Satire, Sexting and Sagging – we remember 2009. Another year older, but not necessarily wiser. Except for Ron Weiser. That guy is a champion.

The fine art of Fanaticism
July 13, 2009, 2:39 PM
Filed under: Comment, Identity, Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , ,

Sport is more an expression of culture in Australia, more tribal and clan-like, and the faith one has in a team, or sporting code, is more than the enjoyment of a spectator. It is the faith not unlike that which one might place in a deity or religious institution. In this big brown land, we dress up in special clothing, paint our faces and converge in our thousands to worship at the alter of ‘the game’, on fields of vast green, through those mighty conduits of the gods – ‘my team’. 

But I don’t think I realised just how much this really meant until I was invited along to the Sydney V. Essendon Aussie Rules (AFL) match on Saturday. 

Departing Sydney Swan's captain Barry Hall receives a standing ovation

Departing Sydney Swan's captain Barry Hall receives a standing ovation

Now, while I have always played, watched and loved sport, AFL barely registered a blip on my weekend gaming schedule. Sure, I know a few of the team names (mostly due to the variety of and assault(S)/drugs charges attributed to the players), but to me, the ‘players’ look like a ragtag assortment of boys whose mums wouldn’t let them play Rugby Union at school, for fear of injury.

It’s probably because they have no sense of direction (somehow running directly at goals is pushed aside, in favour of running at random in circles around the field, with no set trajectory at all), can’t catch, or throw (pick up the ball, run a bit,  drop it, pick up the ball, run a bit … until the whistle blows), there are no real rules that I could decipher, and for some reason, the winning team stays in the stadium long after the game is finished, singing their team-song in celebration.

But I value my life, so I decided to keep my opinions to myself for the duration of the game. At least until I was sure their team was going to win, and the potential for a violent rampage through the streets of Sydney was well out of the question.

But looking back on the experience, it suddenly dawned on me. Although the rules confounded and the supporters seemed content in their fanaticism, these Essendon supporters, happily jumping the fence to kick a footy around post-game struck me as all too familiar.

It’s just that instead of kicking a footy after a tough match, I was letter writing, debating, discussing, and instead of a weekly game at the Sydney Cricket Ground, my Zionism is a boundless, mobile sport, with home ground wherever I should choose to play.

It's my Ideology and I'll cry if I want to

It's my Ideology and I'll cry if I want to

As I watched this 20-something year old group of professional lawyers, nutritionists, accountants and football followers punching the air violently with their fists, leaping to their feet at the sight of  mark, heckling the weaker players, applauding or deriding the referees’ calls, laughing, crying, shouting, clapping, stomping – it appeared to be a passionate display of solidarity, a sense of brotherhood in arms, up against the mighty foe of the week. In this case, the Sydney Swans.

And looking around the stadium, it appeared the bug had caught on. Red white and black, faces painted in their war colours, carrying banners, hoisting their allegiances high in pom poms, balloons and accessories – it was a battle of the ages. It was an awesome sight, and I could feel the energy of the crowd, the euphoric mania of the supporters charging around the ground.

* * *

For those who do not understand the concept of Zionism, or the importance of Israel to the Jewish experience or Identity, it seems a messy, unnecessarily complicated affair. The rules are unclear, and the players appear uncoordinated, reactionary, and with little or no control over the game’s results. And the supporters?

Well, we probably look like my friends looked on Saturday. More than a little crazy, or at least enough to stick with their team, regardless of the outcome, or the opinions of their peers. Because it doesn’t matter if your team is at the bottom of the table, or who just got done for drug abuse, or whether your star player is about to retire. Because a sense of community and purpose cannot be bought, sold or traded. And because Zionism is a deeply personal commitment, to the rights and responsibilities of the Jewish nation to endevour to live in their traditional homeland in Israel, in peace and security.

And sure, we may not have flashy, brightly coloured uniforms, or a weekly ritual, but our connection to Israel and intention to protect and defend her is worn proudly, and we run out to face our opponents with grace, determination and strength.

Because it isn’t about the numbers on the scoreboard. It’s about showing up, and staying in the game – win or lose.