It’s easy to get sucked in by non-issues these days and Lord knows we get plenty of opportunities thrown at us in the so called ‘information age’.
From Knighthoods, to athletes on the drink in their spare time, nobodies with fat arses and a sex tape who’ve conned the shallow end of the gene pool into giving a shit about them, bullies and vacuous blondes behind microphones in a Sydney radio studio or some d-grade ‘journalist’ telling a mother whose son was allegedly beaten to death at cricket training by his estranged father what’s what when it comes to domestic violence on national morning television. Take your pick. We have a menu that sure to please the fussiest of you out there.
If the post-War years gave us Baby Boomers and kids born in the 70s were generation X, surely we’re living in ‘generation outrage’ and age is no barrier to disproportionate knee-jerk reactions and ogre-hunts.
Television and radio producers, website (greetings Ned, John), magazine and newspaper editors all know which buttons to push to extract page views, sell a few extra papers, get the phones ringing or snag a few extra ratings points. So much so that the last decade has given rise to the development of a position that makes arms dealers look like not-for-profit workers by comparison; the ‘Social Commentator’. Make no mistake, dear reader, that come the revolution, the Social Commentator will be amongst the first up against the wall.
This week’s cause celebre amongst the flat-earth society commentariat was the AFL’s push to remove scoring from Under-10 football games. Predictably, the Social Commentator’s erogenous zones have been prodded and hey-presto, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”
By denying nine and ten year old children the opportunity to win an organised sporting fixture before they’ve lost interest in Passed-Out-Drunk-At-3am-On-King-St Barbie or Mujahedeen-Waterboarding G.I Joe with the Budweiser Grip, the social commentator is adamant that we are not only adding another layer of bubble wrap to their already over-protected existences, we are denying them the opportunity to experience the highs and lows that come with winning and losing.
Further, argues the Social Commentator, prolonging young Hamish or Pippa’s sub-conscious conditioning to any kind of physical activity (and life in general) existing purely for zero-sum competition, sparks in them an unexplainable desire to torture small animals and paint everything red. And if television has taught us anything, it’s that not everyone out there can be adopted by a kindly and well-intentioned uniformed police officer with a strong grasp of forensic science who can guide poppet in the finer points of undetected serial murders. This, the Social Commentator assures the reader/viewer/listener, is the absolute and unequivocal future assured us, because we denied 10-year-old kids a scoreboard on game day.
Give me a fu—king spell.
I played competitive, organised footy from the age of eight until I was seventeen. I can reel of plenty of examples where we’d whup opposing sides 30 goals to 2 and kids I played alongside cracking the Eartha Kitts because they didn’t get to kick a goal, or even get a touch as they were parked in a back pocket. Lo and behold, opening the Werribee Banner on Wednesday afternoon, we’d see ‘HOPPERS CROSSING U10A BEST: A good team effort.’ No flashbulbs or fanfare for the guys who had a field day in front of goal or had the pill on a string. Just the coach and team manager (volunteers) recognising that everyone put in, in some way or another. Now that I think about it, using the Social Commentator’s logic, elite performance wasn’t being recognised, the lessons leant from beating up on kids half our size wasn’t given due credit, so clearly that’s why some guys I played alongside ended up doing gaol time, or becoming panel beaters, I’m not sure (and make no mistake; I got given plenty of hammerings on the way out when I started playing open age footy. What goes around certainly comes around. Some blokes have older brothers with long memories!).
I cherish the lessons of mateship and camaraderie garnered from playing competitive junior and senior footy, but I learned about losing and winning in equal measure off the sporting field as much as whatever I learnt about these abstract concepts on it. For mine, the pages of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ taught me far more about winning and losing in life than missing the under 10 finals because Matty Drew dropped an easy mark in the goal square in the dying stages and we lost by a point.
It’s not like the AFL’s proposal is to hand kids a medal for showing up until they get their drivers licence. We’re talking about nine and ten year old kids. Alexander and Stephanie can learn all about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat a year later when they turn 11. There’s plenty of time for kids to harden-the-fuck-up when they get to secondary school and mix it with the 15 and 16 year olds, or when they open a Facebook account, or when maybe one of their friends contracts leukaemia and you, the parent, is left to explain why Sophie can’t come around to play anymore. Or why Sophie’s Mum and Dad are crying so much in the church. That’s loss. Not some numbers on a scoreboard on a Saturday morning.
Childhood is not a football department end-of-season review or a monthly sales performance de-brief. Can’t we just let kids be kids? If we’re more worried about what ‘learnings’ a 10-year-old-kid is taking out of a Saturday morning kick with his or her mates than the fact they’re not sitting on their arses in front of a Playstation, or the computer then surely society is already fucked and throwing scoreboards away at under-10s footy games should be the least of our concerns.
And there you have it. In the blink of an eye, a thousand odd-words kicking social commentators. Getting sucked in is so easy.