Monday, March 9, 2009

Catharine Lumby, Thugs doing Thuggee things, and a new season of Thugby League on the way

Poor old Catharine Lumby. There she is on the education and welfare committee of the National Rugby League, advising them on gender issues, and along comes the standard pre-season accusations of rape against star players.

Now we won't to into the specific incidents, which are under investigation. Who knows what who said to whom, and who did what to whom (or whether Who's on first and Watt's on second). We'll leave that to the hacks grubbing away for the Daily Terror.

Lumby also avoids the specific and adopts a grand generalist manner. It isn't just rugby league players, she cries, doing violence against women and children. It's merchant bankers, doctors, teachers and priests. Not just the gladiators, who in any case can't be put behind locked and barred bedrooms after the game. It's too easy to put all the blame on football (come to think of it she's been writing a story filled with this kind of tosh at the start of most recent seasons, and for the usual reasons. First there's a scandal, and then she trots out into the media to hose it down).

I guess what she's saying on a nice academic level is all true enough - there's a fair argument priests are inherently much more violent than rugby league players, and certainly more perverted, what with all their talk of hell fire and damnation and blood-splattered crucifixions and the cannibalistic eating of flesh and blood. 

I also have no doubt that rugby league is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to prevent regular pre-season and seasonal sex scandals. But here's the rub - rugby league is a game played by elite thugs in a thuggish way for the pleasure of those who love to see thuggee skills out on the paddock.

Sure, we've come a long way from the actual original gladiators, though it's still a thrill to stand in the Roman Colosseum and imagine lions eating Christians and Russell Crowe slaying anyone who dares to challenge his method acting skills (I know, I know, despite the carry on and fussing by the papists about martyrs, there's no irrefutable evidence of Christians being deliberately targeted in this way in the Roman colosseum, but just imagine ...)

Rugby league is an intrinsically violent game of 'hits' and tackles and raw physical aggression, with the fittest and toughest usually walking away with a win. You might be the prettiest, the fastest and the most skilled, but if you're flat on your back with a bout of concussion, you ain't going to score a try. 

I always fondly remember my uncle, a front row forward, showing the touring English team he was pretty tough by dumping a few of them - up until a rival forward punched him in the balls in a scrum. He was strangely subdued in the second half.

Sure there are skills on display, and astonishing athleticism (just look at Billy Slater). But rugby league started as a working class game for toughs wanting to earn a bob in a way they couldn't in rugby union (and how that's changed). That's why it's replaced boxing as a career option for blacks and islanders and others who can use sport to overcome crippling societal structures and prejudices.

That's also why mommas' boys don't play the game, why soccer is so popular as an alternative sport for youngsters, and why rival football codes command more attention around the world. Heck, why would you go to a game of rugby league when you can join in an English soccer supporter riot in Amsterdam?

So here's the problem Catharine and it ain't going to go away. Recipe: take young men with plenty of money, abundant testosterone, fierce competitive intensity on the field, boredom and training off it, mix with plenty of clueless, airhead young women hanging around wanting to be one of the chosen ones married to a demi-god, spice with a covert culture of booze and drugs, and stir well with a salacious, slobbering tabloid media anxious to sell fish and chip wrappings. Wrap it all up for a great 'party down dudes' dessert, and in a flash we're all at several famous Sydney pub watering holes where glassing is the preferred form of love-making. What on earth do you expect Catharine? (Remember Watt's on second, Who's on first).

I've decided if I'm going to watch any football this season, it will have to be the English super league. The commentators' voices are just so peachy, rough hewn northern and midlands English, and the pallid lads, doing the biff, and doing the hard yards taking the ball up the middle, are strangely attractive in their pale, ethereal Wuthering Heights way. Somehow they don't seem as fit or as steroidal as the Aussie lads. They might just want to sip on a stout Newcastle brown ale while we do a Wordsworth poetry reading together.

Anyhoo, if I'm not watching the English lads, then this season I'm going to do lots of study of public ethics, and Socrates, as approved by Clive Hamilton (and aren't the Sydney Symphony turning into a really classy band - their performance of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony was stunning. When they went into a gallop into the second movement, it was fierce. The performance of the Dvorak violin concerto with Janine Jansen was also right up there. She had so much attack and energy and such sweet tone on her Stradivari I almost fainted from the assault. Thank the lord Ashkenazy has landed here and can bring a fierce Russian sensibility to actual twentieth century music. When in Sydney get a rush hour ticket and check them out, or look out for it on ABC FM. Commercial ends now).

Let's face it. Some of these rugger boys are just dumb. I once studied maths in a class with a guy who went on to become a forward for South Sydney. About all he could work out as that a piece of two by four would produce eight lumps on an opponent.

So good luck Catharine telling us it's got nothing to do with the football code, at least on a statistical level. 

Here's to a new season of violence on and off the field. When I'm not doing macrame 101 with Clive, I'll be reading the salacious newspaper reports generated by the off field cavortings of bears with too much muscle, too much money, too much time, and too few brains ... And nothing wrong with that, unless you happen to be an academic desperate to convince the world that it's all too easy to put the blame on football and footballers. 

Of course not Catharine ... I blame clueless, dumb blonde women with their hatred of brunettes, as if life was some kind of Betty v. Veronica competition. Hang around with thuggees and you get up with fleas. Old Phantom saying, and he knew a thing or two about the jungle ...

Oops, that's just so politically incorrect Dorothy! Wash out your mouth with Paul Sheehan approved 'magic water' at once ...

(Below: Betty mistakes Archie for an A plus Rugby League student)

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