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One contrary image

2 Oct


An AFL grand final replay does its thing and Collingwood pants St.Kilda and swans off to glorious sunset and bounty yada yada. Compared to the thunder and muscle of the final quarter of last week’s drawn match, it was something of a rattling, unsatisfying sigh of a game. Kind of like beating a puppy with a cushion.

You know the feeling.

And so the usual post match images of jubilant young men aloft, fat blokes with red faces in suits high fiving and the common as mud fans, faces contorted in a kind of vicarious bear snarl; well they roll on.

This is the contract your soul signs when you choose sport as your theatre. The imagery, the tale, will be of…

A- Glory

B- Defeat

and that’s that.

But in all the confetti and tears of this year’s GF, there was one image, only brief, perhaps two seconds, that stood out.

It was Luke Ball on the siren. As his team mates fell to knees and raised arms and sprinted to packs to do it all together at once, he, well, he just kinda looked around with slow….sad relief?…I’m not really sure… just it was full of pain and contradiction.

This was the GRAND final. Hadn’t he just won?

The history behind this moment? He left St.Kilda after they lost the Grand Final last year. He played for the team that beat them this year. Many of the fallen on the field were his close friends. Other than that, I am captive to the media coverage of the split, and that was typically myopic in nature. Words like loyalty and betrayal were bandied  by the usual suspects. Journalists painted with broad brushes, teasing the drama with all the deftness of , well, an AFL journo.

This game, for all its immensity, has never attracted the quality of  thought and journalism that sports like Cricket or Baseball do. There are no Roebucks, Hagues or Bhogles drawing the poetry of  forty-four fairly magnificent young men smashing against each other for two hours. What we get are stats and rankings and this happened thens and my dad could lick your dad so shut up and petty debates about  fitness that elevate men to the status of abattoir stock.

I’ve tried to find this footage again. This two seconds. It has yet to feature in any of the highlights packages. Perhaps it is too subtle for flying graphics and voice over exclamations. It certainly does not fit the narrative of glory and defeat. Thematic absolutism. The thing that sport delivers in lieu of war I guess.

But every now and again, an image slips through. Human, full and profoundly masculine. One that reminds me why I love sport and why I am inherently suspicious of those who dismiss it as a macro tale alone.

It’s the micro that counts. The glimpses in, where words like loyalty and betrayal become stupid words.

Words that do not sell headlines.

Words the poets would put aside.

Luke Ball.

I don’t have the words.