Month: August 2014

Dead Poets Society meets Team Australia under captain Abbott

Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott is uncommonly fond of sport metaphors, not least when addressing the domestic terror threat. His latest championing of “Team Australia” in trying to sell his government’s proposed national security reforms symbolically turns Australia into a giant dressing room and stadium.

Presiding over the nation as team captain, Abbott assumes the mantle of unassailable Bradmanesque hero rather than a Shakespearean “scurvy politician”.

Abbott recently told the South Australian Liberal Party’s annual general meeting about a Muslim community leader who:

… said to me on Tuesday in Melbourne, in a booming voice full of exuberance, he said: ‘You know we are all part of team Australia’ – and he looked at me and smiled – ‘and you are our captain.’ I have never been more proud and I have never been more exhilarated than to hear that statement.

Captured smilingly receiving applause in the television lights, Abbott resembles nobody more than (the recently deceased) Robin Williams playing school teacher John Keating in the famous “O Captain! My Captain!” scene from the 1989 film Dead Poets Society.

Beloved by Abbott’s ideological fellow traveller Alan Jones – a former teacher and sports coach and now prominent radio broadcaster – Dead Poets Society’s stirring tale of a maverick teacher in an elite private all-male school chimes well both with their biographies and mutual idealisation of the beloved “captain”.

It is a view of the world shared by another prominent conservative, former prime minister John Howard, who once ruefully observed to another right-wing radio man, the late Stan Zemanek, that the most important job in the country was really that of Australian men’s cricket captain.

Not all teams are of a sporting nature. But there is little doubt that Abbott the pugilist, rugby player and ironman has sport in mind when he describes Australia as a team.


World Cup: round ball, square eyes and hungering to excess

 By David Rowe

Reblogged from The Conversation


Television audiences may be fragmenting, but sport happens in the moment and demands instant – and lucrative – congregation. EPA/Fernando Bizerra Jr


Just before a critical World Cup game against Spain in Rio de Janeiro, scores of ticketless Chile fans broke into the expensively rebuilt Maracana Stadium at its least secure point – the media centre.

Surprised sports journalists got a close-up view of the frustrated invaders crashing through the glass doors and flimsy walls of their workspace, but quickly generated pictures and stories of this literally “breaking news” to the outside world.

This incident dramatically contrasts the scarce opportunity of attending the World Cup with the virtual impossibility of avoiding it via the media. About 75,000 people can fit into the Maracana, but FIFA, association football’s world governing authority, estimates that the 2014 World Cup will exceed the 3.2 billion audience reach of the preceding 2010 tournament in South Africa.

In other words, most of us who like football are symbolically compelled to be big-match gatecrashers through the media centre.

The media dominate mega sport events because of the obvious mismatch between stadium access and interest in what happens there. Scale and popularity make them prime-time news in their own right, much to the chagrin of those who couldn’t tell Lionel Messi from a boutique label of Argentinean malbec.

Sport permeates and sustains all media, but it was television that brought it vibrantly live into the lounge room and ensured massive – if incidental – attention to advertising and branding. For this reason, television corporations have been prepared to invest huge sums to secure broadcast rights – US$1.7 billionfor Brazil 2014 alone.

Broadcast television is under obvious threat from new media technologies, and it is live sport that has helped keep it alive. Television audiences may be fragmenting, but sport happens in the moment and so demands instant – and lucrative – congregation.

However, singular dependency on a “box in the corner” is long past. Brazil 2014, like the London 2012 Olympics before it, is a multi-screen experience enabled by the transition from analogue to digital media. This has been described as “the first truly digital World Cup” (by app performance company AppDynamics), but it is more convincingly the latest advance in networked media sport, which here draws football, fans, communication and commerce into an ever-more-intimate embrace.


A Scottish spectacle of sport and politics: the view from Australia

 By David Rowe

Reblogged from The Conversation
The 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrates the old British Empire, yet the host country is considering independence. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images


Sport mega events such as the Commonwealth Games are routinely described as global spectacles, but they always focus intensively on one part of the globe for a short period.

For the hosts, this is the essence of their appeal and justification for all the expense, trouble and risk: the “whole world is watching”, the value of the publicity is priceless, and it is hoped that all that media interest can be translated into long-term tourism profile and return on investment.

Scotland is the latest country to take the mega event bait – in this case snagging a big sports party out of the remnants of an Empire that somehow reinvented itself as a Family.

Sport has played no small role in the symbolic survival of a time when red blotched much of the world map, overshadowing even Hollywood as a cultural force spreading out from the West.


Kitsch and Kylie – but one surprise at the Glasgow closing ceremony

By David Rowe

An Aussie handover wouldn’t be complete without ‘our Kylie’. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

I hope you didn’t sleep through or otherwise avoid the closing ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, especially its Gold Coast 2018 handover component.

If so, you surely missed a production marking “a pivotal time in the psyche of the people of Australia”, according to Nigel Chamier, chairman of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC).

But as the Gold Coast grabbed its moment in Glasgow’s Hampden Park Stadium floodlights – and Australian steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze pulled off a cheeky stage bomb – Scotland had one final shot at representing itself to the world.

The opening ceremony had offered a large diet of potted Scotlandia, including a giant kilt, the Loch Ness Monster, Rod Stewart, tea cakes, shipbuilding, bagpipes, Susan Boyle, acres of tartan, a hyper-inflated haggis and Scottie dogs. It also embraced UNICEF and same-sex relationships.

How, then, to follow a show that had received reviews ranging from “a hideous embarrassment” to “a spectacular success” in rival Scottish newspapers?