The Aussie stereotype….something that every proud Australian can recite on demand. It comes up in classroom discussions all the time and, as if on cue, kids from as young as five can list off those traits that we are all so proud of. Laid back, relaxed, easy going, good sportsmanship…...What? Sportsmanship? Really?
I’ll be completely honest and say that I am an outsider when it comes to sport. Heavily involved in the Arts but never played sport as a kid. Hubby does, my kids do and, as a family, we love to watch Wimbledon, the AFL or a Premier League football match as much as the next Aussie family. What I am struggling with at the moment….is how we can say that as a nation, good sportsmanship is one of our stereotypical traits.
Before you shoot me down, or yell abuse at me, or give me the finger…..I will let you know that I have already been told that I’m wrong. That, as an outsider, I ‘just don’t get it.’ At the end of most AFL matches, as the crowd is hurling abuse at the umpires as they leave through the tunnel, when I am sitting there in disbelief that people could be so UNsportsmanlike, I have been met with rolled eyes and then told that ‘it’s just part of the game.’
Well, you know what? If that’s just part of the game, then I really don’t understand how we can say that we are good sports. Yelling at the refs, the umpires, the officials, and usually not just yelling, actually hurling abuse at these men and women……
Hmmmmm, great sports. And it’s just part of the game.
It’s become just so much a part of the game, that our local soccer clubs are introducing the concept of ‘silent sideline weeks,’ where spectators have to be…..well, silent. They aren’t introducing this because of the fantastic sportsmanship being shown on the sidelines. These weeks are being introduced because of the ongoing verbal abuse that is being served up to the volunteer, and often under 18, referees, week after week.
Hmmmmm….great sportsmanship.And then there is our lovable local hero, Kyrgios. Calling his close supporters ‘retards,’ hurling abuse at the umpire during pretty much every game and then behaving like a sulky two year old during his press conferences afterwards. Only one guy, I know. But an international elite sportsman, who, like it or not, is (or should be) a role model for the next generation of sportsmen and women.
Am I saying that the stereotype is wrong? No.
Am I saying that all Aussies are bad sports? No.
Am I saying that Aussies shouldn’t be passionate about their sport? Their team? Their code? No.
What I am saying is this……
We are losing that stereotype. We keep claiming it as a national trait. That Aussies are known for their fairness, their willingness to give everyone a go and...their good sportsmanship. And yet, when you turn on the footy (no matter what the code), or go to your kid’s soccer match, or watch our young up and coming tennis stars, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.
What I am saying is this….
That if we are going to continue to claim this as part of the good old Aussie stereotype, then we actually need to live up to it.
We need to earn it.