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I dislike winter.  It’s cold and the sunlit hours are few.  It is with a sad heart that I see the relative warmth of autumn fade into chill winter mornings.   It’s barely June before I start to count the days until Spring returns.  As with all dark clouds winter does have a silver lining, the Tour de France.

For those of you who know me you would know that I am perennially unfit, incredibly uncoordinated, avoid playing sports like the plague and haven’t touched my bike since early highschool.  How then did I come to fall in love with a cycling race that takes place halfway around the world?  The simple answer is my nocturnal habits.

It was June of 2007 and Uni had finished for the year so I had reverted to my nocturnal habits of sleeping until midday and staying awake until 2am.  At night I would sit downstairs with my laptop and watch tv. When it got past 10pm the quality of tv dropped dramatically and I found myself flicking through channels searching for something decent to watch.  I ended up on SBS lured by the amazing shots of the scenery and the calming tones of the British commentators.  Before this I had heard of the Tour de France, seen the news stories about it, but all I knew was that it was a cycling race in France.

For a day or two I just watched the race with half interest.  I vividly remember the moment that the race itself became interesting to me.  The peloton was descending down a long and winding mountain and the current race leader had fallen behind.  This left Australian Michael Rodgers in the virtual race lead.  That was until he crashed going round a tricky corner.  I went from a casual observer to closely following his struggle to keep on going to his eventual withdrawal due to a broken collarbone.  Despite his withdrawal I was captivated. Another Australian, Cadel Evans, was also doing really well and I began to watch the race in earnest.  Each night I would learn something new about strategy, skills and just plain trivia.

By the end of the race in 2007 I was hooked and time has only increased my passion for the sport.  On winter nights you will often find the TV in the house tuned to a major, and sometimes even minor, European cycling race.  If you’re foolish enough to ask me a question about cycling I can be very verbose on the subject (sometimes even when you don’t ask a question!)  So in July when you see me exhausted from lack of sleep because I was up til 2am watching the tour you’ll at least know how it came about.

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One of the joys of my current work is that once a week I work a night shift (or evening shift depending on your definition).   While there are some benefits (the sleep in is amazing) you do tend to get more ‘interesting’ characters at night.  The other evening a client was waiting at the desk.  As I approached and gave my traditional “Hi, can I help you” he greeted me with an airy “Hi Darling”.  Instantly his hair doubled it’s greasiness (it was already pretty greasy)  and my skin crawled.  My impression of him was not improved as he proceeded to cough and sneeze all over the form he needed to fill out.  After picking up the form by the corner and depositing it in the correct folder and wiping the pen down I wondered about my reaction.  I do not find the term ‘darling’ repulsive, quite the contrary I use it as a term of endearment to my friends nor was his tone skeezy, it was in fact rather offhand.  Nor was he particularly creepy looking, he was in his 20’s – 30’s and while not attractive he probably hasn’t broken any mirrors by looking into them.  What disturbed me was the use of a term of endearment to a total stranger in the context of a professional relationship.   The overstepping of this boundary from a professional one into a personal one is profoundly unsettling.  While I’m sure he had no intention to make me uncomfortable and it was not a sexual advance it did make me uncomfortable to the point that when I saw him a few days later I instinctively avoided making eye-contact with him as I passed.  The moral of the story, avoid terms of endearment to total strangers in a service environment.

During the Australia and India test match series there have been claims by the Indian players that Australian crowds (as well as the Australian players, but that’s another story) have been sledging the Indian players.  Indian player Kohli was fined after giving the middle finger to spectators who he claimed were making disparaging remarks about his sisters and mother.  In a later interview Kholi further expressed his displeasure of crowd heckling ”It is really, really frustrating at times because they say stuff which shouldn’t be said on a cricket field,” Kohli said.

”You go out there to play, not to get abused like that. They’ve come to enjoy the game of cricket. They should do that and not get drunk and abuse players, so it’s not fair on the players because if the players say anything they are fined and the crowd can just say anything and go home.” (quote from the SMH link below).  This type of behaviour is not limited to cricket or international matches or even players.  When I recently attended a KFC 20Twenty Big Bash match at one point a security guard on the outside of the field was kneeling.  One of the slightly drunk spectators proceeded to yell out a suggestion of what he could do in that position.  Another incident of spectator heckling I was present at was when I attended a Sydney FC soccer match a few years ago.  Attending the match with a group of people one player missed the ball near our seats and a few members proceeding to spend the rest of the game yelling insults at the player.  Even tennis, where spectators are required to be silent during points, is not immune.  During one match at the recent Australian open as the crowd was hushed ready for a point a spectator gave a rather loud wolf whistle.  A giggle passed through the crowd and silence fell again.   Another spectator then felt the need to let the first spectator know that they were a “wanker”.  During Victoria Azarenka’s match against Australian Casey Dellacqua the vocal tennis players shriek was mercilessly mocked by the crowd.


Is this type of irreverent behaviour just a (in my opinion often unattractive) part of Australian culture or is it just plain rude?  Australians have always been an irreverent bunch, and not afraid of taking aim at anyone, political figures, sporting heroes or even royalty but do we on occasion take the joke too far?  Personally the concept of heckling has never appealed to me, all professional sports people are light years ahead of me in ability and I respect the level of dedication it has taken them to achieve that level of performance, even if I don’t like them as a person. Is there an easy answer to this question? No of course not, but I’d be interested in your opinions.

Disclaimer

I am starting this blog for a venue to express my opinions on topics that interest/concern me and also to help improve my writing ability.  However I am notorious for not always keeping up with everything that I start so while I will attempt to be semi-regular with updating I make no guarantees.

Read on if you dare