We have an obsession with sports.
For the most part, it’s pretty harmless.
We read and write about athletes more than we do politicians, doctors or scientists, scrutinise every social media post and plaster them across billboards and commercials.
Australian rules, at least in our southern states, is the predominant object of our preoccupation.
If you attempted to engage the average punter in a conversation about federal politics, it would likely be met with derision and a few profanities about not caring.
Ask those same people about the ongoing – I know, still ongoing – Essendon supplements saga and you’ll be in for a thesis on the topic.
State opposition leader Dan Andrews can ludicrously propose making the day before the AFL Grand Final a public holiday and it is laughably supported by some.
I get it, opium of the people and all that.
But, somewhere along the way, we began worshipping sport, and in this instance, Australian rules.
If Australian rules is God, the AFL is its Vatican.
Weekly pilgrimages are made across vast distances, with devotees desperate to kneel at the proverbial altar in their religious garb and give thanks to their almighty.
Instead of being viewed as a part of society, the AFL is held above the very people who give it such prominence and power, idolised like some fucking Egyptian cat.
We saw the danger of such lofty status rear its problematic head again this week, in the form of contemptible behaviour from some disciples at the game’s Sistine Chapel.
During Saturday’s Grand Final, Sydney star Adam Goodes was reportedly racially abused by segments of the crowd.
Goodes, who was honoured as Australian of the Year largely thanks to the much needed work he has done to combat and confront racism, found himself on the receiving end of deplorable, archaic abuse from faceless figures within a crowd of nearly 100,000.
The Age’s Caroline Wilson, herself no stranger to the prejudices that permeate through football crowds, reported on and rightly lamented the hideous behaviour.
It goes without saying at this point that racism exists in the AFL.
There are racists in its crowds and in its cheer squads. There’s probably even a few pulling on a jumper and basking in the cult-like adulation offered up from the congregations on the other side of those metre-high fences.
But, racism exists everywhere, in every facet of society. It is not an AFL exclusive brand of prejudice. Which is not designed to absolve the AFL of any responsibility in this matter.
If the country’s premier sporting code had simply washed its hands of the matter that would be a problem for the league. But it hasn’t.
The AFL, which this writer is not in the habit of sticking up for, has been at the forefront of attempting to change its culture in many ways, and responded vigorously last year after an ugly incident involving a young supporter abusing the aforementioned Goodes.
Multiculturalism is embraced and promoted by the league – even to a cringe-worthy attempt with its “footify” campaign. Players across all clubs united to put their voice behind commercials that air at stadiums across the country before the ball is bounced.
No sporting code in Australia has led this much-needed charge to the extent the AFL has.
Yet, so highly have we collectively positioned the AFL in society, we expect it to be more than it is – we forget that the AFL is representative of society, the proverbial mirror on the wall which reflects back to us our most redeeming qualities and most shameful flaws.
The AFL cannot eradicate racism. Demanding any more than that is akin to asking for a miracle.
But that’s the problem with being revered as a god - occasionally followers will expect you to walk on water.
*Some other thing that went in a newspaper. Final bit of delayed blog publishing. Excuse the expired time-stamps.
As a kid, I scared easy.
Sideshow Bob-centric episodes of The Simpsons resulted in many sleepless nights, as my youthful imagination had me convinced the spiky-haired comic criminal was lurking under the bed, car, behind the door – or wherever else I could picture.
And, don’t even get me started on the dark. In one particularly memorable moment of terror, I screamed at the top of my lungs for my Dad, convinced I had seen a face on the wall, shrouded by darkness.
But, more terrifying than the shadowy creatures skulking just out of sight was the act of being afraid.
I hated being afraid and was embarrassed by it, largely because it was so out of the ordinary.
So not normal.
This is why our societal rush to be scared seems so stupid to me.
Our penchant for being afraid was on display last week.
First, there was the reported case of a man on the Gold Coast being admitted to hospital with Ebola.
Didn’t we collectively lose our shit over that.
Long before an actual diagnosis could be confirmed, news that the deadly virus had hit our shores spread like a pandemic.
What were we going to do?
Could it be contained?
Could it be treated?
How long did we have until people started dropping dead in the street?
However, those hours of hysteria were rendered useless when it turned out the 27-year-old would-be patient zero was “not particularly sick”.
Not particularly sick? What, did he just have a bad cough – a fever after a Sunday session that ran a little too long?
The second example of our rush to panic came when our Terror Alert Level was raised.
The threat to Australia is officially “high” – meaning an attack is considered likely.
Despite the fact that no specific plot had been identified, officials evoked the memory of the Bali bombing and September 11 to drive the point home.
It makes perfect sense to be on alert for a potential terrorist attack on Australian shores.
Alert, yes. Afraid, no.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott went to great lengths to stress “normal life” had to go on, after he announced the spike.
Somewhere along the way, fear has become the new normal.
It doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.