The saggy green: scrutiny in sport

Words by Steffanie Tan
Art by Rochelle Oh

I’d write that you would have to be on the other side of the world not to hear about the Australian cricket scandal, but I’d be wrong.

The news first broke in South Africa and like wildfire, consumed dozens of headlines until it reached our shores – then we heard nothing else for a fortnight.

Even if you couldn’t give a single shit about the sport you’d still know three players had enormously fucked up.
Ball-tampering.
Cheating.

Two of the three players responsible held leadership positions. One was a relatively new player to don the baggy green. All were suspended within a week. To say the least, our cricket reputation took a beating internationally. England, India, and South Africa all had something to say about Australians blatantly caught cheating, but it was our local media that was, by far, the most cruel.

For a fortnight you couldn’t escape the headlines. Cricket was attracting the most media attention it’d ever had in the years I’d been a fan. And the fans, most were upset, all were disgusted. Everyone had something to say, even our Prime Minister, because that’s the way our country works.

Sport is a fundamental aspect of this country and it’s most definitely a part of our national identity. Rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming, no matter what it is you’ll see the sea of green and gold in the stands.

I haven’t even mentioned AFL yet, and won’t for the sake of my word count. We live and breathe sport, we always have. Switch your minds back to grade one when you coloured in a map of Australia and scribbled around it – a football, a kangaroo, you and your mates playing four square, a cricket bat.

I, for one, don’t remember drawing a tiny John Howard.

So, when our international sport stars cop more criticism, hatred, and punishment than a politician caught plunging a knife into the back of another, I’m not surprised. Not even a little.

After all, how often are we exposed to twelve minute montages of a politician’s childhood in an ad break? Their small town Aussie dreams in slo-mo and every damn sacrifice and step they took just to represent their country.
Not to say our politicians don’t work hard. They do, and some are even lovable, but I can see why there aren’t more slo-mos of a suit behind a desk wondering what constitutes “sick enough” to be transferred from Nauru.

Oh, but we don’t like talking about that or anything we can’t proudly scribble around our Australian map.

So how dare Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft drag our name through the mud? How dare they blatantly cheat and ruin our good reputation – our sporting reputation, our country’s reputation?

You never have to choose a side in international sport; we’re all in one team. No one’s talking about Liberal or Labor here – no one’s talking about refugees. Nothing requires deep thinking or feeling. The only things that matter are the eleven players in the baggy greens, doing us proud win or lose. That’s what gets them on our cereal boxes, posters, ads, KFC buckets, their names printed onto collectable bottle caps.

So what happens when a cricket player is caught cheating and in collusion? He gets stripped of his captaincy, suspended for 12-months, and labelled an international disgrace. And what happens to a pollie openly caught in collusion in an attempt to cheat his way to the top? He gets sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia.

That’s why we scrutinise our sport stars more than our pollies – cheating is not a part of the fucking job description.

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