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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Spectatorism: savouring the smell and taste of the view

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spectators IMG_8927-wp

 Sport is often what the spectators make of it – if they are on your side, the morale boost can mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Story & photo Eve Jeffery

When I was a kid in Victoria (the land of real ‘foody’), the St Kilda club had their home ground in Moorabbin, just a stone’s throw from my house. Actually it was a bit more than a stone’s throw, more like an hour or more hike, but when I was 14 that was too easy. An hour each way meant time to gossip with my besty Michelle about only important subject known to teenager-hood: Boys.

On sunny autumn days a bunch of us would walk from my place in Cheltenham to the oval, and even though I wasn’t a Saints supporter (Go Pies!), it was the fun of being at the game and not necessarily the outcome of the match that was important.

This was back in the days when the only sport on the telly was Wimbledon and a roundup at the end of the news. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw my first Grand Final, front-row seats, and I didn’t have to pay a cent for a ticket thanks to the wonders of modern technology, but there was something missing.

The thing about actually being at the foody was the atmosphere of the paddock. Too many people all squashed together to get the best view, the smell, the mud and the grass, the liniment if you happened to get a spot on the boundary line, the greasy junk food, spilled VB, instant coffee and some soup if you sat near some-one who had brought a thermos.

The sounds of the game were part of the rush; the cheering, the booing, the vilification of referees, ‘the ump’s a poof’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and the hype and hoopla all went in to making the experience of being a spectator a well-rounded pastime. Being a spectator was more about participating than just watching.

These days we are more square than your average flower child would have ever imagined. We spend a huge percentage of our lives looking at squares screens. The telly, computers, mobile phones, iPods, Nintendo, Sega, X-box and the microwave.

Pay-for-view TV has whole channels dedicated to sport viewer-ism. There is actually no need to ever leave your house again to watch any sport that you could possibly imagine.

I admit that not everyone is going to get the chance to go to the Olympics, and especially as I now won’t be competing in the over-40s triple jump, I know I certainly won’t be travelling to Rio in 2016.

Events like Wimbledon and the World Series soccer are the realm of elite spectatorism and the reality is that there are unfortunately only small percentage of humans who can afford the gate fee.

Putting aside gold-passed and sponsor-boxed sport spectatorship, there is a plethora of activities going almost everyday, and certainly every weekend day in this sports-mad country for the viewer to not have to travel too far to get in on some live action, and often you can find yourself watching top-grade stuff.

Most winter weekends you’ll find some form of rugby being played in the Ballina, Byron, Lismore or Tweed shires; the Giants even have night games for the vampires and owls. We have soccer, tennis, cricket, surfing, netball, even pool and darts for those who like their with an accompanying tap of flowing ale.

Many of these activities are available for a nominal gate charge and some are absolutely free.

And at the end of the day, sportshumans are like actors: they perform well with an audience and a rev-up from the crowd is likely to produce a little drama as well.

Where would John McEnroe be without a bunch of people cheering and booing him on. I can’t imagine his confrontational on-court behaviour or the birth of his catchphrase ‘You can not be serious!’ ever coming to pass if there hadn’t been a bunch of folk watching from the sidelines.

 


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