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Byron Shire
July 19, 2024

A year of impossible dreams for sporting tragics

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Perhaps there is a little joker in every sports tragic.
Perhaps there is a little joker in every sports tragic.

John Campbell 

We were on the back nine at Mullumbimby. Me and my little mate Rapid Eye Movement. I was tossing up whether or not I could get away with telling him that I got a double bogey seven on a wicked par five, when in fact I’d hacked my way to a quadruple bogey nine.

Distracting iMoo from my blatant but beguiling dishonesty, I brought up the subject of cricket.

On our way to the links, both of us had been tuned to ABC Grandstand’s coverage from Adelaide of the Third Test against the South Africans. We were keen to talk about a possible Australian victory after the baggy greens had been flogged 3–0 in Sri Lanka during the winter before copping two humiliating canings from the Proteas in Perth and Hobart.

‘Hey iMoo, did you know that when the first three South African batsmen (D Elgar, H M Amla and J P Duminy) were dismissed for five today?

‘It was the first time in the history of test match cricket that that had happened’.

He’d heard it too, and put it in the vault where tragics like us store such glittering curiosities.

‘Amazing, huh?’ I said it as though it were the only news of the day worth taking any notice of.

‘And that stat about Charles Bannerman was pretty cool, too’.

‘Bannerman? The bloke who got a ton at the Oval in 1877 … ?’

I knew he’d be aware of who Bannerman was.

It’s the sort of trivia that separates the men from the boys when it comes to sport addiction.

For those of us who by nature belong in that higher echelon of ratbaggery, the swarthy, sweaty, sexy world of sport offered twenty-four carat gold in 2016.

It was an archivist’s wet dream, as droughts were broken and records set left, right and centre. I can’t remember anything like it, and believe me, I am THE bona fide tragic (along with iMoo).

In rugby league, the greatest game of all, the Cronulla Sharks finally got Jack Gibson’s Harold Holt joke off their back by winning a firstever premiership for their long-suffering fans.

Not that they didn’t end up staggering across the line, as the Melbourne Storm were hard on their heels when the full-time siren blew. My own grab in their history came when I was sitting in the M A Noble Stand at the SCG when Manly beat them 16–0 in the 1978 grandfinal replay.

South of the border, down Melbourne way, the Western Bulldogs won the AFL flag,  the first time since 1954.

They were known as Footscray back then, which was the same year that Queen Elizabeth and Phil the Greek put up for the night in Lismore’s Gollan Hotel and in Queensland the ghastly Pauline Hanson took her first whiney breaths.

On the other side of the world, in the Land of the Overfed and Armed to the Teeth, the Chicago Cubs came back from 1–3 down to beat the Cleveland Indians 4–3 and take out their first baseball World Series in 108 years.

Teddy Roosevelt was President and Henry Ford’s Model Ts were just beginning to roll off the assembly line.

Across the Atlantic, the Leicester City Foxes unaccountably found themselves at the top of the English Premier League half-way through the season, leading the pack in much the same way that the frontrunner of the Melbourne Cup turns into the straight at Flemington resigned to being swamped by the horses in thunderous pursuit.

But against all the odds, Leicester not only hung on but finished with a flourish to take the glittering prize. It was, by a country mile, the greatest underdog story.

That the Foxes have now every chance of being relegated so soon after their triumph is wonderfully weird.

And Bannerman? As it turns out, he opened the batting for Australia in the test match that started it all way back in nineteenth-century London. He scored an unbeaten 165, which, to this day, has not been bettered by any Australian on debut.

Does it matter? Of course it doesn’t, but to anoraks like me and iMoo, such ephemera have an effect similar to what Madeleine had on Proust.

It’s a bit like cinephiles knowing that the only two actors to be posthumously awarded Academy Awards were both Australian: Peter Finch and Heath Ledger, except that Peter Finch wasn’t born in Oz.

But neither was Charles Bannerman, for that matter. There’s no end to it!

‘Mate, are you sure that was just a double bogey that you got?’

‘Definitely, iMoo’.

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