Stop medalling

Wednesday 1 August 2012 3:11 AM

So, the Aussie commentariat is obsessing over medals? Well honestly, is anyone truly surprised? We have this same discussion through letters, talkback and (more recently) social media, over every Olympics, every Commonwealth Games, and any international sports meet where any Australian participants or teams are either dominant or rising. We endure the nauseating jingoism screamed into microphones, the endless loop of compatriots crossing the line (at the front, of course), the collective drool over the state of the national psyche (colloquially, the comparative medal tally), the worship of heroes and the angst over also-rans, and then the Freudian analysis of our failures. Then we go back to life, until the next chance at tribal glory, when we do it all again. 

Maybe one day, enough people will ask why. It’s too easy to scapegoat the popular media. Ultimately, in chasing ratings, they merely give us what they conclude we want. Governments, enslaved to 3-year electoral cycles and ubiquitous polls, do something similar. So in the end, its down to those on the lounge chair side of the screen. Do we want to be part of a nation that spends billions developing elite athletes, and pays them more than Prime Ministers? The tone of the commentary suggests we do. And unless the medal tally picks up, here’s to another fortnight of Pavlovian frenzy. 

But don’t despair, Australia. There’s always the next Commonwealth Games, where we'll be the big kids in the sandpit again. Because sport is life, isn’t it. Oh by the way, that last rumble from deep in the ground. Maybe it wasn’t a seismological event after all. I fancy it may have been Baron de Coubertin sighing.