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SPORT replacing fanatical religion is the subject matter of this poem.   Australians have an obsessive preoccupation with sport for many reasons.  We have a conducive climate, lots of space for sporting fields, ample leisure time, good economic  conditions including diet creating exemplary traditions for aspirations.  The intensive media coverage and regional loyalties induce a counterfeit excitement towards religious ritual fervor and fanaticism.  Sport replaces the blood sport of Gladiatorial Arenas.  The destructive effect of commercialism causes an erosion of club loyalties by higher salaries to young players who can not handle the big money or the early adulation of fans.  The emphasis on elite sports also erodes the participation in unorganised team sports for simple enjoyment.

Nick Hornby, in his multiple award-winning and best-selling book Fever Pitch makes a similar confession to a life obsessed by soccer - "nothing ever matters but football". One of the things Hornby makes clear is how non-consumerist his passion is. The natural state of the fan is "bitter disappointment" ; the typical crowd experience is "going spare with frustration and worry".

Bruce Dawe loves Australian Rules and so gently mocks and satirises its followers whose passion has taken over their lives.

 A true perspective is that however significant it may appear, Sport is merely a game, and although it taps similar drives, calls upon similar talents and strengths of character, it does not entangle with the ultimate authority - that of death. It is the high-trapeze artist who does her balancing over a safety net, and whose hands are not stained by blood-guilt.

There is a superficiality to sport. It does not enter the hallowed underworld of the great archetypes of war. The lives of civilians and especially children, the survival of the community, are not under threat. Supporters walk away miserable from a loss by their team, but essentially unscathed.

Tomorrow is another day; next week another game. Moreover, while football is a case in which the surrogate is preferable to the original, the civilised sublimation preferable to plunging too close to the barbarous depths, a game will never produce poems like The Iliad or Agamemnon.1

1 This is an edited extract from Ego & Soul, by John Carroll, professor of sociology at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Published by Scribe.

I. SOUND EFFECTS

Tone: rolling solemnity of a hymn of praise.

Celebratory yet light-hearted, almost irreverent, Mock- heroic? A mixture of solemnity with jocular parodies, a hint of affectionate satire.

II. THEMES

Sport has replaced Religion and now provides for:

a) continuity — passing on traditions, values, aspirations

- inculcation of legendary heroes, conditioning

b) Imbuing life with purpose, meaning, direction.

c) Revitalisation through cycles of renewal

d) Pivotal axis around which everything revolves.

III. POETIC TECHNIQUES

Contrast of Images:

Mythical Monsters           young children

Voice of God                   roar of crowds

Maize god                       Chicken smallhorn

resurrection                    Eaglehawk (new recruit)

Dance of life           sport

Colour:

beribboned, scarf of light, rippling like streamers

Sound:

barracking, “Carn, Carn. ..“ Corruption of Come on.

“pure flood of sound... voice, like the voice of God booms from the stands “oh you bludger”.

“elderly still loyally crying Cam. . (if feebly) until the very end”

Parallels: Religion, pagan and Christian = modern sport

Humour:

Puns: Wrapped, wrapt,

Team Mascots

Tigers,                            - Richmond

Demons,                         - Melbourne

Saints,                            - St. Kilda

Lions -                            - Collingwood

Parody of: rituals of life; “reckless proposal after the one point win”.

Anzac Ode: Undercut by triviality of rivalry between Victoria and northern states, suggesting an affectionate send-up. Bathos

V. LANGUAGE

Much of the language is lofty, poetic, pompous, rhetorical and not suited for such a banal pedestrian topic like football. The juxtaposition of this elevated religious language with the crude Australian vernacular provides some of the humour.

Biblical language and style, The word order is often resonant of the King James Version of the bible yet dealing with mundane things like, “Hot Pies and potato crisps they will eat.”

Shakespeare’s rhetorical: The tides of life....” ending in bathos.

Juxtaposition of four kinds of language:

Secular - football

Religious

Formal

Vernacular

Christian

Pagan Myth

Beribboned

barracking

 

 

tussle

Carn - Strine

 

 

empyrean

the stands

flood

Monsters

shrapnelled

Possession

rapture

break surface

scarfed

Ooohh you, bludger

voice of god

maize-god dancers

forswear

Hot pies and potato-crisps

Covenant passion

lost

race-memory

perpetually

Chicken Smallhorn

Saints/Demons

resurgent lion

replenish

 

six foot recruit

 

Ladder to Heaven, hope of salvation

centaur figure

dance

 ‘

.Cliches: Language of football

the home team, the wind advantage, the final term, the boundary fence, the stand, the ladder, the grand final.

Double meaning - words functioning on two levels:

Tigers, tussle, Demons, Saints, Lions,

Alliteration:

“pies and potato crisps”

“passion persisting”


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