CHILDCARE

In his 1990 book Lateshows, Frank Moorhouse ponders the dilemma of disciplining other people’s children.

After being bitten on the leg by his friend’s young daughter who he is  baby-sitting he turns to Rousseau’s Emile for guidance. After ruling out reasoning with the child: ” reasoning is not real reasoning because children do not understand the premises of the process of reasoning. It denies the essential childishness of children”,  Moorhouse instead fashions a cord into a small whip and cracks it. He then confides: “I cannot swear that the cord did not strike her body”.

Twenty years ago the disciplining of other people’s children was considered a doubtful act. Today, a  mother taking to her own naughty kids with a wooden spoon causes a furore.

Lounging around in their Bugaboos (“Now Janice do you want caramel in your babyccino?”)and free of physical harm from vengeful parents, children’s rights are at an all-time high.

Whenever I hear a parent tell their complaining child: “You’re having water and that’s that!”, I’m horrified. Not giving your child a choice is depriving them of their fundamental rights.

If my children misbehave or whinge I always give them a choice: “It’s lethal injection, firing squad with machine gun, or nothing!” They take the nothing.

On the subject of firing squads, the Indonesians have a sense of theatre don’t they? They do it in a forest somewhere so if machine guns are used the corpses of the executed are immediately joined by those of a varying assortment of near extinct squirrels (are there Asiatic squirrels?) bats, monkeys and orangutans.

The West has a penchant for spectacle too. In an age of lightweight metal and weapons that can vaporise the entire planet we’ve been hanging people ineptly (the Clutter family killers both took twenty minutes to die: “They must have had a real mess to clean up”, Truman Capote heard someone say) on wooden gallows. Or slowly simmering our criminals in electric chairs (timber again), smoke coming out of their eyeballs.

The Case For Smell In Sport

It was interesting to discover on Celebrity Master Chef that Simon Katich cooks like he bats: there he was, eyes fixed on the recipe, whisking and fricasseeing away with the same precise, stilted movements employed for his legside flicks and punched drives. His wife should encourage him to make his own pizzas – twirling dough above his head may encourage him to use his shoulders more.  

When batting Katich uses the ball’s speed against itself and so has no interest in fancy flourishes. When the topping of his lemon curd layer cake didn’t set he wasn’t concerned because it was the layers that counted; and he got them just right. 

More interestingly, we also found out he has no sense of smell. Without it he is unable to taste complex flavours.  Usually this would be a liability for a decent cook but apparently, if Matt Preston isn’t around, he uses his wife as a taste tester. 

The role of smell in sport is very underrated. Next to its dominant siblings, sight and hearing , it’s a sense that tends to go unnoticed in the sporting arena. 

Smell is primal. The subconscious fears of all animals are betrayed by the odours they emit. If a powerful adversary catches a whiff you are doomed. It will also give a nervous opponent confidence that they can defeat you.  An animal knows its prey is wounded because it can smell the blood. The expressions “smell blood” and “getting  a sniff” are now sporting ones.

Norman Mailer was big on smells because he personally experienced fearful soldiers and sportsmen emitting “the clammy odour of  funk“. 

So what do the fearless smell of ? Melbourne Storm founder John Ribot couldn’t describe it but knew when he had smelt it : “When you’ve been involved in a number of clubs for a long time you go into the dressing rooms and you can smell them, if they smell right. Our place certainly smelt right”. It is alleged that sportsmen also smell just right to the opposite sex. Mailer’s term for it was rut. 

To be locked into a rugby scrum with all that funk, rut and blood would be almost unbearable. In cricket ,though, opportunities for smelling  your opponent are limited. Ironically the two positions held by sniffless Simon, close-in fieldsman and opening batsman, give you the  best chance. If during the Ashes it had been possible to pick up the smells of  the English bowlers and to identify the fearful thoughts that produced them this is what you would have discovered: Andrew Flintoff (cortisone and Thwaites Original Ale – “Will I be able to walk when I’m 40?!”), Steve Harmison (Farex – “Do they want me to bowl to the batsman or second slip? Ohh, I just want to go home!”), Stuart Broad (oatmeal facial scrub – “Do I really look like a woman!?”) and Graham Onions (onions – “I hope my overbite doesn’t show on the telly!”). 

Of course you don’t have to smell Ian Bell and Owais Shah to know they are nervous. 

So there is a sigificant link between sport and smell but there are forces at work trying to break it.  The stench of mentholated liniment once defined the sports dressing room until it was replaced by ultrasound, massage and stretching. Before big stadiums, smoking bans and ‘mid- strength’ (ie p*ss-weak) beer the smell of the crowd enriched the atmosphere of a game. I remember in the 1980s running down the race (which has also disappeared – football players now run out along a strip of carpet laid in the underground carpark) into the pleasant aroma of Winfield Reds (no low tar Holidays with photos of gangrene on the packet) and full strength beer (OK it was only Fosters but Belgian ale wasn’t around then). You can’t seem to smell the grass any more either. 

It could be said that my enjoyment of sport is reliant on people destroying their liver and the lungs of others. And yes, some of the forces against smell are improved sports medicine, good health and good manners. But remember, smell is also the primary stimulator of memory. Will the insipidly clean air (carbon minoxide notwithstanding) currently hovering over a sporting contest be enough for today’s children to evoke fond memories of the event in later life?

What hasn’t changed is the stench of battle once a sporting contest begins. As a player it’s impossible to ignore. Unless you’re Simon Katich of course.

Why I Can’t Bear To Watch The Storm In Grand Finals

I’m a Melbourne Storm fan, but I refused to watch the grand final against Parramatta because I’m also a coward. I have never understood supporters who say they ‘enjoy’ a grand final.

Especially those you see laughing and waving at the camera when the opposition has just scored.

No, I’m so frightened of losing that when a premiership is being played for, I disappear.

I have a history from childhood of doing this and the precedents aren’t good.

Following Collingwood as a kid meant you lost whatever you did.

I took off for the 1977 grand final against North Melbourne, and after a three hour bike ride to escape the tension, arrived one minute too early and was forced to watch Ross “Twiggy” Dunne insist on trying to save the game with the most inaccurate kick of all, the torpedo punt.

In 1980, I repeated the bike journey (I made it three and half hours to be sure) but shouldn’t have bothered as Richmond had it won by halftime.

Against the Broncos in 2006 I only lasted until the early Steve Turner try. I went for a walk on that one, only to return to see the Storm undone by Brisbane’s steely defence and four crucial, horribly incorrect ,refereeing decisions (Wayne Bennett referred to those favourable decisions as having “a bit of luck”).

People often suggested watching the next time so that my team may win.

Well, I was forced to watch the 1977 replay as my uncle had kindly bought me a ticket and we lost. I watched the last quarter of the 1979 final against Carlton because it looked like we had it won and we lost.

Oh, and the Manly game last year. I saw that one, too.

Apparently I was at the 1972 VFA grand final at the Junction Oval. My team Oakleigh won, but all I can remember is sitting behind the picket fence eating dim sim sandwiches when my mother, laughing, said: “Dim sims? Oh no, pet, you’re eating lambs brains!”

I just wanted it over with and for the Storm to establish themselves as one of the greatest by winning this grand final.

And they had to. The Roosters have been dismissed for winning only one of three.

I was so nervous I didn’t want to hear anything advantageous for Paramatta. Like a reprieve for Hayne, which was imminent after the judiciary hearing was brought forward (a courtesy not granted to Cameron and Jeremy Smith last year), and the antics of Parramatta CEO Paul Osborne, who had suddenly decided to continue the tradition of his loudmouth predecessor.

That’s not to denigrate the Cinderella story of Parramatta.

Of course, it wasn’t really a rags to riches tale because a team that rich in talent should never have found itself near the bottom of the ladder. And some may question the fortitude of a side that started to win only when it believed it couldn’t make the finals.

Did its late surge in the Grand Final come only after it thought the Premiership was out of its grasp?

The Storm had to stay four nights and then play in the heartland of rugby league – a hot and alien environment that included media commentary incapable of hiding its mortification at the prospect of a Storm try (”Oh no, there’s trouble here!”)

The exception, as usual, was Peter Sterling, a Parramatta legend and someone who could be excused for showing some favouritism or resentment.

I chose a bike path this time (no windows for the sound of Ray Warren’s “HAYNE, HAYNE!” to waft out of), and Melbourne won.

I’d like to think it was my cowardly act that won us the Premiership.

However everyone knows the victory was engineered by a great coach who had the audacity, and the courage, to say before the game: “They’ll boo us … that’s great!”