It’s Not Just Cricket
A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
10th June 2009
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The ashes are coming. It’s not bad news - unless you are married to a cricket tragic - or unless you are one.
Once more our nation is united in a titanic David and Goliath like struggle. The weak and oppressed convict colony is to take on the world empire that has banished us to what they so arrogantly call “the” antipodes.
The war is a representative one - each side sends its representatives to meet on the oval of battle. We do more than watch - we feel. Our future exaltation or humiliation hangs on the outcome of these conflicts. The battles could last for as long as twenty-five days. The outcome may not be settled till the last missile is thrown in the last minute of the last day.
There is no help for the loser. There is no United Nation’s rescue package. Most of the world cannot understand the battle. They have no empathy for the conflict, no sympathy for the loser and no plaudits for the victor. “Why does it take so long?” they ask. “Why are you still using sticks and leather stones in the age of nuclear missiles?”
There are lots of ways to improve this conflict. It could be better if it were quicker. Reduce it to a single day or maybe just limit it to fifty or twenty overs. It could be a better spectacle if the combatants wore different uniforms - colourful ones. It would be better if it could draw bigger crowds to cheer.
Bigger crowds would also attract advertisers. Advertisers would pay for the right to televise the battle scenes. The stop/start nature of this ancient warfare would suit the mindless mantras of materialism.
And the advertising revenue could help the combatants as well. They could be handsomely rewarded for their gladiatorial duties. They could become the representatives of their sponsor - appearing each day on our breakfast table - pictured on packaging. They would become rich and famous. They would be like entertainers - celebrities whose life outside the pitch battles would be as important as their exploits in the midst of conflict. The symbolic war of the nations could be maintained to make the reality of the advertising dollar flow. But it does not matter - people know the difference between reality TV and advertising, don’t they?
Eventually it could be possible to create a purely honest entertainment - where teams of international professionals would have short fast battles for nothing but money. But who needs honesty in entertainment or advertising? Here is the magnificence of the market culture - the bottom line is all that matters.
It gives us the new morality. Do whatever you like but do not bring discredit on your sponsor. The Rugby League is learning this. Sponsors have withdrawn their support because the off-field behaviour of some combatants. It is bad for business. No worse statement and condemnation can be uttered than that statement. That is the capital offence of materialistic morality: “bad for business”.
Sadly, very sadly, one of our cricketers has been sent back to the convict colony. His off-field behaviour is unacceptable. He is one of the greats, a man of renown. Previously in the heat of battle he has swung the whole outcome in a few moments of breathtaking athleticism and courage.
But his alcohol drinking is an embarrassment to a team sponsored by and advocating the drinking of alcohol.
So the sad announcement is made in our newspapers, by his captain duly photographed wearing a cap with the beer sponsors logo front and centre.
Here is the morality of the materialist: punish the victim if need be, but protect the bottom line.
This week the consensus of 21 studies of the drinking habits of 9500 people with bowel cancer, was published. Those who drink more than one alcoholic drink a day have a 60 percent increased risk of bowel cancer. Apart from the myriad of social tragedies that alcohol abuse has created - alcohol consumption is linked to cancer in breast, mouth, esophagus, pharynx and larynx, not to mention damaging the brain development of teenagers and young adults.
Question: when will our politicians put our national interests ahead of the alcohol industry’s interests and ban alcohol advertising - especially in sport? Answer: probably when they are no longer elected by alcohol sponsorship.
The morality of materialism is just not cricket and it’s not just cricket that has been prostituted by materialism.