With the Bledisloe Cup half on the line again this weekend and the world netball champs starting in Sydney, the theme for this week's column is advancing Australia fairly.
Nothing has taxed the Australian sporting conscious as highly as the recent furore around the booing of superstar AFL player Adam Goodes.
To recap: Goodes is a proud Indigenous Australian. He is a two-time Brownlow Medallist, the game's highest honour. The Sydney Swan is also an Australian of the Year for 2014.
In 2013, during the AFL's Indigenous Round, he was lining up to kick near the boundary line when he heard a Collingwood spectator calling him an "ape". He pointed the spectator out to security staff and she was evicted. She was 13.
He has subsequently been the target of booing from opposition fans. On one occasion, seemingly in response to the boos, he performed an Aboriginal dance after kicking a goal that involved miming the throwing of a spear into the crowd. The booing has since intensified to the point where last week the 35-year-old took leave from the game.
The debate surrounding the booing of Goodes and his response has been emotional, as you would expect. It should also be nuanced, which it isn't. Instead it has been commandeered by those who shout loudest. As is often the case in New Zealand, the loudest shouters and shapers of public opinion are too often entitled white men who use the radio waves to spout right of right-wing ideology that masquerades as conservatism.
So we have Alan Jones telling Goodes to stop playing the victim and the AFL's No 1 boofhead, Sam Newman, telling people they are "gratuitously stupid" if they think the booing of Goodes is racism. Chipping in from the sidelines we have Shane Warne tweeting that the booing is not racist, it's just people voicing their inalienable right (my words, not his) to boo those players they dislike, proving perhaps once and for all that Warne was a great leg spinner and a... great leg spinner.
On the other side, we have people shaking their heads in bewilderment saying how can it not be racist when the entire motivation for the antipathy is Goodes' refusal to shake off racial insults and his obvious pride in his heritage. Nobody is accusing every spectator who boos of being a dyed-in-the-wool racist, but by joining the chorus they are involved in an inherently racist act.
I asked two Australian friends living here for their perspective and both were unequivocal in their belief that there was a strong racial element to the phenomenon, if you can call it that. In fact, one thought the booing had gone beyond racism to flat-out bullying. This is a tiny sample, but an optimistic one.
We cannot be smug here, as evidenced by the shameful racist abuse at a club rugby game at Lincoln last weekend. But hopefully, at least, we have moved beyond the point where we attempt to wholesale shame those who have been the subject of racial vilification.
In that respect, the Goodes affair and the surrounding hue and cry might yet become one of the more important race relations milestones in not just Australian sport, but Australia.
GIVE 'EM A TASTE OF KIWI...
On a similar subject, this is what happened when Greg Dowling threw a few racial epithets Kevin Tamati's way. Unfortunately, the cameras cut away just as Tamati was getting on top.
... Geoff Toovey
Never had much time for the angry little Manly coach and bottle-throwing antics, but since being sacked by the club he has gone about embarrassing his soon-to-be former employers by winning everything.
If Manly force their way into the top eight and make some noise in the playoffs, Toovey is going to be a highly sought after coaching commodity. His value is soaring.
... Michael Clarke
IT doesn't seem long ago that Clarke was making test triple centuries. It seems less long ago that he was reinventing himself as the spokesman for a grieving nation following the death of his close mate Phil Hughes. It was a few short months ago that he was holding the World Cup.
Now, having given up limited overs internationals, he has two tests and potentially four innings to save his career from the same fate as good mate Brad Haddin and not-so-good mate Shane Watson.
In Australian cricket, the mighty are falling.
About the curious saga of Australian basketballer Elizabeth Cambage. Since this report(hyperlink: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/basketball/news/article.cfm?c_id=21&objectid=11487568), the star centre has engaged lawyers who are demanding her reinstatement. Basketball Australia is not budging. I don't blame them.
MY LAST $10
Every week I will make one $10 bet. The goal is to get to December 31 with more money than I would have had if I had put it in the bank.
Last week: Unfortunately this section dropped off the column last week, but take my word for it that after just missing out on South Africa or NZ at 6 points or under at $2.45 the previous week, I played it more conservative and went for the Sydney Swans to beat the Adelaide Crows head-to-head at $1.37. They won easily, putting me back in black by $3.90 before this week's spend.
This week: $10 on Warriors to score a hard-fought but redemptive victory in Wellington against an average St George at $1.95.
Spent: $70 Collected: $63.90
OVER TO YOU
This is your chance to rant, relive some memories, highlight a terrific grassroots sports performance, promote an upcoming sports reunion, or just send me crazy ideas. It's also not a bad spot for giveaways, if you're that way inclined. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A reader has highlighted this page on Give A Little. Former Team NZ sailor Rick Dodson has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but rather than give up sailing, he's hoping to qualify for the Paralympics with his team. They're aiming for a championship in Melbourne in November that'd enable them to qualify, and are hoping to raise $26,500 to get there.
Now on to last week. There were some interesting responses to my column, some surprisingly positive given the ill-feeling that seems to lurk around Team NZ these days. But not all.
Writes someone calling themselves Mesozoic:
"Yeah, yeah, they [Team NZ] made you feel like one of the boys, so now you're a fan boy again. Well, that's all very nice, but it's no reason why we, the taxpayers, should fund it. If NZ boatbuilders and others in the industry want to be noticed by potential clients, they should advertise, just like anyone in any other industry.
"Our government springs from free market ideology, but then goes the opposite way and climbs into bed with any business with a good line of patter. And TNZ is just another business that can't keep its head above water. Let's turn off the money tap and put them out of our misery."
That in turn provoked this spirited (edited and abridged) response from Verbatim:
"Here's a heads up Meso, the tap has been turned off, so armchair cynics will have to find another avenue for schadenfreude...
"Having a group like Team NZ excel in the most technically advanced sporting domain, next to Formula 1, is a huge leverage of perception of NZ's capability. This extends far beyond boatbuilding to IT and other high-value, knowledge industry benefits.
"Who else can battle with half the budget, against a tilted playing field, the resources of Silicon Valley and Boeing, and damn near topple them.
"Here's another side benefit. The Viaduct area development that is now the coveted hub of Auckland was generated from the stimulus (and money) of us winning the cup in 1995. Before then it was a grimy industrial backwater.
Should Team NZ win it again, they would be fully justified giving the fairweather friends... the two fingered salute."