Friday, November 28, 2008

Crowd at The Gabba

It was a hot Saturday afternoon at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (colloquially called The ‘Gabba) in the first test match between the Trans-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand. The scorching heat and humidity made me run towards the sparse strip of shade in the Grandstand as the sun tilted towards west. Under this thirty-six degree heat, Tim Southee was under the cosh as Simon Katich smashes consecutive fours. Daniel Vettori, the NZ captain, has a word with his tired bowler and they make few changes to the field set up while delicately balancing attack and defence.

Amongst all this action, there was something strange happening in the background. Something…it has always been there but there is something more to it now. Ah, it’s the crowd, no the crowd noise. A section of the crowd in the adjacent grandstand, mainly Australian supporters – majority of them holding a plastic tumbler of cold beer on one hand and a plastic soft-drink bottle on the other, shouting:

“Cullum’s a wanker,

tum dum, tum, tum dum” (by tapping the plastic bottle on the seats)

Whenever a new player takes field position near that particular section of the crowd; they welcome him by chanting on his name. I have heard this particular crowd chant before in test matches in NZ and I should admit I found it quite funny the first time I heard it (especially the way the rhythm is maintained by tapping the plastic bottles for “tum dum, tum, tum dum” or by clapping).Calling a person a wanker is insulting. But it didn’t stop there. NZ players were subjected to continuous abuse from crowd with comments like Faggots, “F**k off Kiwis/NZ” etc. This resulted in a verbal and physical altercation between Australian and NZ supporters. Ten people were evicted from the stadium.

Australian crowds abusing players is not a new phenomenon. They are well known for their foul-mouthed outbursts and racial gibes – a Muralitharan, Ntini, Gibbs, Caddick or Harbhajan Singh (albeit gave a few himself) have faced the brunt and can vouch for it. Big screens in major cricket grounds regularly flash the ICC anti-racism code, but it has little or no effect.

While the group was doing their preposterous deed, I was beginning to wonder: Here we have a group of people having a good time with mates or fellow cricket enthusiasts, watching cricket over few beers. It’s all good fun, they take the Mickey out of the players – which is OK as long it doesn’t get too personal (‘wanker’ chant , even though not terribly insulting, is over the line) and gradually or suddenly – I don’t know, they get incensed or get carried away with the fun and pass a offensive and/or racist remark. Why? You may think I have already answered the question in the previous sentence. The offensive and/or racist remark is the end result. My question is how they arrived to that stage which makes them utter those remarks. Why did their behaviour, which initially was cheerful and sporting, turn into a mob-like behaviour? Would each member of that group behave the same way if they were isolated from the group? Why, when together as a group, is there a deliberate suspension of decent and responsible public behaviour? Or does the mere fact of being in this collective presence give them an ideal opportunity to vent and display a false sense of ego? I do not understand this psychology.

I am sure certain individuals in that group would know, subconsciously, that their action were not correct. But they probably shun their conscience and went with the flow. Who ever are the individuals that composed the group, whatever their occupations, character, beliefs, intelligence – they let themselves down that day. Shame on you guys!

IMHO, the reason for this type of behaviour could boil down to the aggressive nature of Australian culture and the way of upbringing children in the society - parents inculcating right morals to their children at home and education at school. This type of behaviour is sadly, I don’t see it changing any time soon.

Oh by the way, NZ lost the test match. It’ll probably add more fuel to the fire for the Adelaide crowd.

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