Billy Russell • 26 September 2012


The Swans have just beaten the Pies to claim a spot in this weekend’s AFL Grand Final and I’m hopping on a bus leaving Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, decked out head to toe in black and white memoribilla (which for superstition and laziness purposes haven’t been washed in over ten years), surrounded by moronic fans of the victorious local team. As I take a seat on this Hell on Wheels, what my vindicative memory has painted as an old toothless lady pipes up.

“This kid is on the wrong bus! Winners only on here!”

Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? I get angry and stand to deliver to Bus Bitch some speech about sportsmanship and fair play and how she should consider herself privileged to be in the presence of this modern day (and way drunker) Rosa Parks, but instead I just sit back down. After all, she’s got a point. Because when it comes to sport, I’m prone to not only getting on the wrong bus, but usually missing it all together.

Growing up in a country town and not being good at sports is a lot like being a leper – specifically, a leper who isn’t good at sports when everyone else in the town is really good at sports. It’s hard enough trying to fit in when you’re the only ten year old without a pregnant girlfriend, let alone when you’re relegated to the role of Motivation Captain on primary school athletic’s day because you literally cannot support the weight of a two kilogram shot put. (I’d like to think that puberty remedied this defect in strength but, alas, my arms are getting sore even typing this shit.)

The only sport I competed in outside the schoolyard (ie, outside the jurisdiction and mandate of my cockhead PE teacher; ie, ON MY OWN BLOODY VOLITION) was a three hour baseball trial that my dad somehow convinced me was “heaps cooler than spending the morning watching cartoons” (it wasn’t) by appealing to my questionable love of fashion with the guarantee that “baseballers wear some pretty swisho uniforms” (they don’t).

This anti-sport/pro-couch attitude did, however, change for a brief period during my pre-pubescence in which peer pressure and a shitload of self delusion regarding my gross motor skills led to a shortlived Pursuit of Athletic Greatness. This time in my life yielded not only questions of personal identity, but also the following trophies which, for the first time ever, found their way onto my mantle without bearing the engraving of ‘attempted participation’:

Trophy #1 (1998): Champions in the Under 12 mixed Korfball Tournament – a victory marred by: a) the fact it’s not even a real sport (its Wiki page boasts that it is ‘big in Taiwan’, FFS); and b) that the runner-ups lodged an official complaint about there being “too many girls” on the winning team in violation of section 3 of the Korfball: Not a Real Sport Handbook due to the decision of a certain male participant (hey guys!) to model his hair on Tommy from 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Trophy #2 (2000): Ninth Place in the local bowling league, awarded to my team The Polecats whose decision to compete was born out of a joke following a screening of the Pin Pals episode of The Simpsons. There were nine teams.

End of list.

I like to think that today I am at least making some sort of concerted effort to try and be more active. For one thing, we now have a weekly soccer tournament at work. I don’t actually compete, but the male-only policy of the game has given me loads more to do in my role as creator and president of Foxtel’s feminist group, The Push-Up Bras. And I’ve also started jogging regularly, which is nice… even if my choice to do so is less about sport and more about the fact that my co-host asked me last week if it hurt having my teeth removed. (“You haven’t had them removed? But… your face…”)

It’s fair to say, then, that sport has never been for me. So when the Swans take on the Hawks this weekend — effectively robbing this Collingwood supporter of the last sport-related role to which he clings: Interested Spectator – I will instead be boarding a plane to Europe.  Enjoy your bus alone, Bus Bitch.