Sportsbet and Betfair are just two advertisers to have condemned the grievous self wound that has killed Australian Cricket and plunged the nation into an orgy of mourning. “We’re shocked,” says Sportsbet spokesman Jack Gambletron. “This kind of cheating is totally un-Australian. Luckily, there’s nothing more Aussie than having a punt. So we’re giving great odds on whose arse is going to roll, and the long term fallout. Please gamble compulsively.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnstile spoke gravely of the ball-nobbling stain, which has stricken the nation. “This is a taping worse than Watergate, a day that will live in infamy,” said Mr Turnstile. “This is one of those JFK moments, one of those Princess Di moments. You’ll remember where you were when you heard Australian Cricket had died. Our once great nation has battled through hardships – bushfires, Gallipoli, Rolf Harris. But I don’t know that we’ll get over this one.”
Former Prime Minister John Howzat agreed. “They’re dead to me,” he said of Australia’s first Eleven. “The once sacred baggy green has been reduced to the status of an old camel’s stinky bollock sack.” Mr Howzat described the great ‘Ball Tampa’ as being something “finally truly worthy of being called a black armband view of history. This kind of sneaky underhanded behaviour strikes at the very core of all that we are as Australians, all our values, all we stand for.”
His words were underscored by reports of mass national weeping and gnashing, of ululating, hair-tearing and grievous hyperbole. It is mourning for the death of a game which all right-thinking Australians hold as dear as their own children. But now, soiled, smeared and besmirched, brought into ignominy and ill repute – in short, trashed, mangled and pummelled to a bloody mash in a muddy mire – the once proud and noble body of Australian cricket is a crow-pecked corpse twisting in the wind. It has triggered unprecedented scenes.
Little country towns nationwide are playing witness to mass communal bonfires of crotch-guards, stumps, pads, bats and balls. Dummies of our once-great cricketing heroes, our erstwhile bronzed gods, are being hung, drawn, quartered and burnt in effigy. Tragically, some of the dummies have turned out to be real.
Meanwhile, legions of teary kiddies are flooding grief counsellors and overrunning trauma units. There are unconfirmed reports that some, in sheer despair, are contemplating careers in the arts. Others, staring into the meaningless void of a cricketless future, have simply given up. Special ‘Ball Tampa’ phone helplines have been inundated, with thousands put on suicide watch. There are reports of men impaling themselves, Roman style, on cricket stumps. Others, in a perverse and profound protest, play a version of Russian roulette. They stand naked in cricket nets while their weeping mates bowl them to death with bodyline bumpers.
Perhaps the greatest victims of the tragedy have been advertisers. Sanitarium has already severed ties with Captain Smith. (The Titanic skipper!) “We can’t go on together,” said Sanitarium’s Eating-with-Ethics coach Pru Blurtfarthing. “Every Smith-endorsed weetbick would taste like ashes in a kiddie’s mouth.” So too, financial giant Magellan and the Commonwealth Bank have deserted the stinking ship. “We find our position untenable,” said Commonwealth mouthpiece Prole Skinner. “How can we compromise the love, trust and integrity that people place in the bank by associating with this kind of win-at-any-cost mentality?”
Marketing analysts agree. “The desertion is understandable,” said Dimity Flartz. “Reputable companies can’t commercially partner with brand ambassadors like these. These cricketers have put the con in icon.” (Representatives for registered icons, including Ned Kelly, Breaker Morant, Phar Lap, Simpson’s Donkey and Spirit of Anzac were unavailable for comment).
“Sir Donald Bradman would be rolling in his grave, like a rotisseried kebab,” said Steve Chinklewipe, head of the Brisbane thinktank Septic. “Sure, Sir Don was a tight-fisted, Masonic wowser who was hated by his own team. But whenever a product bears his name, like commemorative John Howzat Toby Mugs, or chocolate chip cookies, or any one of a thousand other products, you know they’re endorsed from a bedrock of integrity, from a place of iconic grandeur and mystique.”
Well said, Steve, well said.
Yes, we venerate our cricketers like gods. And rightly so. It’s why when Mark Taylor sells you a Fujitsu air conditioner you know it’s going to cool you good and proper. It’s why you know Allan Border believes in the miraculous powers of the Revivitive Circulation Booster. We need no more guarantee than the word of these ex-captains courageous, and the unquestioned integrity of Australian Cricket. It’s why Ricky Ponting is gospel solid on the efficacy of Swisse health supplements. It’s why we can feel so good about gutsing all that beer and fried chicken – it partners seamlessly with our hallowed sport. We trust and respect the integrity of these gladiators with our lives. When legions of baldilocks men grew back a thick, luxuriant, chick-attracting thatch of hair, it was all thanks to the plugging of Advanced Hair Studios by Shane Warne and Greg Matthews. Icons like these could never be accused of bald tampering.
Is there any hope to be dredged from the depths of our current despair? Time is a great healer. Give it a few years and Smith, or Warner, or another of our fallen gods, may just find redemption, may just restore our shattered faith in the integrity and sacred name and status quo of Australian Cricket. Maybe by doing an ad for a sandpaper.
Disclosure: This writer has done ads, some of them sordid. Luckily, he makes no claim to the moral high ground and has no sainted reputation to preserve.