Old sport

One of the features of life in lockdown has been all the old sport they’re playing on TV. In the absence of live sport, it’s the next best thing, even if you know the result. As an exercise in nostalgia, it’s pretty good too.

I’ve been getting into it, more or less, watching footy matches from the nineties and old cricket highlights and bits and pieces of the NBA from days gone by. There’s been the Bulls doco obviously, which is compelling, and this week we’ve been treated to a ‘week with Warnie’, where he’s interviewed in the studio telling his stories amid highlights and the many great moments sprinkled through his career.

I have strong memories of most of this stuff. Much of the stuff I’m watching now I’d have watched when it was live the first time around. Many of the footy matches I was actually sitting in the crowd somewhere cheering the team along and saying my piece, not knowing how the game would end up. Same for some of the cricket matches. There are no surprises, but you find yourself recalling moments that had slipped your mind. And sometimes, in the years since, the events are still fresh, but the sequence has become muddled. Watching it all again puts it right.

For me, though, there’s a funny thing going on in the background. I can remember watching when it was fresh and unfolding. There were some snippets from a 1994 test match against England being shown last night, and I had the abrupt recollection of standing in front of the TV watching it with my brother-in-law (dead six years now) on a sunny summer’s day in Melbourne while we were being called away from it by our family to have lunch. I remember the conversation we had about Glenn McGrath.

And what I’m watching is from nearly 30 years ago and in the old square TV format before widescreen broadcasting started. Looking at it it feels dated, like the sort of highlights I would watch growing up of sport played before I was even born. I was there, sort of, but now it’s of the deep past, and it doesn’t reconcile. Really? Really? And yet it was, it is, those days are long gone even if the memories linger.

It’s the same when I watch old footy and listen to the commentators I grew up listening to, now all gone. I was there for a lot of it, and it never felt old or dated then, but it is now. And that’s the realisation, I guess, obvious as it is, nothing stays as it was.

If I go back to my brother-in-law, he was there beside me, there he was and he commented, and I responded and it was all authentic in those moments – except now it’s all these years ago now, and he’s not even around anymore and what was true in those moments was only true then – it no longer is.

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