xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Hear the barrackers a'shouting!

A great storm of protest has erupted at the great storm of protest expressed by footy barrackers on an almost non-stop basis at any game of footy. This loud, verbal protesting is directed at the opposition players or at the umpires.

I am talking about Australian Rules football, of course. Soccer barracker are usually too busy singing or chanting throughout their matches and rugby barrackers and players still call the match referee "Sir."

In Aussie Rules it has recently suggested that booing is not politically correct. Some have even said that even yelling out is socially offensive. What is a barracker to do? So bad has it become that last weekend, Melbourne's Marvel Stadium employed an army of officials to patrol the seats on the lookout for any outbreak of excessive barracking. These official wore High Viz vests that had Behavioral Attitude Observer neatly printed on them.

The next day, many footy spectatators said they felt intimidated by these "Observers". In some cases they claimed that they were harrassed by them for indulging in what they felt was perfectly normal anti umpire, anti opponent jeering.

So bad was it, that the ex-Premier of Victoria, and current President of Hawthorn Football Club, Jeff Kennett, spoke out strongly that most of these observerts looked as if they had never been to a footy match and did not understand the "culture", if culture is what footy barracking may be called.
Poor old Jeff was thern roundly criticised for Racial Discrimination against people of middle eastern appearance. The President of the AFL said Jeff was way out of line for barracking for the barrackers.

Jeff apologised.

I always enjoyed going to the footy and barracking for my team, which was East Perth, The Mighty Royals. Jousting with opposition barrackers was part of the fun. Below is a modified extract from a memoir I wrote in 2005, entitled "LEON, A backward glance at boyhood". 

In my story I referred to myself as LEON. A boy named NOEL looking backwards. Geddit?              In the story below I changed LEON back to NOEL. As for my boyhood, this incident occurred at Perth Oval in 1965 when I was 27.

Over the years, I  enthusiastically barracked for East Perth as they enjoyed the good times and endured the hard times. Going to the football was almost a ritual. Apart from the excitement of the game, there was the thrill of joining in verbal combat with supporters from opposing sides. I always felt I was doing my bit to help the players on the field by getting the better of rival supporters off the field.

On one occasion in the mid 1960s, East Perth was playing Claremont and I was standing close to an attractive lady and her equally attractive daughter. Or maybe it was her younger sister?In an effort to impress, I began making what I fondly imagined were very witty comments about the opposing players, the umpire and various incidents on the field. I was pleased to notice that the women seemed impressed with my banter and smiled quite often at my remarks.

Half way through the first quarter a Claremont supporter positioned himself near me and began to loudly raise doubts about the ability and courage of the East Perth players. I quickly recognized that I was being challenged. Soon the Claremont man  and I were engaged in a verbal joust. I was a student of footy barracking behaviour. I quickly recognized that this gentleman was a "Responder.”  Responders are barrackers who usually wait for a comment to be made and then take the opportunity to make the same or similar comment...but this time ironically, and in support of their own side.

When I thought an East Perth player should have been paid a mark I would yell out,” Come on, umpire, he only has to hold it. He doesn’t have to hatch it!” Ah, yes! Rapier like wit.

A few minutes later, a Claremont player would hold on to the ball and be paid a mark, at which time Mr Responder would say, “Now, that WAS a mark”.

I would see a Claremont player get away with what looked like a throw and call out, “C'mon, Ump, yah big mug. It’s not basketball.”

Later, when an East Perth player was penalised for throwing, Mr Responder would gleefully retort in my direction, ”Now, that WAS throwing the ball!”

Just before half time I was incensed to see Phil Tierney, the champion East Perth forward, grabbed without the ball by the rugged Claremont ruckman, Allan Mycock. No free kick was given.

“What about holding on to Tierney?” I shouted at the umpire.

About a minutes later the situation was reversed and Mr Responder screamed out,” What about holding on to Mycock?” The two ladies burst out laughing. Mr Responder gasped in embarrassment at the realisation of what he had just yelled out. I took a deep drag on my cigarette, casually removed it from my lips, turned to Mr Responder and nonchalantly enquired, “Do you mind if I finish my cigarette first?”

Well, the two blonde ladies shrieked with laughter. I smiled the smug smile of the victor. Mr Responder did not return after half time and every time I caught the eyes of the two ladies they would burst out laughing all over again.

East Perth won that game. I walked back to Aberdeen Street wearing a winner’s grin, for I knew I had played a major role in the Royal’s great victory that day.

Ah, yes. Football barracking is truly part of our Aussie culture. Long may it remain so.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Game of Thrones. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

“That’s the end? That’s it? I can’t be!”
From thousands of loungerooms around the globe these were the disappointed reactions when Game of Thrones reached its final conclusion. After eight series, The Game of Thrones was over. The last three series were written,  not by the author of the books, but by the TV directors. There are many who say that was when the rot set in. The say it saw the show’s slow decline to what they believe was its totally underwhelming conclusion.

A friend of mine describes Game of Thrones as “Fighting, Feasting and Effing. He does not say effing. He says a word that starts with F and rhymes with trucking, however, this a family blog so I’ll leave you to work it out.

After all that feasting, fighting, extremely closely intertwined, energetic, enthusiastic,  bodily encounters over eight years, it finally ended. Cersie and her incestuous lover brother, were dead, as was Daenerys and a heap of other starring characters. There was a default, broken King Bran, in Westeros. The heroic Jon Snow, banished  and depressed, riding slowly into some northern forest. Arya standing at the bow of a ship, sailing west of Westeros into totally unchartered waters. End of story. Surely not! Sadly, it is.

Of course Game of Thrones is not the first TV series, or film, for that matter, that has left fans feeling cheated of a better ending. Everyone will have their own nominations for stories that could have ended better.

Like the ending of the film, Gone With The Wind, for instance. After the audience wallows in stormy seas of tossed emotions, warfare, love, hostility and great dollops of angst for nearly four hours, the film finally has Rhett Butler carry Scarlett O’Hara, protesting ever so slightly, up the stairs and into bed. 

After a night of passion, Scarlett awakes with a very satisfied smile on her face and an empty space beside in in the bed. Rhett is out of bed, busily packing. Scarlett is devasted when Rhett tell her that he is tired of her games and he is heading off to find if Grace and Charm still exist.

“But, Rhett, where shall I go? What shall I do?” That was Scarlett’s major problem. Always thinking of herself.

“Frankly, my Dear, I don’t give a damn,” Rhett says famously as he strides off into the morning fog.

While the audience is grappling with that less than fond farewell scene, Scarlett stumbles back into the house and collapses on those stairs. Then she lets us know that the whole saga has only just begun. She says she will go back to Tara. There she will make her plans to win Rhett back. She will start planning tomorrow, when everything will start to get better.                                                                                                                                                                                               
“After all,” she says with glowing optimism, “tomorrow is another day.

A lot of people, including my mother and a roomful of my aunties, all thought it could have finished whole lot better than with the hope that things will be better, tomorrow.

Another popular TV shows whose finish did not delight the fans was the British Sci-Fi drama, Blakes 7. It ran from 1978 till 1981. In some ways it was a corny, low budget affair that had  Commander Blake and his seven little helpers zooming around in deep space doing what Robin Hood and his Merry Men and The Dirty Dozen did in vastly different contexts. Blake did his good works saving the inter galactic civilisations from cruelty and death in his tinny looking alfoil space craft. He and his brave helpers zapped the baddies with what seemed like plastic toy, ray guns.

Of course, not everybody liked it. Australia’s favourite critic, Clive James said Blakes7 was “classically awful”. Clive was particularly upset that there was no apostrophe in the title.

Despite Clive’s criticisms, each week, millions of people, including me, tuned in to Blakes 7. We all loved it. It was a bit like those thirty-minute Batman shows of the sixties. They were phoney, but they were funny.

Then, we were all watching the latest episode when, without warning, Blake is accused of being a traitor. His number one assistant, the charismatic Avon, thinks it’s true and zaps Blake with his plastic-coated ray gun. Other members of Blakes 7 are upset andin the Federation Police are called in. 

In the final scene, Avon and Blake’s mates, with guns drawn and smiles on their faces, go out to face the Federation Police and are presumably all zapped to disintegration. Another game over!

There was no prior warning that this was to be Blake’s final episode. Nobody, as far as I know, ever made any statements about the series final and its controversial ending. I think there was a possibility that the actors portraying Blake and a couple of other key players wanted to get out of the series. so the writers just wiped out the lot of them.

Which brings me to one of the funniest comedy TV series of all time. Hancock’s Half Hour, featuring the incredibly funny, but always lugubrious and depressed, Tony Hancock. I think the show underwent a name change at some time and was cut to 25 minutes. But it was always achingly funny. 

Unfortunately, Tony Hancock was a depressed individual. Despite enjoying huge popularity and success in Britain and Australia, Tony Hancock took his own life in Sydney in the early 1980s. A tragic end for one who had brought so much laughter to others.

It was not the Hancock’s Half Hour series that came to an unsatisfying ending. However, a classic episode titled, “The Bowman’s”, demonstrated how writers can use tragic circumstances to end a series in a most unsatisfactory way.

The Bowman’s was a not so subtle parody of a long running BBC radio show titled, The Archers. Bowman, Archers. Geddit?

In the Bowmans, Tony Hancock plays Joshua Merriweather, a country bumpkin in a small village dominated by the Bowman family. Joshua annoys his fellow actors. They find his egotism, buffoonery and blatant over acting so distasteful that they prevail on the writers to have him killed off. And he is, despite the loudt protestations from Joshua.

Joshua’s character is so popular with the listeners, however,  that tens of thousands of letters arrive at the BBC demanding that he be brought back. The producers are forced to agree. They decide
to bring back Joshua as his long-lost twin brother, also named Joshua. Realising he has the producers at his mercy, Joshua says that he will only agree to return to the series if he can write that episode. They agree.

And so the scene opens with Joshua’s long-lost twin, also named Joshua Merriweather, returning to the village. Rushing out to greet him across an open field are the Bowmans. All of the Bowmans. 

Joshua greets each of them by name, shouting out his helloes across the open field
Suddenly. “Stop. Stop,” yells Joshua quite unenthusiastically. Too late. The Bowmans keep racing forward and they all fall down along forgotten mineshaft. Every Bowman dies.

Well, that brought the TV  Bowmans to a sudden, sad ending. Joshua Merriweather tried to get the producers to start a new series called The Merriweather’s. They declined. And so ended one of the funniest, saddest endings to a fictitious TV show in the history of entertainment.  Another gem from fabulous Tony Hancock.

Naturally, everyone will have their own examples of shows that ended unsatisfactorily. Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and so on. It seems Game of Thrones will head the list for some time.

Perhaps we expect to much. I mean, shows must stop sometime. 

Well, maybe not The Bold and the Beautiful. That show will go on and on and on. Brooke has  married every male character at least once and some of them twice. It is rumoured that she has also wed a couple of the show’s cameramen.

The Bold and the beautiful will go on and on and on. In the fullness of time, Brooke will marry one of her grandsons. When that marriage fails, because of Brooke’s infidelity, she will then marry one of her granddaughters. But that will just be the beginning!

As far as all other TV series go, we should recall TS Eliot’s poem, The Hollowmen. This poem refers to post World War 1 society, of men who are spiritually dead, who cannot transform their desires into fulfilment, their thoughts into actions. They lead unfulfilling lives. 

Eventually, Eliot says,                                                                                                                        
This is the way the world ends, 
Not with a bang but with a whimper.                                                                                                                                                                       
If the world ends with a whimper, we should not be too upset if our favourite TV series ended pretty much the same way.