27 October 2010

In Defence of Our Stupid Warcry

Recently news.com.au published an article from Brisbane’s Courier-Mail and a poll calling for the banning of the Aussie sporting warcy “Oi! Oi! Oi!” on grounds that it’s embarrassing. When I last checked, the yeas were outnumbering the nays two to one and I find that distressing.

I’m not remotely embarrassed to say I love the Aussie Aussie Aussie warcry. Some of my most pleasant memories are of watching cricket on TV, hearing Bill Lawry say something insightful like “There’s a hush around the MCG as McGrath comes in from the members’ end” and being able to hear nothing through the field microphones except bay thirteen yelling “Oi Oi Oi!” at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for five minutes after I heard then IOC chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch close the 2000 Olympics by trying the call for himself, and getting a 70000 strong response.

Yes, I know Glen McGrath has retired. Yes, I know the Sydney Olympics were a decade ago. Big deal. Waltzing Matilda is older than both of them. You want to ban that too?

To me, Oi Oi Oi expresses in a most efficient manner the very character of Australian sport; it’s loud, it’s straightforward and it’s awesome. On the other side of the coin, it’s also overly simplistic, slightly annoying and at its most expressive under the influence of alcohol (consumed responsibly, obviously).

What’s not to love?

I know there are those who campaign for an Australia with higher cultural aspirations, free of the cultural cringe of the past and representative of a more modern, intelligent and mature Australia. I’m all for that, and I’ll happily join you for an opera, cello recital or stroll through the national gallery (just don’t ask me to write about it), followed by a rousing chorus of “I Vow to Thee My Country” back at the members’ lounge.

But back off and leave my sports chants alone!

I think some of the problem might be with the over application of the chant. As I wrote earlier, my fondest memories of it are as background noise during a one day cricket final. With the coming of the Olympics in 2000, the chant went spectacularly mainstream and starting appearing in rock concerts, telethons, youth conventions and, most recently and hilariously, the canonisation of St. Mary MacKillop. I have to agree, things have gotten a little out of hand there.

But let’s not get too excited and start banning things like an out of control web filter. Let’s put the chant back in bay thirteen where it belongs and get on with banning something sensible.

Like the Courier-Mail.

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Garry with 2 Rs
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