Laurie Axtens - Call of the Loon

Confessions of a career sledger

Contrary to the popular misconception Im a pretty nasty piece of work. Ive delivered great streams of expletives toward officials and opponents, damaged equipment in moments of petulant rage and regularly celebrated my opponents errors with bursts of derisive laughter. There is a word for blokes like me but we dont print words like that in this publication.

Why, Ive even taken up tennis so that I can yell Cmon when my rivals serve up a double fault.

Despite my regular disgusting displays of ubercompetitive anti-social behaviour I have never been cited by an umpire and only ever received two yellow cards in a lifetime of being a pure grub. Whether that is because my team-mates were even more grubby than me or because I had an innocent looking face Im not certain, but looking back I feel that I should have been held to account for my behaviour. You know, a couple of weeks rest at the beach or on the party circuit instead of a weekend in 40-degree temps. But no, not even a tut tut.

I recall starting out as a generous opponent, applauding good shots, being concerned for the well-being of the fallen foe and generally being a half decent human, but as I aged I became addicted to victory. It wasnt simply a case of winning at all costs I was driven by the horror of losing to people who were as foul mouthed and bad tempered and generally arrogant as me. Giving those miserable little sledging geese bragging rights filled me with loathing. I remember earnestly expounded Bradmans adage that we should grind the bastards into the ground and it worked, generally, on the day, but it alienated me from a host of very decent people. Most teams only possess a couple of geese; most players just enjoy playing but the geese got the better of me and I became one. A squawking fool full of anger and resentment because they got under my skin. Sure it gave my opponents greater pleasure when they beat me but sport is supposed to be a positive social outlet where we make friends, not enemies, and where we can make business contacts and have fun and enrich our lives.

Sport can be positive but first it tests you; it pries into your personal life and searches for weakness. Like walking through a carnival house of mirrors it holds up many distorted self images which can suck you in like Alice through the looking glass into the maelstrom culture of blame. Maintaining your self belief amidst the squawking of the geese is called composure. Dont know much about it myself, but Ive heard its very good.

Perhaps its worth a shot.


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