Sports Journalist's Shockingly Inappropriate Joke At Matildas Match
It started out with the best of intentions. Really it did.
But in retrospect it was an almost unbelievably stupid thing to say.
The Matildas beat New Zealand 2-0 last night in the Cup of Nations at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney, in a result which was a good start to the Ante Milicic coaching era.
But there was one moment which wasn't exactly in the spirit of the evening.
At half-time, an off-duty sports journalist watching the action from the stands popped over to the open-air press area to say hello to a fellow scribe.
"So when does the real season start?" he asked.
SAY WHAT??? COME AGAIN???
The working journalist nodded and smiled, because he knew what the first journalist meant. But plenty of other people within earshot were aghast.
THE REAL SEASON??? AS IN, MEN'S FOOTBALL, NOT THE WOMEN'S GAME???
That's what everyone thought was implied. What else could they think? And what a sexist, ridiculous thing to say.
Take a deep breath because, thankfully, this story is nowhere near as bad as you think. The opposite, in fact.
Full disclosure: the journalist who uttered the seemingly inappropriate statement was me. And the other journalist was a prominent football writer who happens to coach the team our sons play in.
So actually, when I said "the real season", I referred not to professional football of either the men's nor women's variety, but to our very average local under-13 team, who last year finished fourth-last in a much-improved performance.
As any parent knows, we oldies enjoy junior sport as much as the kids. Not in a crazy-yelling-parent-on-the-sideline kinda way, but in a healthy community-building kind of way.
Junior sporting teams make you feel part of something. In a very significant way, they are more enriching than professional sport. My mate the journo got the joke. But no one else did, and on reflection, I don't blame them at all.
Anyway I spent the next five minutes explaining what I meant to anyone who cared, and then I drank some more beer, which really was the only sensible thing to do.
In all other respects, this was a wonderful occasion which played out before a large, appreciative midweek crowd. I travelled to the match on public transport, alongside people of all ages wearing Matildas jerseys.
Stick your headphones on and listen to that roar. That, people, is an engaged group of fans.
After I posted that tweet, a friend responded with a link to a really excellent recent column by Kate Palmer, CEO of government agency Sport Australia.
"There is no longer a place for the sub-category known as “women’s sport”. There is just sport," Palmer wrote.
I agree. And last night, on a sweet late summer Sydney evening, the sport was top bloody notch. And the fans loved it. And they saluted their heroes in all sorts of enthusiastic ways. And their heroes deserved it.