“I’m pretty sure there was a pretty good swell off Narrabeen that day, but I caught the repeats later on and it looked alright.”
I’d thought it would be a pretty good place to start the interview. It would make a nice dramatic, eye grabbing headline quote to find out where my Dad was the moment man walked on the moon, hundreds of millions of people world wide were huddled around TV sets waiting to see the grainy video feed and hear those famous words. Turns out my Dad, 17 at the time, was surfing.
“TV was never that amazing growing up, if I’m honest with you… When I was a kid and we were living at Eden and the signal was always pretty dodgy. You’d either get poor signal from Mexico City [commonly known as “Melbourne”] or worse signal from Wollongong. TV didn’t get that huge for me at least until I moved out, went up north… Then I guess it was alright. To be honest, I don’t have that great a memory of it.”
This is a pretty good introduction to my father. He loves the beach and, more than that, he likes to make my school assignments hard for me. It took a little bit more prying and a lengthy, expensive phone call to get anywhere good. Ever the loungechair athlete, he had a great deal to say about the emergence of World Series Cricket in the late 70’s.
“We were skeptical at first. I mean, I wasn’t a huge fan of the tests but I went to the odd match and this was completely different… Of course, once the one-dayers took off we were all drawn into the flair of it… everyone would fill into someones loungeroom for the long run. Eskys full of beer and cartons of cigarettes… we had some good times with that.”
Now we might have something. I mean, after a brief talk about how he should be a better role model, we had a discussion about the social scenes around these shindigs. He elaborated that after a few matches, the focus would be less on the actual cricket being played and more an excuse for a social scene. People would still keep an eye on the score, but “especially for those long bloody matches”, you would only notice the match when there was a wicket or a big hit. None the less, my father now swears that when he has had enough beers on a lazy Sunday afternoon he can hear Richie Benaud crackle in the distance.
If you aren’t familiar with the intricacies of Australian cricket mass commercialization via television 1960 – 1980, basically commercially interested agents within the Australian media created their own international cricket league to great commercial success. I don’t much care for the sport side but at the very least the media manipulation and the piles of money that were made make for a pretty interesting story and I recommend looking into it.
Moving back to the topic at hand. Sport has always been viewed communally, my father was simply in the right place at the right time to witness the rise of the heavily commercialized and televised sporting events. The specific period he is referring to, the rise of Kerry Packers World Series Cricket was more than this though, instead the rise of the televised sporting “spectacular” of the 1970s (Whannel, 1992 pp. 202). People would come together, if they aren’t able to get into a stadium, and attempt to simulate the atmosphere and fun of the live experience with their friends by gathering in small, enthusiastic and apparently drunken groups. As I’m sure you know, this proud tradition continues today.
At first I thought I’d made a mistake interviewing my father. As I mentioned earlier, he has a tendency to make things like this hard for me for the lolz. Well, jokes on you old man, you made it easier. Reflecting on my father responses has made me realise that above all the televisation of sport wasn’t simply the recording and transmitting of an event, but rather the process enabled people everywhere to attempt to extend the social scene and the atmosphere of a match. For the first time people were being broadcast at least a portion of the intangible space that we are focusing on in this class.
For helping me realise that I would like to thank my Dad.
Whannel, G 1992, Fields in Vision: Television Sport and Cultural Transformation, Routledge, London, UK