I’ve figured out how to fix sport: two balls
17th November 2022

Summer would not be summer without launching another unsuccessful expedition to convince my wife that cricket is fun. This is a terrific use of both of our summers. People love to be convinced an activity is fun. With just nine to ten hours of patient explanation, she’ll nod her head and be forced to logically conclude that yes, this is fun.

But I can only proselytise for so long. What I need is for sporting codes to meet me halfway. They’re locked in the same battle as me, only on a grander scale. To survive, they must convince a world with content on demand that they’re supplying quality goods.

If sport is human drama and a pure reflection of life, then it too must embrace the chaos of our times.Credit:iStock

I understand that I am writing in the “books are sports to me” section of this paper and far from the land of the “rugby league is the only true poetry” columns, but please hear me out. It is with you in mind that I wish to reform all of sport.

Just last week, I was sitting with friends in the stands of the A-League Sydney derby discussing exactly how we, as casual fans, would fix the most popular sport in the world. Shot clock? Too American. Each team must field at least one wild dog? Impractical, but you have my attention.

This is a recurring hobby of mine. I want to fix every sport.

For example, in a doubles tennis tournament, a player should have the option of betraying their partner mid-match and joining the other team. This can only be done by making a run for the net and leaping over to the other side. If the partner you abandoned wins the 3v1 alone, they advance and you don’t. If you are struck by the ball before you vault the net, you are out of the match. If your partner mistakenly thinks you’re going for the net and strikes you, you’re still out. The other team can also strike you, rejecting your cowardly offer. See, now we’ve injected human drama. Like any good relationship when things get boring, you can spice it up by throwing in a few trust issues.

Unfortunately, it is simply not practical for me to individually fix every single sport. I am a busy man with many appointments to keep, none of which I can specify. What we need is a single universal reform that can bring every sport into the future.

Here is where I have good news: it has already been invented. Three perfect syllables that stir joy in the hearts of everyone who hears them.

Multiball.

It’s a solution so elegant, so mathematically perfect that Einstein himself is furiously spinning in his grave right now wishing he’d pissed away more time on the pinball machine at the back of the patent office. Like all the world’s great truths, this is simple, beautiful and somehow eternal. You could easily imagine such an idea having first emerged from Socrates.

The only true wisdom is in knowing that two balls are better than one.

This is where I lost the NRL on my proposal, though they did giggle when I said two balls. Multiball is such high-octane fun, it was even featured in the latest Top Gun movie. (This is where I won back the NRL). The film required a modernised version of the classic volleyball scene and so they invented multiball gridiron. Now, am I claiming that this was great cinema? Yes. I am also claiming that. Give that scene the Oscar for Best Depiction Of A Cool Future Sport In A Feature-Length Drama. (This is a new category from my Reinventing Awards Show folio, to be unveiled in a later column.)

Let me walk you through how multiball is going to revolutionise every sport you watch, starting with making cricket interesting.

Both batters are on strike at all times. Two quicks are speeding in from both ends, simultaneously releasing their ball while desperately trying to dodge the one coming the other way. Only one end gets a wicket keeper. Bats are swinging, fielders are panicking, the crowd is screaming.

“Oh my god, this is horrible! Someone is going to be killed,” my wife screams. And bang, she’s hooked.

Multiball is going to revolutionise every sport you watch, trust me.Credit:Sydney Morning Herald

As the multiball power play ends and excitement slows, we hit the remote again. It’s the NRL Finals. A prop is tackled metres from the line and slowly rises to play the ball when they hear a roar from the crowd. Through the rain, they can vaguely make out the shape of his teammates at the other end of the field, outnumbered and holding on for dear life. Do they stay on the attack and try to score first or make a heroic 100-metre dash to defend the homefront?

And what’s that in the picture-in-picture? The Special Ks are dramatically splitting apart as Kokkinakis has finally had enough and he’s going for the net.

This is the point in the column where I would like to pull back the curtain a little and reveal what I am actually talking about here. We try so hard to control the unpredictable elements in our lives. We want everything to be neat and perfect as if we dream of one day having our very existence frozen on ice and displayed in a museum as the correct life to live. But living is not about perfection, it is about keeping your head above water as wave after wave of uncontrollable chaos crashes on top of you. If sport is human drama and a pure reflection of life, then it too must embrace the chaos of our times. The modern life is one of split priorities, abject terror, and information bombardment. We live multiball every damn day of our life. And if we work hard, we ought to play hard.

Now this is the point in the column where I pull back the curtain on the curtain I just pulled back and reveal that I didn’t actually particularly mean any of that but at some point along the journey I did convince myself. That’s what embracing the chaos can do for you.

One life. Multiball.

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