Thursday, June 19, 2008

Merv Hughes swims in shit - great cricket literature Volume 1

So I spent most of my day Thinking Falkirk, although not to the extent that I was hassling Tasmanians to move to Scotland. It was a strange day though - every time I tried to move, an old person would get in my way, just like that old Late Show sketch where the old people planned in a war room the best way to annoy people. So while I tried to think about Falkirk, I mostly thought "Get out of my way!" as another trolley bounced off my shins.

The good news is that thinking about Falkirk made me think about funny sports stories because I was on that whole won't this be an amusing post kind of trip tangentially. Now, my Mum spent most of my childhood equating Michael liking sports to Michael will read anything related to sports. My favourite type of sports books are the ones that end on the sombre note "there's no characters left in (insert sport here!)". Yes, it's always the same, we rooted some slappers, punched our opponents, and drank beer and nearly killed ourselves - but I wouldn't trade the memories, imagine having to play in this era! I imagine John Burgess feels the same way about Tim Campbell when he watches Million Dollar Wheel - that there's no characters left in game show hosting. The good thing about the "no characters left in sport" debate is that it's always a fat bloke who brings it up. Which is a great link to todays book of, "Merv Hughes, My Life and Other Funny Stories" by Merv Hughes and David Emerson.

If you were wondering, MLaOFS is a classic example of the genre of great sporting character studies you used to see littering the shelves of 1990s book stores. The book which I believe cost my mother 1.50, is described as one of the most hilarious books ever written about sport in the blurb and in the foreword by a man who knows all about hilarity, Allan Border. However, I find it to quite sad and depressing. The tenet is that playing for the Australian cricket team is a hilarious fun, but in the book, Merv ends up single, swimming in shit, injured, and almost dies in a plane crash. He becomes a chronic alcoholic, and Dean Jones almost dies from dehydration. In fact, if you set the book to a sad and moving soundtrack, you'd have a miserabilist epic. Being a character seems to involve endless schadenfraude and misery. See what you think.

Chapter 1 - Merv isn't very good at school or work. He is good at sport though. Luckily.
Chapter 2 - Merv compares pre cricket life with current cricket life. Loses girlfriend. Luckily, gains Tom Moody as a friend. I'm not sure that's a good thing. Not much hilarity in that.
Chapter 3 - Merv plays game of football in Darwin. Gets caned by short, fat Aborigines. Decides to play cricket - again, luckily.
Chapter 4 - Merv describes 3 of his debut matches for state, county and country - all three are disasters, which somehow reminds me of that old Far Side cartoon about the baby in kindergarten deliberately failing their colouring in because he didn't want to deal with the pressure of expectation. These first impressions can't always be such disasters.
Chapter 5 - Merv tours England. Hilarity ensues. David Boon wears a kilt.
Chapter 6 - Merv tours India. Swims in a sewer. This bit involves a man named Asif so it is almost certainly not true. Asif? Get it? Asif doesn't tell Merv that he is swimming in shit, which is hilarity in itself. Man meets David Boon and proclaims him a god (by which time you might think Boonies book would be better).
Chapter 7 - Merv sees a nearly fatal boat accident and hurts his knee.
Chapter 8 - Merv tours Dubai. Makes some Sheikh related puns.
Chapter 9 - Merv tours America. Finds baseball less exciting than cricket.
Chapter 10 - A funny Don Bradman story. Ian Chappell isn't involved on rebuttal.
Chapter 11 - An entire chapter on physical fear. Fear of being dropped, fear of batting against West Indians, fear of...everything. Including swimming in shit, hurting your knee, crashing in planes, befriending Tom Moody...
Chapter 12 - You get the point...

In short, this book is terrifyingly depressing. I didn't realise that my life of mis-adventure, disaster, near death experiences and injury emotional and physical constituted a funny story. I must put my own amusing life story to paper. Hell, I'm crap at sports, maybe I just didn't stick at it enough. Remember that girl who turned me down in Grade 12 - what a hilarious story! Sure proved her wrong! Yep, it'll sell a million copies.

Then maybe I can be friends with Tom Moody and wear a glove on my head.

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