Saturday, July 12, 2008

Womens Basketball Brings Sexy Back

So I saw some stand up comedy last night, which basically revolved about taking the surname of Gabrielle Climi and turning it into a an STD. "Imagine," he pondered, "if you found out your girlfriend suffered from Climi" - you can supply your own "what is the deal with..." or laugh track if you want, we just went home.

This blog, initially, was going to be about what was found in soccer programmes and what it told me about local pride. I kind of went off that idea and wrote about other areas of local pride, but I'm still very conscious of the role sport plays in a community. Every so often when they aren't telling everyone how useless Kevin Rudd is you see some bewildered and blinking old duck or crusty old farmer standing in the middle of a football ground bemoaning the death or merger of a country football or netball team. These articles are easy to write, old duck, club won 6 Premierships in the 30s, VFL superstar grew up in the town, town migration, why aren't the AFL doing anything, didn't see the drought coming and so on. Kingstons team for instance, the Kingborough Tigers, mean nothing to me, which is a shame. They are my local team, so I should be on board, but AFL is everywhere now, I've got enough to worry about with Paul Medhurst. At some time in the next 50 years, I know there will be no more Penguin, but I don't think there's much anyone can do about. 

In the early part of the 90s, there was a massive push in Australia to make womens basketball sexy (like they are doing with netball now, dispersing the talent so every team has a hot girl - don't think we haven't noticed). This comprised of two things - first, putting every single woman in the WNBL (our local basketball league) regardless of shape into figure hugging lycra bodysuits and secondly, focusing all the leagues marketing muscle behind Trish Fallon, a sort of poor womans Emma George. It says a lot about how successful this was that while I can't name you a single team or player from that era other than Trish Fallon, I know she was married to a black American DJ called Rodney O who later beat her up. She was everywhere for a while, especially after we hosted the womens world championships. I think there was a brief Michelle Griffiths era, but that was about a week long. My mate (I promise this isn't a "my mate" story meaning it was really me) was stalking this womens basketballer called Mary Anne Di Francesco to the point that when it was announced on TV she was manning a phone line taking charity donations, he kept ringing it in different voices just to talk to her. Wonder what happened to him. Anyway, the point is, eventually they gave up when they realised it was hard to make Lauren Jackson hot, and the phase passed quietly and without comment.

This was a big, big awkward shock to me, because when I was living in Penguin, womens basketball was anything but sexy. It was violent and gang warfare, a complete expression of local pride which essentially became the towns focus. Penguin vs Ulverstone wasn't somewhere where you would expect to find a Trish Fallon or Michelle Griffiths model type, it was two teams of girls who looked like Peggy Lee Leather or Reggie Bennett. They were stocky, big, strong, and every possession was a contest. Every single team had a "Plugger", a reference to the girl who looked most like Tony Lockett. Anyone attempting a three pointer could expect to be absolutely flattened as she took the shot, and one game I went to, I think Penguin vs Wynyard, had the best crowd fight I've seen at any sporting event, which started because someone in the Wynyard crowd ordered a hot dog, someone in the Penguin crowd said only gay people (I didn't say it was a PC crowd fight) ate hot dogs, and two families of hillbillies just punched on for ages, to the point even security didn't want to break it up, it was so compelling. Now, these girls deserve everyones respect. Some people would tell you oh they were so ugly, and let's all laugh at them - they weren't ugly, they were beautiful local legends. If you were short, sweet and petite, you entered the Queens Quest competition, married a footballer and raised funds for the football club, and if you were stocky, big, could throw a punch or were just fat, you did your bit by playing womens basketball. It was sort of the same in the mens basketball, but to be honest, it just wasn't the same. There was a place for everyone in Penguin, the last fully functioning local community I'll ever live in.

And I hope it's always that way, forever and ever. There's still no place for you though Fallon, it's not your type of game...

No comments: