Adam Goodes: A Great Australian

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The Adam Goodes saga has touched me deeply.

I have been overseas for the last three months and have seen a lot of smoke, predominantly on Facebook, about people booing Goodes, champion Aboriginal footballer and Australian of the Year.

To begin with, I loathe booing. It’s a small example of sports fans at their worst. I have been booed, and I consider it the most profound insult you can offer someone who is giving their all. However, I also tend to see these things very simply.

I remember my sparring partner, Chris ‘Godzilla’ Chrisopoulides, calling out what I’d refer to as trolls at the New Zealand K1 in 2005 when he fought and defeated Jason Suttie.

Suttie, a fearsome fighter, could no longer stand after absorbing a gruesome number of Chris’ signature leg kicks over five rounds – two of which were tie-breakers. The crowd booed when the judges handed down their decision; Chris snatched the mic from the announcer and demanded they shut their mouths, or come up to the ring and make themselves known.

As far as I’m concerned, booing is trolling and emotionally, that’s as far as the discussion goes for me.

I remember my first trip to New Zealand and seeing Maori symbols inscribed on the glass screens around the arrivals section of Auckland airport. It made me feel embarrassed. And when I see the All-Blacks perform the haka – performed by whites and black players together – that makes me cringe.

I love Goodes war dance. It’s a fucking relief.

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I was also moved profoundly by Stan Grant’s article, I can Tell You How Adam Goodes Feels. Every Aboriginal Person Has Felt It.

I was unaware of these things, and I think Grant has had the definitive word in the debate.

I must confess that I don’t watch football, because I’m not interested in it. I have, however, heard plenty of criticism of Goodes because of the way he has used his sport as a platform for his politics. To me, saying Goodes is wrong to do so is like saying Muhammad Ali should have stayed Cassius Clay, kept his mouth shut and stuck to boxing.

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Muhammad Ali taunting Floyd Patterson. Patterson had persisted in referring to him as Cassius Clay, the name bestowed by the slave owners of his ancestors.

Sport is a profound, protean metaphor and that is why we watch it. The best athletes transcend the physical contest and become statesmen when they reach its political implications. This is why great societies value and venerate sportsmen, from the Ancient Greeks onwards.

Goodes criticisms of white Australia are perfectly reasonable and as Australians, we just have to suck it up. That kind of commentary is classic Malcolm X. He said that white men were the devil and described the assassination of President Kennedy as ‘the chickens coming home to roost’. Historically, he has become as significant to the American civil rights movement as a provocateur and polemicist as Martin Luther King.

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