Having been drenched by a schooner of someone else’s beer, after it had been processed by his internal organs and siphoned into a plastic cup, I lost my enthusiasm for one day cricket. But last night’s Twenty20 confirmed all of Guy Debord’s predictions. It was a fascinating cultural spectacle, especially if one watched it on the telly, as millions did.
To give the impression of proximity and familiarity the players had nicknames, rather than real names, on their backs. Gilchrist became ‘Church’, Haydon ‘Haydos’ and Vaughan ‘Vaughan’. Some players, including Church and Punter were wired up, and not just because ASIO thinks Monty has a threatening surname. What better way for the crowd to have a sense of participation than have Gilchrist chat as Anderson runs in to be smashed for another six by the bloke we’re listening to? It’s all about being there isn’t it?
Commentators spoke breathlessly of the amazing, but entirely contrived, atmosphere. Sections of the crowd adorned with bright red T-shirts weren’t members of the Barmy Army, they were promoting Kentucky Fried Chicken. Songs weren’t just played between overs, they thundered throughout, turning the SCG into a ‘70s era disco. The ‘incredible atmosphere’ wasn’t created by excited spectators, it was orchestrated by a bloke with a PA.
The sponsors, for whom this game has been created, have finally had their way. Eat the food, drink the beer, buy the products and help us create the atmosphere that will make those watching at home more predisposed to following suit. But whatever you do, don’t allow the spectator the time or space to consider what’s really going on. Only Tony Greg selling his autographed bats, signed by the sponsors, could have added to the sense of unreality.
As Debord said, “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.” Had he been at the SCG last night, even an old Marxist like him would be shocked at the accuracy of his foresight. Soft drinks and fried chicken, it appears, are colonising our social life.
As for the game itself, there were some lusty hits, Keven Pieterson fulfilled his quota of dropped catches and Australia’s new recruits looked very, very good. In reality, though, and there wasn’t much of that, it was all over before the English picked up their bats. The only thing that was truly heart stopping was the food.