No, they aint war games

‘‘Yes, we really kicked ass..’’
Nanjing Night Net

So said a young Australian at Gallipoli, now a must-visit on any tourist itinerary on the grand tour of Europe and environs.

There it is in two: the ignorance of history and the tragic Anzac story, and the innappropriate Americanism ‘‘kicked ass’’.

Ladeez and gentlemen, for your entertainment: the Roosters v the Dragons and Anzac Day.

No surprise that Anzac Day—football has become an entertainment extravaganza: it’s all showbiz now in the computer age.

Thus we had Brad Fittler and Ben Hornby descending in a helicopter before presenting the inaugural Ashton-Collier Cup to an Army representative.

Fittler said it was ‘‘awesome’’ and humbling.

We had commentators with the obligatory sprigs of rosemary and making the point that a rugby league game couldn’t be equated with the Anzacs, as the pre-match extravaganza rolled on.

Then we had the Ray Warren-Phil Gould contradiction: saying as veteran Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello sprinted away for a try: ‘‘Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. Lest we forget.’’

AFL coach Mick Malthouse is aware of a world outside of football. He once made reference to Kofi Annan, the then United Nations secretary general.

But Malthouse also once got into trouble for berating his team for not showing some of the Anzac spirit on Anzac Day. Only a game of football.

At least St George Illawarra coach Steve Price didn’t berate his team with Anzac spirit references after the Dragons were beaten.

Older Roosters-Dragons fans might remember other times and other Anzac Day matches.

A time when the game was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground and was preceded by a simple performance by a military brass band, unaccompanied by helicopter arrivals, hype and television.

A time when old Diggers went to the football or the Randwick races and when two-up was permitted just for the day.

A time when everyone had fathers and uncles who had seen war service.

A time when if they weren’t marching, fathers sat in front of black-and-white televisions and watched the Anzac Day march, every minute of it, and weren’t to be disturbed.

Silence was understood.

It was a solemn day. That was understood too.

It was also a less diverse, more monochrome, more repressive Australia accused of apathy by those who decried its provincialism.

Was that apathy better than the flag-waving American-style aggressive nationalism of now, the type that would have been anathema then?

It’s a moot point.

Few travelled overseas then, most couldn’t afford it, and packaged tours to Gallipoli were beyond imagining.

Better times now.

The Kontiki-style packaged tour to Ypres-Gallipoli-El Alamein and all points in between can’t be far away; there’ll be the Papua New Guinea five-day special, and for the adventurous, the Kokoda Track abseiling-bungee jump tour.

For those who want to travel in leisurely five-star luxury, who could beat the Islander cruise, incorporating the Coral Sea, Solomon Islands, Guam and Wake Island and ending at Pearl Harbour.

If you want to kick a goal, now that’s a kick-ass holiday.

It’s called progress.

Entertaining as the Gai and Tom Waterhouse-John Singleton melee-brouhaha-contretemps-controversy is, with special guest appearances by colourful identities such as Andrew Johns and Allan Robinson, a couple of developments have been overlooked.

First More Joyous, the catalyst for the controversy, should be retired.

It’s obvious the great mare aint what she used to be and it would be only a shame if her record should be tarnished, and the memory of how good she was be dimmed, if she races on.

Second, and more disturbing, has been the retirement of Waterhouse’s Pierro and the imminent one of John Hawke’s All Too Hard, Black Caviar’s half brother.

This is predictive of a European-style future in which young stallions are whisked off to stud at three and four, as soon as they’ve won a group-one race that establishes their sire value.

Racehorses have always been bred to race, but it’s doubtful if stallions will now race on for season after season, proving their greatness and being compared with the greats.

In a moment of hyperbolic extravagance, Gai Waterhouse said Pierro was the best horse seen in 50 years.

Perhaps. We’ll never know.

All that could be said is that Pierro has been a genuine and gutsy runner of high class in his mere 14 starts, but there have been perhaps 50 three year olds of similar potential at the same stage of careers in the last 50 years.

Interestingly, Pierro’s sire Lohnro had a full racing career before retirement.

Fellow three year old All Too Hard may go to England for the Queen Anne Stakes in June.

This seems to be the new template: establish stud value in Australia, then consider whether to embellish it if the horse can win a group one overseas.

The Hawkes have intimated they’d prefer the horse to race on, that he could be as good as Lohnro.

Long odds of that.

Big prizemoney on offer but bigger prizes at stud for the owners.

Romance of the turf?

That’s pretty much fiction now. Little chance for the little man among the big boys in this lucrative worldwide game.

The biggest losers are racelovers who will ask: Pierro-All Too Hard, how good might they have been?

And a big cheerio to Glenn Maxwell.

The Big Show has been a no-show for nine Mumbai matches in the Indian hit-and-wiggle aka the cauldron aka Twenty/20cricket. He hasn’t been picked.

Nice non-work if you can get it for a lazy million.

Time for any prospective footballer to pick up a bat and ball. Beats getting smashed every weekend for a fraction of the dough

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