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Fear and Loathing in Channel 9


Hunter S. Thompson's ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’ for The Scanlan Monthly, was described as "This is it, this is Pure Gonzo" by Bill Cardoso, the editor of The Boston Globe. This was the first time the term 'Gonzo' was used to describe his writing. He seemed quite pleased by it too, "Okay, that's what I do. Gonzo", he barked in approval, or maybe mumbled while dropping acid. The latter seems more likely.

Yet, without getting too hazy, the Channel 9 crew have transposed elements of Gonzo into their commentary, warts and all. Once upon a time, Richie Benaud, calm and with a great deal of gravitas, was the doyen of the box, leading the narrative in his own minimalist, almost detached manner.

Heals, Tubs, Huss, Slats, Smithy and Gang have usurped the context, forcing their presence into the cricket, almost on a first-person basis. Conductors of the game. Deeply ingrained in the process. You can almost hear their bums squeak when Starc is about hurl the ball at speed; surely Smithy shrivels in his seat. Pure Gonzo.

Well, almost. I mean, you can throw in Shane Warne's mural, a play on Paul Cezanne's The Card Players and a whole lot more, perverse and unapologetically self-congratulatory: Warney with the babes, Warney the Poker worm, Jack Nicholson in his backyard, Anthony Hopkins manning the barbeque. Decadent and Depraved. He is channelling his inner Ralph Steadman. His matiest of mates, their Gonzo wares.


Dean Jones, you silly git, how dare you ask angry Curtly Ambrose to take off his wristbands. Fucking blasphemous punk. Mark Taylor nearly dropped his pants at the other end. So that's your cue, Mitchell Santner, do the old gig, ask Nathan Lyon to take off some white bandage. He ain't gonna shag you like a burly West Indian. By shag I mean, grab you by the balls and watch you squirm. Perhaps squirt some sweat too. Drop some blood if necessary. "Vision, pigfuck", Smithy might add, "that's important." The ball's pink, and round, bulbous, should he call it bulbous, I mean can he? Nope, this is not his shtick I am describing. "The ball, son, the ball." Hit it, thwack it, but by all means don't give the bloody Aussie your wicket. "This is 1984. I am up next, don't really want to have a go at a moving pink ball."

That, folks, is Channel 9 commentary in a nutshell. Fear and Loathing in Adelaide. Under a Crimson Sky.

Don't get me wrong though, I love Hunter S. Thomson and the whole idea of Gonzo journalism, immersing yourself in the subject, the introspection, and at a personal level, how gut-churningly resonant it all feels, but then again, there is a time, space and most certainly a context for this sort of cussed style. When I hear Huss (Michael Hussey) imploring his old mates with yelps of 'C'mon! C'mon!', I am reminded of the 'whiskey gentry' of the Kentucky Derby (Or should I call it the 'Beer Gentry'?), a mix of the overdone larrikin Aussie act and a 'terminal identity crisis'.

Hunter made an interesting point about why a 'flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed' like Richard Nixon could slither into White House. "He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger", he writes in He Was A Crook. Heals and Tubs, Slats and Warney (sorry, you're still my favourite leggie), throughout their careers have been the All-Australian dudes- blokey, matey, funny even- and they could surely play cricket, so why not?

But these guys on Channel 9, they are not as morally bankrupt as Richard Nixon, they have no spying Hoover to rest their heads on, no Watergate to bump them out of office, so surely this is a far-fetched analogy? Perhaps it is, but try telling this to a self-respecting cricket fan, try to undervalue his grievances at Bantergate, and overnight there shall be a proliferation of Bob Woodwards and Carl Bernsteins, snapping at their heels, assiduously taping out cringe-inducing chummy humour. Nail them to their scrotums is our mantra.

What do I know anyway? I may be wrong. Perhaps I have been a fool all along, sounding all pedantic. Fucking Nixon? What's he doing here? You pretentious twit? I sit at home on most days, grope around for things to crib at.

Perhaps Tubs is the real-deal, perhaps Gonzo and cricket can indeed mix. What if colourful loose-fitting hunting jackets, floppy brimmed sun-hats and permanently loaded cigarette holders are the future? And here I am, all of twenty-two, sounding old and conservative.

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If Cryuff played cricket, he would have been me, or I him....

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