Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Postscript - social observations

Eldest is coaching a junior netball team, so I went to watch her team play this morning.

For the benefit of international readers who may never have heard of the game, netball began as a more genteel British Empire/Commonwealth version of basketball for women, a non-contact sport suitable for women to play.

It has morphed into Australia's largest sport for women, one with its own Trans-Tasman League.

Genteel? I leave it to you to judge from the photo.

Crikey, there are some good looking women there, but as a mere male I wouldn't want to cross some of them. They would thump the living daylights out of me.

As so often happens when I am on my own, Helen was coaching so I left her alone, I switched to social observation mode.

The first thing I did was count bare feet. I have complained about the decline in bare feet before. This was a big crowd, with teams plus parents and siblings playing on perhaps 40 courts. I counted just five pairs of bare feet. The saddest thing I saw were five year olds in tracky-dacks with brand name sports shoes. By contrast, there were hundreds of pairs of the dreaded thongs.

During the game I saw an example of the modern Australian attitudes that I have so come to detest. The adjoining court involved a game between I think a nearby school (St Clare's) and Randwick. The umpire on my side was, I would guess, a fifteen year old St Clare's girl.

A female parent got angrier and angrier over umpiring decisions. She spoke in loud tones heard by all, then spoke to the fifteen year old umpire. Then she marched off, saying that she was going to get an official. She did, a Randwick official came back.

Now I think that the parent was right in a technical sense about the decisions. But she destroyed a young volunteer who was drafted in to fill a gap. If I had been that girl, I would have called the game off.

Eldest was furious. She told me after the game that if the women had said one thing more she would have intervened.

On the way to the game we were talking about the latest quaint habit of the girls' old school. In a move that more ancient attendees of convents will remember, the school has re-introduced kneeling to check dress length. Unfortunately, this has had some bad side-effects if reports are to be believed.

A rather plump girl was told in assembly that her dress was too short and that she must buy a bigger one. The poor girl burst into tears, explaining that she already had the biggest fit that the uniform shop offered.

There is much to be admired in modern Australia. There is also cruelty and conformity. I will continue to fight against the second.

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