At the end of this, the first week in March, 2022, Australians, each one of us, are facing a set of difficult circumstances.
If it isn’t the aftermath of a flood, fire, death from Covid-19, destitution due to unemployment, or homelessness, then it is war in Europe, and if it isn’t a world war, it is the death of a sporting hero. Or even worse, two sporting heroes.
Could we be more vulnerable, more fragile than we are, right now? And don’t we need each other, right now, more than ever?
On Friday, after running errands with my partner, I remembered that he might not have heard the news: Rod Marsh had passed away.
Rod Marsh’s hey-day had long since ended. When I began to be interested in cricket, it was the era of Captain Grumpy, Allan Border as Captain, Ian Healy in as the wicketkeeper, and Merv Hughes out on the boundary. And then sprouted the young guns: the Waugh brothers, McGrath,Taylor, Gilchrist and others, and notably, Shane Warne. This fair haired bowling wizard, who would always be a boy, of sorts, became the idol and pin-up boy of every cricket fan, even in other nations who hated the Aussie side. Australian cricket was healthy and alive, to those of us who could be bothered with it.
And now, after an incredibly successful career, (708 Test wickets successful) and an illustrious if at times infuriatingly embarrassing retirement, Shane Warne has died, at just 52.
Our fair Aussie Hero, a god among the gods of sporting prowess, an affable, sometimes socially incorrigible, a benign, ever-youthful legend, is dead.
He died, as he had lived, in a certain attitude of self-indulgence and glamour in a luxurious bungalow, whilst holidaying in Koh Samui. I think this aspect of his death has not surprised any of us, though we’re not sure of the circumstances.
My sorrow at his loss has pretty much stayed internal; unsure if I ever would have, or could have looked at him with other than a conflicted jumble of respect, doubt and sometimes embarrassment, I have found myself actually shedding a quiet tear. The thought of his friends, his fans, his associates, within the sport, and in the broadcasting boxes, who’ve lost their idol, has moved me.
I’ve seen tributes on TV, and read them on social media. I’ve been moved by the depth of feeling for the man.
I wanted to hate him for his womanising ways, but the mud didn’t stick to him. He was just too damn likeable. I am genuinely sad for us, for the loss of him.
I know he isn’t well regarded in every quarter, especially for those who aren’t into cricket. And there are many of you out there.
Sport, for many, is simply a modern-day barbarism, and Cricket, in particular, is boring.
It’s Colonialist, it’s very polite, and a very patience-demanding, arduous pursuit.
I’m not going to argue with that perception.
However, I am going to be less than sympathetic to the idea that Warne was not notable enough, or a good enough person to cry over.
I won’t deny he was flawed, even stupid on occasion, just as he also admitted. But there was nothing to hide, there was nothing sneaky or covert about the man, and this is why I love him. In a motherly or even big sisterly sense, I love him.
If I can, I will be in a Victorian pub somewhere, when they hold his state funeral. I’ll be drinking a toast to him. I’ll be listening to others tell those legendary tales of his exploits as spin bowler for one of the most successful cricket sides ever to play for Australia.
I wouldn’t miss it for quids.
I know my cricket-mad son and husband will probably be with me. We will remember the event. We may drink a lot, we hopefully will laugh, and probably cry. I hope there will be many of us, and that we will get some of the togetherness, the empathy, the camaraderie we’ve been thirsting for.
If it’s not with my kids, then it will be my other friends, or strangers for that matter.
We have a lot to grieve over together.
A lot more than a handsome, green-eyed party boy, who prematurely bit the dust.
We might also mourn the loss of innocence, in the death of a star, actually, in the death of two stars, along with Marsh. Two men of sporting valour. Their histories will stand, and we’ll think of them, and the times they embodied. The flavour and essence of a game before Covid-19, before that lived reality of a world on the brink of climate crises, and a possible war in Europe.
We might also want to share a catharsis of anxious grief over a world gone completely wrong. In the collective consciousness, we’re all probably close to tears about so much.
The devastation of the fury of fire, flood and drought that has defined this very weird summer, and the long tough winter of the second year in a pandemic. The effects of a malevolent La Nina have brought us more of everything that we didn’t need.
These events have affected us all, one way or another. To use social media in a general outpouring of grief is a pretty acceptable space nowadays. To dissent, and give people grief over disagreeing about Warne, seems petty right now.
We could probably afford to give each other a bit of space to be sad, to be distraught about him, as much as we can afford the space for others to cry about their lost belongings, their lost relatives, or their broken lives after Covid-19.
We can commiserate about the loss of Shane Warne at 52, but we can also commiserate about so much else. And we can celebrate, if we want to, as well.
I want to be with others when they celebrate the life of a man who should have been around a lot longer to laugh and make others happy, the way he always said he wanted to.
Because it feels right to do so.
So I’ll do me and cry, and you, you just do you, and join me, or let me be.
Briar Patricia lives in Bathurst, NSW, and writes mainly for fun, while working on a long-awaited novel. You can read her blog posts from her recent sojourn in the US, at briarpatricia. Also, find her on Twitter at @briarbush.