A fortnight after Adam Scott won the US Masters, amateur lip readers around the country are still in thrall over what the Australian golfer bellowed when he nailed a putt to put him on track to win the tournament.
Be it his patriotic ”Come on, Aussie” or merely an excitable ”Yabbadabbadooo!”, it’s a pity footballers don’t leave us with the same sense of mystery when the cameras pull in tight to catch their every emotion at key moments.
Every weekend, without fail, some hunk or other will fumble the ball, miss a goal, get the rough end of the ref’s whistle or generally stuff up, and, sure enough, the camera will zoom in to capture the agony only to cop an unmistakable spit-laden silent expletive.
You don’t need to be a professional lip reader, or even deaf, for that matter, to figure out what has just been said. The experts in the commentary box might drily note that player X has just ”expressed his frustration”. But you and I fancy we know a little better.
Now, I like to drop a good F bomb as much as the next person. There’s something about the release of tension a good cuss allows when you just need to get something off your chest.
You don’t need to have sat alongside me in the car to know my standard retort when a traffic light teases and then taunts me. But the presence of a three-year-old behind me has seen me convert to the more sober ”crumbs”.
Years ago, I worked in an office where one of the administration staff who was deaf tipped me off to the issue of lip-reading footy players. I remember asking her once what she did on the weekend and she told me she’d watched the footy. We started talking about the game. After a quick analysis, she started giggling. When I asked why, she said, because they all swear so much. I asked her how she knew. I lip read them, she said. And sure enough, ever since, I’ve been taken by the incessant F-bombing of our footy players.
Score a try? Nail a goal? You effing beauty! F. Drop the ball? F. Dud call from the ref? F. It’s the standard emotion for good and bad.
Of late it’s become incessant with ever closer camera angles and now, heaven forbid, microphones on the field trailing players back to their marks. Swearing will always be a part of sport. And particularly, Australian sport. Let’s be frank. We are world champion cussers.
But with sports forever trying to come up with a way to improve their image, I suspect there’s a terrific marketing opportunity going to waste here for all the winter sports that dominate our TV. I’ve never understood why none of the footy codes has embraced a charity swear jar. With the countless replays of tries, king hits, goals and frustrations, the silent F bombs get replayed repeatedly.
And there’s an awful lot of footy fans – professional lip readers and amateurs – who know exactly what is being said. Often with a few blushing kids sitting alongside them on the living-room couch. So every time a player gets caught mouthing the unmistakable, why don’t footy administrators, or TV footy shows, encourage the player to make a donation to a charity? Perhaps a charity for the deaf. After all, they’re the ones who have known exactly what Scott said when he nailed that putt.
If a swear jar is good enough for the kids at home, it’s hard to see why our highly paid sports people can’t set a slightly better example on a field where, frankly, nobody expects them to stop swearing. It’s all part of the passion, after all.
But at least when they’re caught in a super slow-mo replay mouthing a toothless F bomb, we can laugh at ourselves and acknowledge that it’s perhaps not the most gentlemanly thing to do, especially when an awful lot of people know exactly what they’re saying.
A dollar – or 10, or a few hundred – in the swear jar for deaf kids would be the perfect response. Either that, or convert them all to saying crumbs.
Michael Evans is a Herald journalist.