TEAM UZUNOV kick-starts the Republic versus Constitutional Monarchy for Australia debate.
REPUBLICAN EDDIE - Monarchists' best weapon.
by Sasha Uzunov
Australia's constitutional monarchists should not be too alarmed at last year's rumblings emanating from republican advocate and Federal Opposition front bencher Malcolm Bligh Turnbull--not when another staunch republican, media celebrity and sports commentator Eddie McGuire is kicking own goals for the cause.
The push for the establishment of an Australian republic is an appeal to the patriotic heartstrings, in this nation deciding its "own" Head of State, and by extension, in a psychological and emotional sense, its own direction, future and preserving a unique "Australian culture" by leaving the nest of the maternal parent Great Britain.
Turnbull is a genuine supporter of the republican movement and led the unsuccessful 1999 commonwealth referendum on the issue. Some commentators were arguing that the cause was lost because of a confusion over how our future head of state, The President of the Commonwealth of Australia (POTCOA) or The President of the Republic of Australia (POTROA)--or Potteroo if you like, would be chosen: by direct popular ballot or a majority vote of both Houses of Parliament.
After the defeated plebiscite, many thought the republican cause was buried. But Turnbull has raised it again in the media, this time conceding that a directly elected President may be the way to go.
For those more cynically inclined Turnbull's comments might be seen as an indirect attack on Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott, a monarchist, who took over the Liberal Party front role from Turnbull. Be that as it may, the battle to change Australia's state framework from constitutional monarchy to republic is back in the limelight.
As it stands, Australia is a constitutional monarchy, established in 1901 with the federation of 6 former British colonies, now turned states, and it shares the same sovereign or Head of State with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The current sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II, House of Windsor, and her representative in Australia is the Governor General, currently Quentin Bryce, the first woman to occupy that role. Each Australian state has a Governor as the Queen's representative.
Ironically, Eddie McGuire remains the monarchists' best weapon in maintaining the status quo. How can that be, you might ask?
Eddie, the son of Scottish and Irish working class immigrants, has successfully built a whole shtik or routine of man of the people: passionate sports journalist, dedicated President of the Collingwood Australian Rules Football club which competes in the nation's premier competition, the Australian Football League(AFL).
I firmly believe he is a genuine advocate of the republican cause. A mutual acquaintance, the late Rohan Byrnes, a thoroughly decent man and a Tramway union official, use to speak very highly of Eddie in the late 1980s before Eddie was famous. Eddie has described Rohan as "he was one of my best mates.”
Byrnes' life was tragically cut short by a car accident in 1989. He left behind a widow Anna and a baby son Jack, later to become a singer contestant on the Australian idol television show.
So why is Eddie kicking own goals for the republicans?
From my own observations and from anecdotal evidence I have gathered by talking to many people as a journalist and film maker, a section of the Australian public, both Anglo-Celtic and non-english speaking backgrounds--like the earlier referendum disorientation over the mode of election for the President's job--remain confused by Eddie's words and actions.
Eddie along with his fellow sports commentator Bruce "Special" McAvaney, both had an Order of Australia medal pinned on their chest for patriotism, but for reasons unknown remain reluctant or afraid to use Australian terms in their sports commentary. This is a delicious paradox! Sorry Bruce for borrowing the "delicious" adjective from your vocabulary.
They say that a nation or a people's identity or self worth is tied with its language, its culture.
The sports commentary convention accepted by most around the English-speaking world is that terms specifically associated with a particular sport are used to describe actions, activities, plays or player positions peculiar to that sport. However, the brash, brave Americans love to tear up convention, thumb their noses and do it their own way, in their own style, just like U.S. tennis player Serena Williams' distinctive fashion sense.
For instance, American commentators have in the past referred to a Soccer (Association Football) "goalkeeper" as a "goaltender" (an ice hockey term); a "sending-off" of a player as an "ejection"; "extra time" as "overtime."
Other American terms that have crept into the Australian sports vocabulary include "turnover" to denote loss of possession in Australian Rules Football and Rugby League; and "road game" has replaced "away game."
Eddie, in the 1980s tried but failed to popularise Gridiron terms such as "Quarterback" into Australian Rules Football. However, he has managed to successfully slip in the American "Three-peat" for a "hat trick" of wins.
I do not recall legendary American commentators Howard Cossell or Al Michaels referring to a "fight" between players during an American Football (Gridiron) game as a "blue" or a "donnybrook." So I cannot understand why both Eddie and Bruce feel the need to sound more American than the Americans. However, thankfully, I haven't heard Australian commentators call an ambush, surprise, sneaky attack as a "Pearl Harbor Job", as American professional wrestling commentators do. Perhaps there is a feint light at the end of the tunnel.
The Americans should be praised for breaking the sports commentary convention as it also acts as an act of liberation, which their Australian colleagues have for reasons unknown, perhaps feeling of inferiority in their own culture and language, not grasped with both hands. Perhaps it is the dreaded cultural cringe - a concept first identified by famous Australian poet Henry Lawson - the need for overseas acceptance.Eddie, if you want people to become sympathetic to the republican cause, you need to step up to the plate, pardon the American baseball term. Lead by example and start using Australian terms in your sports commentary.