As I sat down to watch the Australian women’s basketball match with France, the clock was ticking on 11:30 in the evening and my eyes were half closing. I was watching not because I am a basketball fan, but because it was Australia competing.
It was a tight fought match and France lead Australia by between one and 3 points at every quarter break except for the first. The match went in to over time and the French eventually came out 74-70 winners. It was an amazing contest between two sides, but the main result to come out of this match, was my reaction. That’s right, it was all about how one person went from being half asleep to almost waking up an entire neighbourhood.
With Australia trailing in the third quarter the match were perfectly poised. It was anyones for the taking and both teams were going gung-ho in search of a lead and a chance to settle their nerves. The crowd was fully behind both teams, with Australia having a slight edge in terms of support. Both teams were fired up and it was anyones for the taking. With the match very close, I had gone from half awake to wide awake and somehow became a genius on all things basketball.
With about 5 seconds to go in the 4th quarter, France had a free throw and a chance to wrap up the game by going 4 points clear. They missed their shot and Australia had roughly 3 seconds to score a three pointer and force overtime. A quick pass to Belinda Snell on the half way line and Snell hurled the ball towards the basket. The packed out crowd watched in anticipation as the ball sailed in the air and dipped in to the net to tie the game and send it to over time. The crowd went mental as the Aussie girls ran on the court, but more importantly, I was jumping off my seat and buzzing wide awake as if I had been an Opals fan since day 1.
Unfortunately Australia lost the game in over time, but as I pondered that moment whilst sitting on the bus bleary eyed on my way to work, I realised just how the Olympic Games brings out the patriotism in all of us. It reminded me of a very similar feeling I had watching Australia in the softball at the 2008 Olympic games. We were playing Japan in the bronze medal match with the winner earning a spot in the gold medal match and the loser the bronze. It was another ‘overtime’ match which went to 12 innings rather than the usual 7 after Australia tied it up at the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings. I was jumping as much as I was when Belinda Snell sunk her half court buzzer beater.
Both basketball and softball are sports I’ve never had an interest in or even understood the rules about, but here I was jumping for joy and, mainly only because it was Australia that was playing. I was filled with a sense of pride and patriotism that I only ever experience when Australia plays football. The Olympic Games brings out that sense of patriotism in all of us. Before the game had started, I only knew of Lauren Jackson but have now become an expert on all things Opals. I’ll now be following all of their remaining games and cheering them on with every decibel in my voice.
Regardless of what sport you may follow for the rest of the time every 4 years, but when the Olympics rolls around, you become patriotic and will cheer on any competitor from your country in any sport. It’s the beauty of the Olympic Games and something that no other event can claim to. People jumping out of their seats screaming for a team they know nothing about in a sport they have never watched before, but all because they are wearing the colours of their country. It’s a one in a four-year phenomena that is a sight to behold and a chance to let your inner wild side out.
It’s a pity we only get to experience something such as the Olympics every four years. It’s a moment we all should cherish and enjoy every moment we possibly can. No one will remember how crazy you looked jumping around or who you hugged or kissed, but it will be done in unison, which matters most. Time to get your Australia gear out and warm up the voices, as we have plenty of cheering to do and there is to be no shortage or patriotism.
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