The year is 2050.
The government is growing increasingly concerned about the number of football players engaging in illegal activities out-of-hours. Football clubs become incredibly frustrated by the players’ behaviour, because a small number of bad eggs are making ALL footballers look bad. The clubs issue numerous statements distancing themselves from these players, going to great lengths to point out that their actions completely contravene the football culture. What’s worse, the players’ behaviour seems to be influencing spectators, who themselves then go and engage in similar activities.
In the end, the government decides enough is enough. They start by banning football players from appearing in any kind of advertising, especially ones targeted at children. This is enormously popular with voters, who’ve been influenced by the media’s constant demonisation of footballers. Pretty soon, players and spectators stop wearing their guernseys on the street, for fear of getting abused by the general public.
Ahead of the following election, the opposition announces it will ban all telecasts of all football matches. Talk-back radio around the country is awash with callers telling everyone that it’s about time it happened. The opposition sweeps into power, and the new legislation is introduced. The football league, already suffering huge spectator losses in previous years, takes a massive hit from the lost advertising revenue, and elects to wind up the national competition.
Honest players and supporters are gutted, given they have not done anything wrong. As football’s popularity dwindles, it moves back to a more local competition, mostly run by amateur enthusiasts. But even at a local level, the illegal behaviour from a small minority continues. One of the local newspapers gets wind of this and sets up a surveillance operation, the results of which are splashed across the front page the following day. The government and the opposition, looking at an easy vote grab, both take turns to see who can be more outraged.
The government responds by banning any gatherings of football players, regardless of whether or not they’re playing football. Wearing of guernseys or holding a football in public instantly attracts the attention of police, regardless of whether or not the players are committing any crimes. Accusations are made that the police, who have been told by the government to target football players, are starting to actually fabricate stories to justify their arrests, but the general public doesn’t care, so long as the goal to reduce the number of players is achieved.
As a show that they’re becoming ‘tough on crime’ the government increases penalties for illegal football players, and organisers of games face serious jail time. Those found playing football illegally have all football-playing paraphernalia seized and destroyed, receive fines in the tens of thousands of dollars, and get a criminal record.
Pretty soon, football, a sport that once encouraged millions of honest kids and adults to do something constructive with their lives, is consigned to the history books, all because of the poor behaviour of a few.
Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?
If you said yes, remember that response next time you see a car enthusiast on the street, cruising in his/her pride and joy.
We’re the ones calling the ‘hoons’ idiots for doing the wrong thing, distancing ourselves from their behaviour, yet are powerless to stop the actions of a small minority ruining it for all of us.
We’re the ones on the receiving end of dirty looks, abuse and head shaking because we choose to display the results of our efforts on the streets.
We’re the ones being ‘randomly’ pulled over by police and being accused of crimes we haven’t committed, as an excuse to remove our cars from the road because they ‘suspect it isn’t roadworthy’, resulting in time off work and significant amounts of money being spent to rectify the non-existent problem.
We’re the ones who face harsher penalties if we spin the wheels in our own car than if we steal someone else’s.
We’re the ones who love our cars so much that we’ll eat 2-minute noodles for a week just so we can afford to buy that one special part.
And we’re the ones who forego getting wasted or stoned on a Saturday night to spend the time constructively in our garages, often with our mates or family members, creating something awesome.
So when a car pulls up alongside you and the exhaust is a little loud, or the wheels are a little wide, remember, look at the driver’s actions, not at the car.
First published on Facebook, August 2013.