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A Sporting Fight
A Sporting Fight

A Sporting Fight


They had finished the delicious three-course meal Tory Sanford created for her dinner party. Over coffee Jean Danté spun one of her tennis yarns to the enraptured audience of Tory, her husband Doc, her little brother Phil, his wife Fran and their two poodles Franco and Ciccia wearing black bow tie and hairbow.

As always, Tory did the unexpected; she turned to Jean’s smiling brother,

‘You’ve never liked sports, have you?’


Doc chortled; the women certainly didn’t!

‘It took a year to stop him communicating with me in combat patrol hand signals’, Fran lamented.

Phil was still one of those recalcitrant husbands who answered questions simply and directly instead of ‘waffle waffle, not really, waffle waffle, because, waffle waffle…thank you and please pass the maple syrup.’ Women regarded one-word answers as rude, men regarded using any more words than necessary as wasteful.

‘That’s because he never was any good at them’, Jean replied.

All sportspeople say that. There’s lots of things I was never any good at that I like: painting, music, writing...There you go.’

There you go’, was Phil’s phrase for ‘this conversation has ended’.

‘You should have a go at painting.’

‘If I can do it, it’s not art, Tory.’

‘Phil’s very non-competitive’, explained Fran.

She always explained her husband to the world, as only she, Tory, their poodles and his late Aunt understood him. It was like the short stories he wrote that nobody would publish. To the publisher, they didn’t make any sense, but Fran instinctively knew the bizarre events he wrote about had really happened.

‘If you had been more competitive, you probably would’ve been an officer in the army…The Australian army’, Jean clarified.

‘Probably not. They weren’t terribly fond of Catholics or anyone who wasn’t Anglo-Celtic.’

As Doc was originally Canadian and Tory too young to have lived through the open anti-Roman Catholicism of Australia before they turned their animosity towards migrants, they had no concept of Phil’s salient point. Fran, originally South African of Italian ancestry well knew what he was on about.

'Quelle Fromage', pronounced Tory, wearing an all-knowing expression.

The poodles looked at Tory and raised their ears, Phil did a double take, Doc covered his mouth to prevent his laughter, Fran guffawed.

'What did I say, Doc?'

'"Quelle Dommage" means "what a shame"; "Fromage" means cheese, so you said, "what a cheese".'

‘Tory’s always a fresh brie in the atmosphere’, Phil continued his travel on his train of thought, ‘If I went in for sport, I’d probably have ended up a salesman, bullying people to sell them things that they don’t want or need…and I hate patronising anyone…’

Phil’s face looked as if he had the proverbial light bulb of an idea over it,

‘I finally see why anti-colonialism is such a big craze…it’s a drag having to be with patronising people…I’ve no time for gambling either…’, his look changed from pensive to a smile, ‘The older I get the more I thank God that I never played sport; so many people I know who did are always on and on about their aches and pains from when they were overdoing sport…’

Tory was surprised that Phil had philosophised so much; he rarely did.

‘Phil says aches and pains and offspring are all people our age ever talk about’, Fran added.

Jean continued on her own train,

‘You would have had more friends in school and here if you played sport!’

Fran imagined two electric trains on the same track smashing into each other.

‘Friends or competitors?’

‘It’s one and the same!’

‘Not to me.’

‘Didn’t you have to do sport in school?’

‘I had some cleverly forged medical certificates, Doc, so I spent time in the school library; eventually they forgot about me. They thought I was sad about not being able to play sport!’

The triumphant Phil noticed his sister was looking exactly like the hostile aborigine in the Bugs Bunny cartoon. He imagined her jumping up and down and screaming ‘UNGA BUNGA BUNGA!’ to Bugs Bunny and broke out laughing.


C'est moi, chérie…’

‘Why don’t you like competition?’, Tory asked.

It wasn’t one of Tory’s parties unless there was a good discussion; better still if it degenerated into an argument. She hadn’t reached the point of Three Stooges pie-fights…yet...

‘Sportspeople bring competition into their lives; if they can’t beat the clock, then they have to beat somebody to be better than them. If they’re not on the field or the telly they’ll play domination games with their spouse. They don’t converse, and when they talk, they’re only interested in how long they can tell people about themselves. Conan the Barbarian said, What’s best in life? Crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women. They’re not games if they’re not fun.’

Doc’s expression displayed, You can’t be serious. Tory and Fran’s expression said, ‘Yes he is, and I know what he means’. Jean furiously believed her brother was having a go at her disastrous marriage.

‘Didn’t you used to play Crush, Kill and Destroy overseas?’

‘Only for laughs, Tory. I never brought it into my home life…’

‘I always compete against myself in the gym.’

‘Do you win or lose?’

Tory’s expression was stunned into stupor.

‘I…I never thought of it like that…’

‘That’s why I like you, Tory.’

Jean’s seething built up like a volcano about to erupt.

Ciccia looked at their pet humans then back at Franco.

Le temps de sa contre-attaque…

‘Phil, you’re impossible! There is such a thing as good sportsmanship!’

‘You can only display good sportsmanship when you lose. “Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser” was said by a gridiron football coach. Sportspeople are always pretty aggro.’

You’re not aggro, Phil?’

‘He’s not aggro, he just kills people’, Tory laughed.

Do unto others before they do unto you’, Phil snickered.

‘You’ve never wanted to be one of the sportsmen you saw on television?’, asked Doc.

‘Never. I always thought they’d strain their arms patting themselves on the back.’

Jean continued in her UNGA BUNGA BUNGA mode and replaced ‘you’ with ‘he’ to get the others on her side,

‘I just can’t see how he can waste his time watching some stupid black-and-white movie, even ones he’s seen over and over.’

‘”He he he”’, Phil’s faux laugh and smirk added petrol to Jean’s fire, ‘They’re interesting…amusing…make me feel good and sometimes make me think…Everything sport fails to do.’

They’re stupid!’, Jean shouted, ‘And you wouldn’t be spending your life doing nothing if you’d been interested in sport!’

‘Fair go, Jean; I always feigned interest in what you did…’

Jean smouldered; the Sanfords had never seen the siblings openly fight.

‘I like my old movies, but I don’t expect anyone else to, and I certainly don’t demand everyone watch them like they’re important.’

He withdrew into his past. As if he had spun a roulette or chocolate wheel, a memory came up.

He recalled the night when the family went to the cinema to see Flower Drum Song. Like most Australians, the entire family loved Rodgers and Hammerstein and were united in their love for all their films, most recently South Pacific.

Flower Drum Song was a pleasant and colourful story of Chinese-Americans in San Francisco, a place Phil aspired to someday visit and ride a cable car. After the film Father was unusually silent. Mother filled the silence saying what a wonderful film it was. When no one said anything, she asked,

‘What did you like best about the film, Philip?’

Love Look Away…’, he wistfully sang.

A drunken James Shigeta passed out that made Dad whisper one of his usual quips. The attractive Reiko Saka removed her tan trenchcoat to reveal a beautiful red cheongsam and put the snockered Shigeta to bed.

The film then unexpectedly transported Phil to a different world, for Reiko’s flat was suddenly lit with an unearthly glow. She beautifully sang the entrancing Love Look Away as she glided out of her flat in her red cheongsam onto a rooftop on a fog filled San Francisco night. As was the case with classical Hollywood musicals, the film then turned into a fantasy dance number where Reiko, now in a white dress, energetically danced with men in scary Japanese masks. They gradually forced her up a small rock garden mountain to a sober and treacherous James Shigeta who kicked her down a slide into the fog of oblivion with her facial expression of hurt and betrayal shooting away from view. Phil was truly touched.

To Phil’s surprise, it was Jean rather than Dad who made fun of it,

‘Oh yeah, the chow gets kicked down the slippery dip! That was stupid!’

‘Never trust a JAP!’, Dad added.

Fran recognised Phil was back from his journey to another world, and his tone of voice displayed that he hadn’t had a nice holiday.

‘I’ve never known anyone who loves sport to have any appreciation for anything beautiful! Pissing on wonderful things is just like beating someone, isn’t it, Jean.’

Doc filled the hostess position,

‘Wasn’t Tory’s pavlova wonderful?’

Jean shouted,

You’re out of your mind again!’

‘Sportspeople are just like the captain of the firemen who burn books in Fahrenheit 451 demanding everyone play sport so they won’t read!’

Jean followed Australian tradition by attempting to isolate her opponent from the mob,

No one thinks the way you do! Name one person who does!’

‘Wasn’t it H. L. Mencken who said “I hate sports the way people who like sports hate common sense“?’

Jean stormed out of the Sanford’s home.

‘Sportspeople are never easygoing, are they?’

Ciccia supportively leapt into Phil’s lap and looked at him. He softly sang Hey There to her.

‘Time to do the dishes…’

Tory waved Doc away; she was enraptured when Phil sang. Fran helped Doc in clearing the table.

Franco looked up to Phil with the same expression as Tory; she beckoned Franco as she sang Big Spender to him. He gleefully sauntered over to her, jumped in her lap and nodded his head in time to her singing. Ciccia’s expression resembled Phil’s Auntie when someone mentioned La Grande Zohra, the big camel, what she called French President General DeGaulle.

Both poodles contentedly fell asleep in their friend’s laps.

‘You and Doc are the only people I know who don’t care what other people think about them.’

‘Doc’s not a sports fan either. Sports fans look up to you when you’re on top and look down on you when you’re not; I prefer people to always look me in the eye.’

Dishwashing and whispers completed, Fran and Doc reentered the room with the former giving Phil her ‘I’ll sort you out later’ expression.

Jean burst back into the Sanford’s home; when she was mad, nothing could stop her.

‘Faster than a speeding bullshit…’, Phil quipped.

‘What do you have against perfection? You should strive for it!’

‘I’m your permanent I don’t carer. Jean, if it isn’t easy, I don’t want it. I’m happy as I am, you’re happy as you are, so why be bothered? You cared about your life, I didn’t. You wanted to be perfect, I just wanted to be…’

‘You’re a long way from perfect!’

‘There was a preacher in America who lectured…’, Phil assumed a bad American Southern accent as if he was acting in a Tennessee Williams Minstrel Show, ‘For Timothy 4:4-5 says, “Everything God created is good! For God made everything perfect!” This hunchbacked dwarf gets up and says, “What about me?” The preacher says, “Why, you’re the most perfect hunchback I ever seen”!’

Tory giggled and Franco panted in laughter. Everyone else stared at Phil in silence, except for Ciccia who glared at Franco,

It is not THAT funny…

‘You’re still impossible!’

That’s why he’s interesting’, simultaneously said Fran, Tory and the poodles.

Jean warmly hugged her little brother as Ciccia licked his face.

‘That’s why I love him too.’


Author Notes: Happy Australia Day! Australia Day is ‘Thank You Day’!

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23 Jan, 2024
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