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GOING STIR CRAZY, THE DOG AND I

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THANK the Lord for footy and cricket on the box, says Chief Writer RON REED as he and his best friend try not to go loco in lockdown.

HAD to cancel an almost year-old diary entry today. I was booked to fly out for Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which were to have started next Friday, the 24th. Like so much else, that’s history now – or more accurately, history that isn’t going to happen, chapters that are no longer going to be part of the book I have just finished writing.

Instead of the airport, I won’t be going past the front door. Not even to walk the dog. Thanks to over-compensating by walking too far too fast for two or three weeks, my calf packed it in a while ago and now I’m even more locked-down than most other people.

So far, I can live with that, even though it means sitting here half-dressed, unshaven for days on end, listening to old country and western music – Johnny Cash lives and Kris Kristofferson will never die — while I stare out the back window of my study and watch the kids playing in the yard next door while the dog goes even more stir-crazy than me, demanding to be let out the back door, then back in again, then out again, then in again … or is that just what dogs do anyway? I trawl through social media, complete cryptic crosswords and play five games of scrabble at a time against anonymous opponents on the phone. Anything to make the minutes march on.

At night, at least there’s footy on the box more often than not. In my dotage, having spent a lifetime watching it for a living, I have been able to take footy or leave it, except when the mighty Blues are in action, but now it’s such a welcome distraction that I tune into almost every match, whether I’m interested in the outcome or – as is usually the case – I’m not. Dear me, I even occasionally resort to listening to Robbo on the box.

Now, thank the Lord, Test cricket is back. It’s always been my favourite sport, so even though it’s the Poms playing the Windies, with Australia not involved, this is gold from the Gods, not least because it means you can sit up to three in the morning and then sleep in, thus shortening the next day. Happily, the first match of the series was a ripper, delicately poised right through to the last session of the last day, with the right team winning – or should that be the right team losing? Bring on the next one.

This has also provided the opportunity to remotely coach an old cricketer of my close acquaintance who wants to reinvent himself as a writer and is making good progress. Sadly, because of my sore calf – and no other reason, thank you – it seems a little futile to ask him, in return, to show me how to bowl the 150km outswingers that once got him into the Test team.

Late night cricket is best watched with a glass of decent red at hand, not that footy isn’t. Because the two lockdowns have meant that going to the pub is not an option, my home rack is becoming depleted and so I sent an SOS to one of the five on-line purveyors who have somehow discovered my inbox. A case duly arrived, but it was the wrong stuff and had to be sent back. Another case was despatched, and the posties dropped and smashed it on the way. A third attempt is now underway, but maybe someone – my wife perhaps, or maybe my recently retired doctor – is trying to tell me something.

The dog takes great pride in picking up the newspapers from the front yard and completing the delivery, another reason why I never leave the house any more. Reading the Herald Sun and the Age can take hours even though both publications are not what they once were. People queue up on-line to declare that the Murdoch papers are so full of disgusting rubbish that they wouldn’t be caught dead reading one, but it that’s the case how do they know what’s in there?

There’s lots actually, other than the provocative opinions of my erstwhile colleague A. Bolt, who seems to be the subject of most of the rants even though he fills just two pages a week, out of several hundred – a tiny percentage of the menu of corona updates, politics, business, crime, sport, entertainment, international affairs and reader feedback. Happily, they’re not dead yet, the papers.

My long-suffering wife keeps me well-fed, of course, as she has done for more than 40 years, bless her, so that’s one other thing I don’t have to worry about, except the dog seems a bit puzzled when she puts on her mask to go shopping. I, too, am now, for the first time ever, equipped with masks but seeing as I don’t go out they seem a bit superfluous.

 So am I worried about the state of play?

You bet. But one of my oldest mates has been in hospital for the past week enduring open-heart surgery and is doing it tough in recovery, and two others have been allowed to go home after six weeks and 10 weeks respectively battling other issues,  so perspective is always handy to have no matter how deep in a crisis one might be.

 I’ve always been fairly philosophical about mortality, often reminding myself that the Bible tells me – or would if I ever read it, which I haven’t for a very, very long time – that we are allotted three score years and ten, meaning I am now in time-on. But of course, as long as you are relatively fit and well, the older you get the older you want to get.

 You don’t usually get to choose how you go but from everything I have read about the deeply unpleasant way this vicious virus goes about its evil work I know for sure and certain that this is not among the acceptable options. So yes, while I – like a lot of people – weren’t too alarmed at the outset back in March, it now has me well and truly spooked.

 This is not the way I want to go.

So, yes Dan, I’m following the rules even if it does feel like a jail sentence with no parole date having been set. Some of Johnny Cash’s best work was about life in prison so even though the Man in Black didn’t make it much past 70 himself, I’m happy to have him keeping me company. Along with the wife and the dog, of course.

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Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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