A cricket fan's plea to end Barmy Army noise pollution

COMMENT

All right, all right. We get it already. You are The Army. The Barmy Army. You are mental, and you are mad. Now would you mind terribly much shutting up and letting us watch cricket?

They are meant to be the whingers. And yet here I am whinging at their boorish behaviour. It's almost more unsettling than that brief, dark period when they were actually better than us at cricket.   

Let me preface this by saying I have no desire to be the fun police. I have lived in England. After early scepticism (you don't go to an eisteddfod and start kicking a ball), I came to appreciate their culture of  singing at sport. 

Australian players hush the Barmy Army after Mitchell Johnson dismissed Jonny Bairstow during this Boxing Day Test at the MCG. Picture: Justin McManus

The atmosphere at a Premier League football game is as good as anything I've experienced. And while I'm a big cricket fan, I'm first to admit the game can have the odd slow period, where a bit of fun - be it beach balls, Mexican waves or crowd chants - has its place.

But every man has his limits.

For me, that limit came on day three at this year's Gabba Test. It was the final session and Australia were turning the screws. David Warner and Michael Clarke had brought up centuries. Victory was in sight. Then, in the stand beside ours, the Barmy Army - up until then an enjoyable sideshow - started in earnest.

"We are The Army ..."

The Barmy Army at the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images

And so it went. Over and over, for over after over. 

The song has only 25 words. Twenty-seven if you count "sup-port-ers" as three, which is how they sing it. But we must have heard it at least 50 times consecutively. By that stage we'd had enough. Declaring stumps early, we nicked off to the pub across the road for the final hour. Admittedly, with air-conditioning and cheaper beer, this wasn't altogether unpleasant. But it's the principle of the thing.

Yes to singing. Yes to witty banter. Rhyming jibes are fine, and a rallying call always has a place. But enough already with the mindless repetition.

If it was happening at the house next door you'd call the police. If it was happening in Guantanamo Bay it'd be described as torture. So why exactly should I be the one forced to give up my seat because of their behaviour?

The English response is, of course, that we should sing louder. If we can't drown them out, we have no right to complain. That's because they know our weakness. We might snarl and snort on the pitch and in the stands, hurling abuse with the same pace and venom as a Mitchell Johnson bouncer to the throat of a tailender, but there is one thing Australian men can't do: sing.

In public, at any rate. Sure, we can get a bit of Skyhooks/AC/DC/You Am I/Jet/"Insert modern band here" echoing around our own showers, but we'd rather stand over a hot barbecue for days cooking snags for the entire SCG than be asked to hold a tune in front of a crowd.

We might, might, sing Happy Birthday - to our kids, wife or mum - and will occasionally attempt the national anthem, though usually we just sort of mouth the words with a mild hum while looking nervously at the ground. But give us a microphone and throw us on a karaoke stage - without alcohol - and you'll see the true meaning of fear.

How else does a country end up with a national chant containing the "lyrics" "Oi, oi, oi"?

The English know this, of course. But they won't let up.

Thankfully, the Australian government, on Wednesday, provided a solution. On January 1, new laws came into place to crack down on workplace bullying, and they apply to customers as much as employees.

They target "aggressive and intimidating conduct", "belittling or humiliating comments" and only apply where an individual or group "repeatedly behaves unreasonably to a group of employees". Sound familiar?

So, to the dear folk working as security guards at the SCG over the next five days, if you're not brave enough to tell the Barmy Army to shut up, perhaps you can put together a group workplace complaint instead? My ears will be forever grateful.

smh.com.au

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