Little champ. Mate. Gutsy and unorthodox. Great.
We all know who we’re talking about. The young Aussie that Justin Langer wrote so beautifully about – the fella his wife fell in love with. The fella who lived with them and who they wanted in to their own. Hughesy.
Hughesy the bloke that most of us have never even seen play, live and have never met… but now know. And we know he is/was a special bloke – we can tell. The reactions tell us.
I want to try to say something about this because I think there is something wonderful and actually profound borne here, amongst this diabolical hurting and the flailing around for an appropriate, legitimate answer.
For one thing, my hope is there’s some real solace for Phillip Hughes’s own loved ones in the scope and quality of the response to his death. (And here I want you to think a little about what I mean by ‘quality’, please.)
It’s not entirely ludicrous to suggest that this cruel event has brought out an invincibly massive, invincibly good response, as people all over have either opened up their hearts or graciously accepted in and supported or respected the grief of close friends and family.
The epic sadness does not, can not deny the essential positivity in the timbre of the rebound – our rebound. There’s been no sense of schmaltziness; no slapped-on deference or faux commiseration. And here I’m not just thinking of Australian skipper Michael Clarke, who has publicly fought with tears to try to express his obvious and criminal loss of a surrogate younger brother. ‘Do your job’ he said to himself when steeling up to make the necessary statement, visibly heartbroken.
Given that the Australian national cricket team has practically (re-)owned world cricket by setting out to be the most macho group of players in the game this may throw up ironies that in another moment we might describe as ‘choice’; no need for such cynicism now. We could all see that Clarke’s utter determination to man up was completely about doing a good job of marking his own and his team’s depth of affection for their buddy. Pathetic to fail to say ‘we loved you mate’ well. So do your job.
There’s obviously been something magic about this bloke Hughes – and I’m not just talking talent, right? (You get that? You get that too?) I’ve seen the vids, read and listened to the columns and the stories. I believe folks loved him and I like that this is recognised; it helps all of us; it helps with everything. Everything that’s left when Hughesy’s gone.
Okay we have to be careful here because on the one hand it does seem like the surge of genuine feeling around this young man is flooding so invigoratingly and influentially around that we may set up some hierarchy of grief around this. (How would it have been if some other, equally high-profile player had been killed? Or some guy in the park? Dare I think of how the reaction might differ? Just don’t let me go there.)
Phillip, we know, inspired such a powerful and consistent regard – bugger it, let’s call it love – that I joined the communal welling up on more than one occasion. For me, waking up to the #putyourbatsout tribute on twitter, seeing the (Adam) Gilchrist family of bats proudly-tragically displayed was enough to set me off. If that’s weirdly sentimental then so be it. In my kitchen in Pembrokeshire at 6.50am, with just the dog for company, I was hardly playing to the crowd.
It felt sad, hugely sad, and I respected the heartfelt nature and sure the ingenuity of that now viral symbol. Am I the only one both fascinated and cheered by the sensation that because I believe the love for Hughsey is real – and this can only mean that in some abstracted way he ‘deserves it(?) – things are better?
Navel-gazing or not, cricketer or not, it’s difficult to avoid the personal here, eh? However prudent that might seem. But I don’t think it’s either the fact that I have bowled quickly and hit people myself or been hit (just once, significantly, from memory) that draws me in to the sentimental. I didn’t recoil from recognition when viewing that bouncer so much as accept it as part of the narrative. Inevitably the fall and then those awful two days of battling or easing away scoured at the innards of all of us, pre-cursing that ultimate, terrible confirmation. Been said a zillion times in the last 72 hours but we can barely compute a fatality – a death – in sport. It shouldn’t, it doesn’t happen.
Fact is, it did and sure whilst the public nature of this tragedy sets it apart, makes it particular and visible and arguably more poignant than (ahem) the average, run-of-the-mill death, I do see stuff that all of us could meaningfully store.
The fact of the striking down of a young man in front of a crowd (including his family) makes this big, makes it shocking; the sense of robbery – that Phillip Hughes had something magnificent he was yet to express, to share with us – appalls; but the local/communal/worldwide outpouring of love for a young man who was clearly a fabulous bloke… we can and should cherish.
Ok so some bloke from Oz tweets appreciation for my post; I thank him. He tells me he’s going to the funeral in Macksville tomorrow. In typically corny Vinny-fashion I tell him though I’m 12,000 miles away… I’ll kinda be there too. At which point @Damage_87 (for it was he) tells me he’ll be delighted to sign the Book of Remembrance on my behalf.
In this way a) the world got better
b) love triumphed (actually) again
c) Phillip Hughes was remembered.