The Roaring 2020s: Simply The Truth



THE new NRL commercial seems to upset the same people who get annoyed by Greta Thunberg.
It’s a curious aspect of rugby league that fans feel so invested in the sport and the way it looks to outsiders that they pay as much attention to advertising campaigns as they do most matches.
We’re all stake holders, after all. Even through we are already sold on the game, for some reason we want a say in how the game is sold to others.
The current NRL administration impresses me sometimes and disappoints me sometimes. I pushed play on the new ad, which features Tina Turner’s 1989 classic “The Best” (only the re-recording with Jimmy Barnes was titled “(Simply) The Best”), prepared for either.
By the end of it. I’d actually experienced some goosebumps. But then I was engulfed in them when I digested the final scene on an intellectual level. A young girl watches Cameron Smith on TV, just as he had watch Tina in one of the opening shots, runs out the door of the lounge room with a footy under her arm and there is an echo of the song starting again.
This gets to the heart of the aspect of sport that is so hard to convey in a new, un-corny way: that it is a trans-generational thing, a mainstay of human life. The Super League War is an example of something that can ruin it for a sport and it is referenced in the ad.
But if such calamities are not completely apocalyptic, there is a beautiful cycle in sports that dominate pop culture – a cycle that reflects life itself. Could Tina Turner in 1990 have imagined a world where rock is dead but that thing she got paid to do an ad for still looks pretty much the same?
The modern word for a certain sort of criticism is “triggered”.

If a critic is “triggered” by something, him or her do not oppose it in its entirety but are rather annoyed by specific aspects of it which “set them off” according to some pre-disposed prejudices.
The young environmentalist Thunberg does seem to trigger her critics in ways that are not entirely logical. It seems as annoying to them that others listen to Thunberg as it is that they disagree with the substance of what Thunberg actually does and says.
If there are triggers in the NRL ad, then they might be: the “Love Is Love” pro-LGBT+ message, the prominence of the Aboriginal flag, women’s sport … have I missed any?
If referencing these issues is divisive, I know what side of that particular divide I’d like to be on.
Those who call this “virtue signalling” miss the point – to survive, a professional sport has to signal things to the public – they’d be better off than being virtues than flaws.
That’s what advertising campaigns are for: to signal virtues.
Those who call this “box ticking” also miss the point – they’re windows, not boxes; windows to the future of the society in which rugby league must survive and thrive. Inclusivity is one of the zeitgeist’s favourite words right now so why not use it as much as you can to lure that zeitgeist close enough to catch it?
If the ad leaves you cold, chances are you’ll be cold and six foot deep a lot sooner than those who like it.
Peter V’Landys may have some hare-brained scheme to do up Leichhardt Oval but it’s not 1990 anymore. It’s about time the game was as proactive about embracing its past as it is about stepping into the future.
With this commercial, it’s doing both.



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