Have you ever committed a monumental, very public error that made you want to change your name and disappear somewhere in the Mexican wilderness? Something like, say, being responsible for the Olympic cauldron getting stuck half way up it’s ascent into the heavens on the night of the Opening Ceremony?
Well, maybe it wasn’t the Olympics, but there’s one sporting moment that stands out in my memory and gets me chuckling every time.
It was a small swim meet at the AIS, something we used to call a ‘scratch meet’ – nothing more than a training session spread over two days; meaningless and unimportant race practice – but because it was in the lead up to something major (I can’t remember what), a lot of the who’s who were racing. The AIS had promoted it as ‘your chance to see The Stars in action, up close, personal and cheap’ to try and get a bit of crowd together. It can be hard to perform when there’s nothing but stony silence for atmosphere.
As it turned out, the promotional strategy worked because it was the most pumping scratch meet I had ever been to.
Now, swim meets are generally not real crowd pleasers given that the nature of the sport involves short bursts of action followed by large stretches of not much. So, in an attempt to make them as entertaining as possible, the major meets are scheduled down to the second with medal ceremonies slotted between races and loud ‘exciting’ music interspersed with pool-side interviews and commentaries. But where there is no budget, no TV rights and no big-dollar ticket sales, organisers rely on tight timelines and a bit of music over the PA.
And so it was, when mid-way through day one of said pumping scratch meet, officials experienced an unspecified technical malfunction and the tight schedule was blown out of the water (very corny pun intended in the absence of anything wittier).
The start of the next race was delayed… and delayed… and delayed again. The children in the stands became restless: “Where are ‘The Stars’?”, “Why aren’t they swimming?”, “Mummy, I’m boooooooored…”
Chip packets and lolly wrappers rustled. Parents whispered, “Not long now, how about we play ‘I Spy’?” Kids started climbing on the benches. The atmosphere was disappearing fast.
“Music! Hit the music!” somebody hissed. A fumbling at the control desk. A crackle.
And through the silence boomed a voice:
“Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven. Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven. Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven. Fucking in fucking in fucking in Heaven…”
It was like a carefully choreographed dance – jaws dropped, eyes bulged as hundreds of hands slapped over the ears of every near-by child before the collective gasp sent shock-waves over the pool. It was an interminable 30 seconds before further fumbling managed to replace the obscenity with a steady beat and thumping melody, but the damage was done. The competitors behind the blocks couldn’t contain their mirth, officials couldn’t hide their horror and parents in the crowd couldn’t think of how to explain what had just happened to their incredulous children.
For me, it was a moment to remember and, to this day, I feel for the poor sod who hit ‘play’ on Track 3. I wonder what their new Mexican name is…