Bubble Boys-the soapy opera of sport!
Let me say from the start I know Michael Blucher, the author of Bubble Boys, a 371 page in-depth, yet easy to read examination of the “increasingly complex world or our nation’s sports stars”, personally.
Let me also say that just as he showed no bias or favouritism when writing this book, at times about friends, colleagues, bastards or good blokes, I too will be fair and just.
I loved it!
I thought when I first bought the book ( yes I paid the full $25 for it and in fact bought two-one for my Dad), “what could he possibly have to write about to fill a book this size and surely the font must be huge”.
While the print-size was large enough to be acceptable for those who may need glasses, it was also jam-packed full of stories, anecdotes, advice and thought-provoking messages.
And not only for those who love sport.
I would suggest Bubble Boys could sit just as comfortably on the parenting shelves in book stores as in the sports section.
This is a book about the life of current elite, former champions and up-and-coming stars of sport, predominantly Australian male team sports and how their world is lived in a more transparent and increasingly easy-to-pop bubble.
It tracks the transition of our country’s sporting landscape when the private lives of sports stars was a “what goes on tour stays on tour” mentality to the “you are paid huge money so you signed up for this” public expectation.
I met Michael back in 1990 in Rockhampton, when as a fledgling female sports reporter, who loved sport, played sport, studied sport at Uni before changing career focus to report on it rather than teach it, was allowed in the change rooms to do interviews.
I saw my fair share of what’s under the jerseys and strapping- enough to give you the willies (sorry)
I identified with and remembered a lot of what Michael described in the book particularly the pre-big bucks days, but my overall sampling of the sports world is probably comparable to so many others- pretty superficial.
This is an account that was page-turning. I finished it in three days.
I loved the stories.
The one about the the sports star returning a loaner car with a seat ripped out and thinking nothing of it or in contrast the footy champ who returned one full of fuel, cleaned and with a thank-you note.
The one about the WAG, the wife of a rugby player, who while breast-feeding led a delegation of wives and girlfriends to negotiate with the Australian Rugby Union Coach for formal conditions and treatment during a World Cup campaign.
The one about the cricket player who wanted an oversized Esky so had “people” running around organising it or the rugby player who wanted free beer for his sister’s 21st.
There’s heaps about the hanger-ons from groupies and sex romps (always good for selling books) to a millionaire who loaned his seaside mansion despite having never met the sports star but wanted the “he stayed in my beach house house” bragging rights.
Obviously there are some anecdotes where the athletes are named and the stories are known via media reports or social platforms and they’re just as enjoyable reading.
But in all cases, named and un-named, the stories are not gratuitous, but serve as an interesting or amusing or pointed example of the message or nuance being explored.
In some instances the argument or often unknown background to the stories being presented made me pause and think. “Okay I never looked at it like that, fair call”, or ” I never knew that about him”.
At other times I disagreed, “Sorry I know everyone despite their background has an intrinsic right and wrong switch and I don’t buy it”.
Regardless of whether I changed or reaffirmed my thoughts I constantly thought the messages Michael canvassed are way more far-reaching than the sports fields, courts, pools or boardrooms.
The messages about boundaries, respect, getting some facts before judging, peers, fear of failure, fear of success, redemption, role-models, consequences, even money managing are relevant to more than the AFL player or the swimming star.
It took him seven years to write, (including collating stories, checking facts, making observations doing interviews etc) so I would think that the moment it was finished and ready to go you’d want to get it out there.
But, because Michael worked in marketing (among other career forks) and co-incidentally released the book before Christmas I will without bias or favouritism, suggest it would make an excellent present and not just for your Dad.