Reviewed by Mike Clarke
This book has form! (But more of that later)
Peter Fitzsimons has written over twenty best sellers, mainly biographical and sport based. A former Wallaby he has the doubtful distinction of being coached at Rugby by none other than Tony Abbott. He is a columnist for Fairfax Media and writes a weekly column ‘Fitz Files’ for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Herald-Sun.
This reviewer is an avid reader of the ‘Fitz Files’ so when I saw the title, Gotta Love This Country!, it was not unfamiliar. The book is a ‘best of’ the good news pieces which FitzSimons tags Gotta Love This City! in his SMH columns.
The publishers have seen the need to amend the catch-phrase to broaden the market nationally for the book. This is not a criticism, merely a warning to any reader who expects to find, on reading the book that no good news exists outside New South Wales.
But enough of the publishing foibles. Peter FitzSimons, in his Foreword explains the genesis of the Gotta Love This Country! tag and its part in the ‘Fitz Files’ when he discusses how the segment of the column evolved.
Always, the thing that got the biggest reaction was not my newsy bit, or my rants, nor my bits of philosophical sporty whimsy. No, what people most loved, it seemed, was the heart-warming stuff, the stuff far away from sports’ elite level, and back to the grass roots…sport, the way sport was always meant to be.
I started out using a ‘Gawd, I love this city’-riff to introduce each section which soon morphed into ‘Gotta Love this city’, and then to Gotta love this country!’
The broad idea was to celebrate all the great things about sport— at all levels—to note with wonder how lucky we all are to be able to enjoy them, with all their quirks, colour and romance. (2)
Gotta Love This Country! has over 200 ‘feel good’ sporting anecdotes which serve as a very potent antidote to the litany of sporting misdemeanours the media constantly bombard us with. Many of these stories feature the young, and examples of outstanding sportsmanship and decency abound, giving us hope that these values are not corrupted as maturity beckons.
The stories come from many different sources and the common theme in all of them is that adversity brings out the best in us, but at times it can come at a heavy price. They tell tales of the ‘known’ and the unknown, the male and the female, from test cricketers to seven year olds learning their sport.
The stories are written in FitzSimons’ inimitable style which combines humour with at times, hard hitting criticism.
One of FitzSimons’ pet hates is sportspeople referring to themselves in the third person. He regularly chipped former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke for his preoccupation with the usage of this term.
There is a nice piece of self-depreciation in an anecdote about Ed Cowan, the Australian test batsman. Cowan had drawn FitzSimons’ ire by referring to himself in the third person in an interview and he had lightly chipped him in a ‘Fitz Files’ column.
In reply Ed dropped me a note on Monday:
Many moons ago while playing for Syd Uni CC at Uni number one, I made a bet with my best friend, that I could weasel my way into the ‘Fitz Files’ through either an indiscriminate reference to myself in the third person or by using a ridiculous mixed metaphor. I am a little disappointed to be honest that it has taken this long—there were at least two instances last season that I thought I was a certainty (sic!). When we cross paths next, be sure to hit me up for a beer. I am now 10 heavier in the wallet. Keep entertaining.
Got me! (117)
Gotta Love This Country! is an ideal companion for any sports lover watching sport on TV. When the interminable ads come on, turn on the mute and read a couple of anecdotes. Even if your team is losing you will feel much better!
Peter FitzSimons has provided a unique angle on sports journalism by highlighting the positive and not the negative. For this, all sports lovers should be grateful.
By Peter FitzSimons
Allen and Unwin