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The Tear In My Eye At Halftime Will Be The Most Important Lesson My Kids Learn All Year

09/04/2016 6:21 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Today I'll be at the footy with my whole family. I've taken my son before but never my wife and daughter. But the Sydney Swans versus GWS Giants clash at the SCG is more than a football game. Much, much more.

It is, of course, Adam Goodes' official farewell. The dual Brownlow medalist, dual premiership player and 2014 Australian of the Year will do a halftime farewell lap alongside fellow retired players Rhyce Shaw and Mike Pyke.

Goodes, as you'll recall, elected not to take the regular farewell lap on AFL Grand Final day last year. Doubtless he declined because of the high possibility of booing. Today he will have not a hostile crowd but the wildly appreciative, supportive crowd he deserves.

I want to feel that. I want my children to feel it too. I want us all to feel together the adulation for a great Australian. And Goodes is undoubtedly that.

Much garbage has been written and said about the Goodes booing. There have been too many lies. In many ways, these lies reflect everything that's bad about the digital age, when a half truth or blatant falsehood is amplified in the echo chamber of the internet until, in the eyes of many, it becomes truth.

Let's talk about some of those lies.

There's the lie that people booed Goodes because he "staged" for free kicks. "Staging" is AFL-speak for deliberately playing for the umpire's favour, and if the crowd booed people for doing it, they'd boo every player in the league.

There's the lie that Goodes "bullied a 13-year-old girl" on that fateful night of May 24, 2013, when Goodes pointed at the spot in the crowd where he'd heard someone call him an ape. This was the most despicable racial slur imaginable, but in objecting to it, Goodes had no idea he was singling out a teenager. When he learned it had come from a girl, he reached out to her, and called on people to support her, not blame her.

Ever seen a bully do that?

There's the lie that his famous spear-throwing war dance incited the booing. That's rubbish. It was happening long before then. Goodes performed the dance as part of a goal celebration during the AFL's indigenous round. It was no more or less threatening than a Maori haka, a war dance complete with throat-slitting gesture which is celebrated by fans of all codes and all teams globally.

There's the lie that Goodes' Australia Day speech, which he delivered after being named Australian of the Year, was divisive and hateful. It was nothing of the sort.

Here's but one paragraph:

"I believe we are all connected whether we like it or not. We are all equal and the same in so many ways. My hope is that we as a nation can break down the silos between races, break down those stereotypes of minority populations, indigenous populations and all other minority groups. I hope we can be proud of our heritage regardless of the colour of our skin and be proud to be Australian."

And lastly, there's the lie that he was playing the victim. Goodes wasn't playing at anything except football. But he was a victim. Adam Goodes was a victim of the most small-minded, mean-spirited outbreak of un-Australianness I've ever seen in any walk of life. If you're one of the people who booed him, then you're both a perpetrator and victim of it too.

I deliberately haven't named the instigators of the lies and hate against Goodes in this column because they're not fit to be mentioned in the same breath as Goodesy. But if you round up the usual suspects of old school Melbourne mafia football hacks, and add in a well-known cricket loudmouth, you'll get most of them. These are people who are uncomfortable with a world in which a proud black man is gutsy enough to take a stance.

Adam Goodes as a player was silky, smooth, mercurial, unique. He had these little touches on the ball for which there were no footy adjectives. Australian sports fans love it when sportsmen break the mould and do things others just can't do.

Goodes broke the mould off the field too. Just as he could seemingly impose his will on an AFL game, he challenged us to think about the treatment of indigenous Australians. Some people just couldn't handle that. So they booed. That's the real reason. Simple as that.

Adam Goodes is a great Australian. Ask me to name one greater and I can't. That's why I'm taking the family to the football this Saturday. The tear in my eye at halftime will be the most important lesson my school-aged kids learn all year.

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