The social role of sport is to provide an outlet for intelligent people to behave like brainless people. Everyone knows there’s no intrinsic point in shifting a leather ball from one post to another, no matter how energetic or invested the contest. Nothing is achieved outside the game; no one is wiser or can add a benefit to the world beyond the fury of the struggle.No-one likes to do business at the back of poorly-lit lanes, full of refuse and trash that the council forgot to pick up, but this is inevitably where shady dark alley business takes place. I was desperate to get in to see the exhibition, but all the tickets were sold out. But I knew where to find someone; I spotted him at the back of that dark alley straight away, lurking in the shadows. I could tell he was my man straight away from the half-manic, half-panicked look on his face, and the menacing way he wore his bow tie. I gulped and went up to him.
Eyes slipped warily over my face. Then he turned and looked at an obscure shady corner on the other side of the alley.
"Well?" he snapped out of the corner of his mouth. "What the hell are you doing here?" Then, after a pause, "You're starting to annoy me."
God, what was I doing? There was a hidden menace in his voice, something that told me I would be in deep trouble if I stuck around much longer. I almost turned to go - but then a low, reverberating roar came from the Art Gallery above our heads, and a cry of "COOOOOOR! LOOK AT THE COMPOSITION ON THAT!" And "A CLASSIC USE OF THE OIL-BASED PAINTING TECHNIQUE!" And I knew I had to get those tickets - I just had to...
"Do you sell tickets?" I finally managed to whimper out.
Again with the slipping eyes and the snap of the mouth. "Nah. Forget it, kid. You can't afford it."
"No!" I yelpled. "Please, sir! I've got enough... enough to pay." With a quivering hand, I drew out a roll of bills from my jacket.
His eyebrows went up slightly. "Listen, kid," he said, finally. "You don't want to get into this exhibition. No-one's getting in tonight." His voice became suddenly much lower and faster, and he looked around as he spoke to make sure no-one else was around. "For this much money, I can get you a real good deal though... a visit to a Fitzroy art gallery. A set of readings by a beatnik poet ... they say he's revolutionised the Alexandrine metre!"
I shook my head mutely.
"Well, what about this?" he said irritably. "Throw in another fifty, and I can get you a subscription to Art Monthly, all the cutting edge analysis and deconstruction of the latest avant-garde developments you could ever wish for. Have you seen the cover of this issue?"
I gasped. I hadn't seen the last issue, but I'd heard of it. The controversy it had created in artistic circles - well, it was tempting. For a few moments, neither of us said anything. Suddenly, another roar from the gallery goers above - "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHH!!!!! WAY TO DECONSTRUCT THE POST-SURREALIST GENRE! MAAAAAAAATE!!!!!" - bought me back to my senses.
I shook my head firmly. "No. Here's three hundred. I can give you another three hundred, I can afford it - I'll just write you a cheque..."
He drew back. "Hey - just where did you say you were from, anyway? How can you even afford this?"
"I've ... just got rich parents," I said, faltering. He stared at me in cold silence. "High up... " I admitted. "In... they're in the football business."
His voice was thin, withering. "Listen to me, because I'm only going to say this once. A good kid like you? From a snobby family like that? Kid, you wouldn't ever make it amongst art thugs like that - they'd eat you alive! Do you even know the difference between a Picasso and a Brancusi? Are you able to hold forth in a fight in the bar about the differences between Dadaism and Abstract Expressionism? You wouldn't last a minute!"
I said nothing. I drew the cheque book from my pocket and started to write in it.
He snarled. " I don't want any of your dirty fuckin cheques! Here, here's the damn ticket. Now just give me three hundred and fifty and we'll call it square!" He shoved the ticket in my pocket, took the money off me and began to sink back into the shadows.
"No! Wait!" I cried, desperate. "There was another exhibition opening I wanted to get into tomorrow! What if I can't get tickets to that?"
"Listen, kid," he hissed. "I like you. I can't tell you much, or promise you anything, but for some reason, I trust you. If you want to find me...
MY NAME IS ROBERT NELSON, AND I AM THE WIDELY READ AND NATIONALLY RESPECTED ART CRITIC FOR THE FAIRFAX PAPERS, LIKE THE AGE AND THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD."
Without saying one word more, he receded into the shadowy depths of the doorway.
I turned and walked quickly out of the alley, a cold wind blowing scraps of scum and scungy old newspapers about my feet.