You wouldn’t think that a suburban shopping centre could ever be a source of inspiration, but last week I was proved wrong. It was my lunch hour, I didn’t want to feel any pain and I couldn’t afford drugs, so I went to a shopping mall to zone out with other people who aspire to mediocrity.

I was out the front of Kmart, laughing at people who wear leggings with hiking boots, when a young kid and his girlfriend were flattened by about six burly security guys. The young guy had a hair-straightener and some other haircare products tucked into his jeans. Presumably he was taking his girlfriend ‘birthday shopping’.

This kid – let’s call him Craig, because we want to make him a sympathetic character – fired up, which resulted in his head being smacked repeatedly on the floor. He was screaming blue murder, but once the meatheads dragged him to his feet, he simmered down. They let their guard down and Craig saw his opportunity. Craig could run.

When I first saw him on the ground, I thought ‘stupid kid’. But as he went flying past me I genuinely had to supress the urge to yell ‘RUN YOU SKINNY LITTLE BASTARD! RUN!’

Australians like underdogs. We especially like it when the underdogs are Australian, but we’re not fussy. Examples? Ned Kelly, Eddie the Eagle, Eric the Eel (and more recently the lads from the Congo swimming team at the swimming championships in Melbourne), the fat bloke from the Bermuda cricket team…there are loads of examples.

Craig did the wrong thing. But watching his head get bounced on the tiles by six power-tripping security guards made me feel for him. I didn’t want him to get away, I just wanted him to have a sporting chance. Hell, even if he did get away, nothing could be worse punishment than explaining to his girlfriend why he took off and left her to get arrested.

About five minutes after he bolted for freedom, Craig got marched back through to Kmart. At least the security guys were blowing pretty hard.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking. It’s a shame the Australian attachment to underdogs is largely limited to shoplifters, streakers dodging security at the cricket, and swimmers from landlocked countries floundering 50 metres up a pool. It’s a shame we don’t extend the same encouragement to refugees floundering in boats off the north coast of Australia. Same as Craig, I don’t want them to get away with it, but they at least deserve a sporting chance.

Eric the eel

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