Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Australian Community Media special publications journalist Andrew Lotherington.
There's no doubt about it, I'm a sports nut.
There is something about sport that lights a fire and evokes emotions that sometimes I didn't even know I had. I know I'm not alone. A miracle win in the dying seconds of a game, a devastating injury to a star athlete or just the simple camaraderie that is enjoyed with fellow fans or players ... they're enough to evoke moments of passion in most of us.
In Australia, sport is seen to be a huge part of our culture and a highlight of our lifestyle. We love the celebration of a good win, especially if it's against the odds.
Take the case of the Bathurst Bulldogs Rugby Union Club, who recently defied the odds to have teams contest all five grand finals including Firsts, Seconds, Thirds, Fourths, Colts and Women's. Finishing the day with three wins and two losses went some way to making up for the heartbreak of 2002 when they had four grand final sides, only to lose all four games.
Then there is Kelso High School's Harriet Fitzsimmons, a volleyball player who captained NSW to their first podium finish in the national schools championships since 1996! The success earned her a second straight selection in the All Australian team.
The fact that women's achievement in sport is getting so much publicity these days is certainly a cause for celebration. The NRLW is set to kick off its second season to coincide with the NRL finals, while the Matildas are enjoying worldwide success and recognition.
At a more local level, female athletes continue to benefit from better infrastructure and resources including a great initiative organised by the Redlands Tigers Cricket Club to increase skill levels and participation levels for girls aged five to 15.
That's all positive stuff ... but increasingly we are being forced to confront some of the negatives of sport.
Unfortunately this kind of behaviour isn't limited to the "stars", with a trend of bad behaviour starting to emerge at local sporting matches starting including two A-grade rugby league sides kicked out of the open-age Sydney competition following an ugly brawl, and an AFL game in Perth that descended into an all-in brawl involving officials, coaches and spectators.
In 2008, French writer Robert Redeker, in his article "Sport as an opiate of international relations", argued that society was putting too much cultural emphasis and financial importance on sport. The continued elevation of sport and its competitors could have negative consequences, he warned.
A decade later and I fear he could be right.
While sport can deliver a number of benefits for participants and supporters, maybe it's important to take a step back sometimes and remember: it is just a game, right?
Special publications journalist, Australian Community Media