‘‘Stick a fork in ’em, they’re done.” That no-nonsense summation of England’s chances of beating Australia in the now legendary and forever awful Headingley Ashes Test was delivered by the great Ian Chappell, several hours before it all went wrong.
It was, as he is, a reminder of a more honest, more hairy-chested time, when men were men, chests were hairy, shorts were short and blokes called a spade a fucking shovel, and then told you where you could stick it.
Sure, Chappell turned out to be wrong, but you can bet he wouldn’t have been if he’d been captaining the side. And even if he was wrong, at least he brought some plain-speakin’, bullshit aversion to a commentary team led by Todd Woodbridge, an out-of-his-depth former tennis player who you just know waxes his chest.
Ian Chappell, of course, is of a different era and was playing open-shirted, full-throated cricket for his country way back in 1979, when this legendary, life-changing magazine, Penthouse, launched in this country.
There are few more obvious and compelling ways to compare and contrast that era and this, and the way in which men and manliness have changed in 40 years than to watch Chappell on your screen one minute, and chinless wonder Michael Clarke spruiking vitamins in a commercial break the next.
Men in the 1970s, and even 80s, did not take vitamins. Nor did they speak of themselves in the third person – “I’m going to do what’s best for Michael Clarke” – or skip singing the team song in the sheds after a victory so they could go and pose for the cameras with their (admittedly very hot), dim-witted girlfriend.
It’s not just cricketers who’ve changed, of course, it’s all of us. We have different heroes because we want to be different people, different men. David Beckham can be a hero to young boys everywhere, even though he has an unhealthy obsession with his hair, wears dresses in public and speaks like he has another man’s cock stuck in his throat.
It’s the same in politics – compare and contrast the late, great Bob Hawke, a man’s man with his face immortalised on a beer can, and Bill Shorten. Or even John Howard for that matter.
Men haven’t just gone soft, we’ve gone flaccid. Peter Brock was a pants man who could have made Casanova himself look slightly effeminate, but today, kids grow up looking up to Lewis Hamilton, who just opened his own chain of vegan restaurants.
In 1979, we had Harry Butler as our Australian of the Year (look him up on YouTube, what a legend) and cared not about what American celebrities had got up to in the past 12 minutes. Today, young men have Harry Styles, and no pubic hair.
Change, in and of itself, is not a bad thing – we no longer get smashed by the Windies in cricket, and it’s now acceptable to spend more than three minutes a day speaking to your kids.
But you have to wonder how much has been lost. Do you honestly think men were less happy back then, when they had so much less to worry about? When political correctness meant remembering to turn up and vote every few years?
If you ponder what’s changed, how our heroes and idols have shifted, and been diminished, the trend becomes frighteningly clear. The fact is that the only people who are really massively better off than they were 40 years ago are… women.
Yep, stick a fork in us, we’re done.