Sport is kidding itself

I like kids well enough. I was one once, and later had a few, and that turned out to be a good thing. I've met lots of kids, and most were pretty agreeable, and some of them even cute.

I like kids, but I don't understand why I have to have all my sport with kids. They're like fries in restaurants in the US: unless you ask specifically not to have them, they just turn up.

To be clear, I'm not objecting to kids at sports events. I'm jacking up at the way the presentation of sport is pitched exclusively at kids. Look around: the Big Bash League, the Australian Open, soon your friendly neighbourhood football code.

Here, something to bang together. There, something that explodes. Here, some dancing. There, bright colours and movement: remember those from your cot, and how they made you gurgle? Here, a big screen on which you might appear, if only you are colourful enough, and move a lot, and bang things together.

And here, noise. Especially noise. Marketeers concentrate on the lowest average attention span, that is, a kid's, which is to say, a nanosecond. Thus they they fill every pause with noise: every change of ends in tennis, all the time between the end of one over at the cricket and the start of the next, and a little bit longer, just in case, stifling any other neurological process.

It's noise for noise's sake, eventually becoming a drone, meaningless but constant, like Anthony Mundine.

Actually, I do understand: it saves authorities from the bother of trying. I mean, whoever is going to argue with "it's all for the kids"?

I am.

Firstly, there is an insidious side. Because of the close alignment of bookmakers and sports in this country, fun becomes conflated with flutters. American visitors remark on it. On one channel on Thursday night, it was "money back for a six". On another, it was "win when your man is two sets up". It doesn't matter that on one channel, no six was hit, and on the other, that a player who leads by two sets wins 95 per cent of the time, only that there were kids marvelling at these great deals. And there were.

All that banging, and bang for your buck, too. Like, wow.

Further, all this kiddification doesn't work. Here's why.

It bugs players, sometimes. It did Nick Kyrgios last year, the constant doof doof. Diddums, you'll probably say. Which is odd, really: if a single fan interjects, the crowd turns on him. If the ruling body interjects, the crowd says, oh well. And the ruling body says: don't forget the kiddies.

It drives adults mad. Big Bash crowds are down this season, but TV ratings have held up, and you have to think it is because it has become for many a more palatable game to watch from home, far from the ear-bashing and the brain-mushing. At home, unlike at the ground, you can turn down the noise. Cricket Australia won't care that much: a ratings point and a gate number are pretty much the same thing.

In any case, look over here, kids: a super-sized fist.

It is counter-productive. In the desperate effort to prostrate itself before new fans, cricket risks disenfranchising old. It is happening now.

It fails in the long run. More than 20 years ago, basketball got to the kids, and was attracting crowds of 15,000. A little while later, it nearly went out of business. To this day, soccer boasts massive junior participation, but A-League crowds and ratings continue to atrophy. For Thursday night's Brisbane-Perth clash in Brisbane, 6258 turned out. Tennis' Open is a brilliant event, but the game generally has the backside out of its shorts.

The reality is that just as it is easy and cheap to divert kids with sport, so it is easy to divert them into something else soon enough. And so it goes.

But it runs deeper still. Through all the banging and crashing and firebombing and deafening, a sad subliminal message emerges. It is that promoters don't like, understand or trust their own game enough to make it the focus. They're scared that it is not engaging enough, and so, look over here, kids, and here, and here, anywhere but out there.

And now Cory Bernardi's pulling the same stunt.

And with that off my chest, I am retiring to my new favourite wine bar that is a) good at what it does, and b) confident enough about it to ban kids.

This story Sport is kidding itself first appeared on The Age.