I’m in a melancholic and nostalgic state of mind today.
Sixteen years ago, on 15 September 2000, Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame in Sydney.
I watched that Opening Ceremony at the Lord Raglan Hotel in the city’s Redfern neighbourhood. I was there with a fellow American; we had both moved to town recently.
I was in Sydney as a student – the easiest, but most expensive, way I could get into the country.
We enjoyed the night with the barflies and I drank way too much.
Late that night I spoke, for the last time, to a man who – I won’t say he broke my heart so much as our relationship had broken my heart. It happens. But I was haunted, for a very long time, by having unexpectedly fallen in love with him.
So I was in a melancholy state then too.
Back “home” the 2000 presidential election was heating up – Gore, Bush, Nader. For the first time in a long time I wasn’t paying much attention; I was happy to be on the far side of the world thinking about sports.
I’d always been interested in politics. I’d consumed every children’s book about John F. Kennedy and I still remember those stories in detail.
I was on the rope-line for an event with Walter Mondale during the 1976 election and remember how it felt to hear Geraldine Ferraro speak in 1988.
I read the paper every day. I wrote letters to the editor. I protested in front of the Chinese consulate after Tiananmen Square and went to the rally in Chicago to welcome Lech Wa??sa.
In 1990 I travelled to North Carolina to volunteer for Harvey Gantt as he tried to unseat the evil-old bastard that was Senator Jesse Helms.
At the University of Oregon I majored in political science and, there, helped reform the College Democrats (which had been taken over by the socialists) and led Students for Clinton.
I was a delegate to the 1992 Democratic Convention and won a competitive internship with the California Democratic Party. The Inauguration. The White House. More campaigning. Travelling in advance of the President and First Lady arranging events.
And then, after the 1996 election, I was just kind of done with it and maybe it was done with me, too.
I wandered back to my other childhood love: baseball.
I moved to Baltimore and became an Orioles fan. I was working in public affairs in DC and going to games most nights at Camden Yards or watching them at my local. I tried to get a look-in for a job in baseball with no luck.
For my 30th birthday, in 1999, I finally got to Australia. I’d had a fascination with the place since I was twelve. I’d had many plans to get there over the years but none had come to fruition. Now, at long last, I had a real job, with a real salary, and paid vacation days. I used them to visit Sydney and it was everything I hoped for. I moved there 16 months later.
And so it was I was in a bar in Sydney, looking forward to getting to all of Team USA’s baseball games, and I was not thinking much about Al Gore’s presidential bid.
Before this one, the one we’re engaged in now, 2000 was probably the most important US election of my lifetime – of course none of us knew that then. Would the attacks of 9/11 happened if Al Gore was president? It they had, I think we can be sure the response from the US Government would have differed with Gore in charge rather than Bush. There certainly would have been no war in Iraq and, just like that, everything changes.
But at the time, this time 16 years ago, I was just looking forward to USA v Japan on 17 September.