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This article was published 21/7/2011 (3381 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRISBANE -- Boonie drinks Canadian Club. It's shameful, it's true and now the world knows it.
David Boon, one of Australia's most celebrated cricketers, drinks, nay, promotes, Canadian Club whisky!
This man, this national treasure, this custodian of a laconic Australian masculinity who is reputed to have set an Australian Cricket Team drinking record by consuming 52 cans of Victoria Bitter beer on a 1989 flight from Sydney to London, while still managing to hit more than 1,500 runs for the Ashes, now prefers a distilled spirit to beer.
It's akin to a Kennedy seeking the Republican party nomination for the presidency, it's Pope Benedict XVI becoming a Lutheran, it's Moammar Gadhafi joining the Canadian Peace Alliance.
Australia is still picking out the shrapnel after this grenade went off Monday morning.
To call the revelation that Boonie is putting his face to Canadian Club in Australia mere "news'' is a journalistic failure to impart what is, in truth, a tectonic shift in the nation's identity.
The more perspicacious among us know we have crossed a cultural Rubicon. We are changed, utterly. As Yeats so eloquently wrote in those fractious early years of the 20th century:
"The falcon cannot hear the falconer, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold."
If you suspect we're becoming a little overwrought down here, just imagine a reciprocal arrangement. Picture an Australian winery announcing it had secured the dearly departed Maurice "the Rocket'' Richard to promote a local cabernet sauvignon as his beverage of choice and ask yourself:
"What would we do?''
It's obvious, isn't it. You would call on the support of America, as is your right as a signatory to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and you would bomb Canberra.
And we would accept this as a reasonably temperate response to an act of international aggression and encourage Rocket to publicly sip a Molson Light as a sign of goodwill in the peace negotiations.
Throwing "Canadian'' in front of "club'' and "whisky'' and promoting its sale only sparks in Australian minds a feverish terror we're about to be annihilated in a cultural genocide.
Canadian Club carries a whiff of leather armchairs and the discreet inebriations of a sophisticated gentlemen's club.
Beer carries a whiff of meat pies and the clamorous uproar of the racetrack as the favourite gallops home in the eighth.
Boonie drank it, and he was an Aussie. And therein lies the dilemma.
Boonie (he's always Boonie -- Australia's most beloved characters always have a name that ends in a vowel) has thrown down a challenge to a nation already buffeted by the rapid change.
To discard the irony for a moment, this man with his walrus moustache and can of cold beer in hand was once what millions of Australian men saw in their own mirror. He was uncomplicated, he told funny stories, he traded good-natured insults with his Pommy mate and rival Ian "beefy" Botham and he drank not wine nor whisky nor, God forbid, cider, but full strength, Australian-brewed beer.
Now Australian beer consumption is at a 60-year low, we sell wine to a world that appears to like it, apple cider is freely available in reputable bars, and any national sporting figure who drank 52 beers in a row would be swiftly dispatched to rehab.
It should be noted Boonie denies that story of excessive alcohol consumption. Having passed the age of 50 and looking as fit (as we say in Australia) as "a Mallee Bull,'' he obviously hasn't overdone the booze.
But the 52-beer record is so much part of Australian folklore it was once suggested Boonie's home state of Tasmania alter its speed limit to reflect the impressive figure.
The world has moved on, a beery binge is rightly frowned upon, and now one of our own is offering us a cosmopolitan glass of Canadian whisky.
As David Boon told the national broadsheet The Australian, it simply reflects evolving tastes.
"Deciding to be a part of the Canadian Club Over Beer campaign wasn't a hard one," he told the newspaper.
"I think it's a good product which I enjoy drinking, so I'm happy to put my face to it.
"The campaign's not about knocking beer.''
Michael Madigan is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.
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