Sport and music don’t always unite harmoniously. The high school caste divide between bicep-bearing jocks and mop-topped musos can leave an enduring imprint on one’s tastes. Sure, sporting paraphernalia features prominently in hip hop culture, but it’s usually a symbol of hometown pride rather than an act of fandom. However, when it comes to Sydney’s favourite MC, Urthboy (AKA Tim Levinson), there’s no doubt about it – he’s sports mad.
“There’s very few [sports] that I haven’t participated in,” he says. “I don’t think I’m an overly competitive person but I love a sporting contest and I love the physicality of it. That has left me with injuries that tell the tale. I’ve got two ankles which sometimes feel like they are the ankles of a man twice my age, I’ve got a creaking knee, I’ve had tennis elbow too many times to mention, I’ve dislocated my shoulder, I’ve done my collarbone.”
While Levinson has lent his arms and legs to just about every sport you can think of, there’s one spectator sport he has a particular affection for: Australian rules football. This makes him a perfect fit to join former Sydney Swans star Jude Bolton for a discussion of life, music and football at the Presentation Night event next week. You mightn’t pick it based on his conscientious lyrical perspective, but Levinson’s Swans fandom goes way deep.
“I get swept up in the great big irrational emotional experience of it all,” he says. “There are aspects of the trials and tribulations of your favourite sporting teams that have all these great consequences on who you are and the way you look at the world. You can be lifted up and feel great about the world, yet you can have this hard to pinpoint feeling of emptiness when your team has a bad loss.”
Presentation Night won’t just feature Levinson and Bolton sitting onstage – ABC radio sports aficionado Francis Leach will mediate the discussion. The ensuing conversation will no doubt highlight some major similarities and differences between making music and playing football. One apparent point of contrast is the fact that a lifelong sporting career is resolutely out of the question for anyone, whereas it’s possible for musicians to keep performing until retirement. Levinson suggests this isn’t a major difference, however.
“We both have, definitely, short career options. Of course a musician can continue playing until they die, but you cannot maintain that peak level for a long time. The majority of musicians who are lucky enough to experience a little bit of success find it quite fleeting. An AFL player is lucky to have ten to 15 years and then after that there’s a tiny bunch that go into media and the rest just have to get on with life.”
Alright then, enough reality checking – back to the love of the game. The Swans themselves are having a stellar season. After a shaky start, the team tore into a 12-game winning streak, which equals the club record. Plenty of credit must go to the squad’s expensive new recruit, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. Initially, diehard Sydney supporters begrudged Franklin’s nine-year, $10 million signing. Levinson, though, has no complaints about the ex-Hawthorn player’s on-field exploits.
“How can you not be a Buddy supporter? He’s played some of the most thrilling football anyone has played in the league this year. With any team when they get a new recruit, especially a well-paid one, a lot of the heart-and-soul fans take a little while to warm to that new player. But you cannot argue, the guy’s just playing some of the most exhilarating football that anyone has played for quite some time.”