The media have been too harsh on Ben Cousins
Ben Cousins’ interview with On The Couch on Tuesday night made for great viewing, and not just because it was candid and revealing. It was also great because of how it stacked up next to all the media-driven rumours and speculation this season.
The word relapse has been used often. The term alcohol problem has been used, too. Even the insinuation there’s more to it – without ever revealing what the “more to it” actually is – has had a good run.
To make matters worse, certain sections of the media have gone on to use those rumours – as opposed to, you know, actual evidence – as a way to pot Cousins and the club that recruited him.
It’s been said there’s no way he’ll play next year. It’s been said there’s no way he can see out the season. It’s even been said Richmond made a mistake in taking him on last year, despite the fact he finished top five in their best and fairest.
Cousins deserves better, which is why the Fox Sports interview was so refreshing.
For the first time in a while, we were not getting our Cousins fix from something Caroline Wilson had written or said, or from comments, later retracted, by Ricky Olarenshaw.
We were instead hearing from Cousins himself. And the odd thing was, he didn’t seem like a man who’d gone off the rails. In fact, he seemed like a man who the game can learn a lot from.
He said the use of recreational drugs did not help him play football and that, if anything, it made it harder. He said he spent the vast majority of his career trying to hide his addiction.
He also said he was “making some real progress”. He spoke of the enjoyment he gets seeing the development of young players and being in the position to use his experience to help them. He spoke about leaving the game with dignity and, to the surprise of many, admitted he harbours a strong desire to play on beyond this year.
And when it came to the attention from the media, he said that element of the AFL environment was counter-productive to his recovery, saying he was “at the mercy of a lot of rumours and innuendo”.
”I don’t … dignify every single rumour. The problem with my situation is that if you throw anything negative my way, it seems to stick,” he said.
With the way the media have acted lately, it was the right choice of words.
It’s one thing for a member of the media to publicly call for Richmond to sack Cousins, or to not re-sign him, when it’s based on actual evidence, like poor football or incidents confirmed to have taken place.
But it’s another thing entirely for a member of the media to call for such actions when the only basis for such an argument hasn’t been confirmed by anyone and denied by the man at the centre of it all.
The media in recent weeks and months have gone too far, and Cousins deserves better.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio