Australian sport needs to get its villains back
Australia's Simon Katich reacts as he walks back to the pavilion after losing his wicket. AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Something has been bugging me of late. It’s like the feeling you get when you fail to put on your watch on before leaving for work.
I settled in for day one of the Brisbane Test and as the Aussie cricket side lined up for a less-than-rousing rendition of Advance Australia Fair, a sense of unease passed through me like a winter chill.
As they removed their baggy greens to reveal their $200 haircuts and $2000 toupees, I had an overwhelming sense that there was a serious imbalance on the most fundamental of levels.
My mind wandered back to the last time I had this same feeling: Wales versus Australia at Millenium Stadium. The camera starts on James O’Connor. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
Then Berrick Barnes.
He gets knocked down, but he gets up again. They’re never gonna keep him down. Lauchie Turner, world-renowned for his hair’s ability to keep its shape under the most trying of circumstances. David Pocock, champion for gay rights and Christian values, with every spare moment of his life dedicated to the betterment of mankind.
As the camera pans across the squad, hand on heart, head held high, each player’s story of courage and determination seems to trump the last. They are squeaky-clean boys next door that come good and hit the big time. They are exemplary citizens. They are role models. They are heroes.
I felt ill. Some of my breakfast Four-N-Twenty made its way back up my throat. I returned serve with a mouthful of breakfast beer. Crisis averted.
Then it came to me: we’ve killed off all the villains.
I racked my brain for an Aussie sportsman competing at an international level who I wouldn’t want dating my daughter. Quade Cooper maybe? A chequered past but the powers that be certainly seem to have brought him into line. His haircut now is especially plain.
A number of our national representatives are from Queensland. Can I rule them out for that? Considering my daughter lives in Queensland, it would perhaps be unfair to ban her from dating Queenslanders. I doubt they’d be interested anyway. Her ploughing skills are poor and she’s never ridden a pig in her life.
Rugby league has a National team. Surely one of them… what was that? Their winger is giving up a million dollars so he can preach the word of Jesus? Never mind.
If any one of these blokes was dating your daughter, you’d be hard pressed to come up with an argument against it.
So has good finally conquered evil?
The fate of Brendan Fevola, Jason Akermanis, Willie Mason, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Symonds and Simon Katich would certainly suggest yes.
Anyone who bucks the system has been sacked, deported or put on the shortest leash available. Certainly no one is getting away with anything scot free. In fact, there is more scot being handed out than ever before.
Look at the Wallabies rap sheet for the last couple of seasons: Over $20,000 in fines for a food fight in 2009; O’Connor suspended from the Tri-Nations final for a sleep-in; Ioane fined $2000 for a tweet. There is just no room for anything other than model behaviour within our sporting ranks.
But my question is, are we better for it? How do we differentiate between our heroes if they all act the same? And isn’t the greatness of our heroes directly proportional to the evilness of their villains?
Think Ricky Ponting versus Harbhajan Singh or Monty Panesar. Despite failing against their bowling ad nauseum, his stock as a hero was never higher than on the few occasions he was able to put some runs on them. Bradman’s fame was at its peak when he was charged with the task of bringing an end to England’s evil Bodyline tactics. Phil Kearns’ glittering career will be remembered almost exclusively for his two-finger salute to the intolerable Sean Fitzpatrick.
For the hero economy to thrive, villains must also. Australia’s failure, in all sports, to field athletes with personalities and opinions is contributing to a sporting recession.
So desperate are we for bad guys that we demonise good guys. Richie McCaw: public enemy #1 in Australia, despite seemingly having a heart of gold and being one of the most entertaining forwards in history. Saint David Pocock: hated by South Africans for doing his job, runs his own charity.
We need to drop our standards a little. Not every Australian representative needs a degree in Business Studies, glow in the dark teeth and to list philanthropy as one of their interests on their Twitter profile.
We must roll back the sanitisation of sport, just a little, so we can not only enjoy the guilty pleasures of watching a villain at work, but also to truly appreciate the worth and exceptional nature of our heroes.
After all, if Superman isn’t fighting a villain, then he’s just Clark Kent in a stupid suit.
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