Shooting the Gayle-farce breeze

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Chris Gayle... always in the news (Melbourne Renegades)

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You’re sick of hearing the kind of reaction generated by Chris Gayle’s sideline chat up of Mel McLaughlin on Monday night?

I’m sick of it too.

Been sick of it for 32 years and counting.

Sick of hearing that sportsmen should be able to talk to you like you’re a paid groupie and if you’re not flattered, titillated and tempted by their sleazy drivel you have no sense of humour.

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Yes, how Gayle behaved towards one of Australia’s most respected female sports presenters has been totally blown out of all proportion.

On a scale of ‘common-or-garden jerk’ to ‘grossly heinous, groping and slobbering neanderthal’ – they’re out there, I’ve interviewed them and worked with them – I’d rate Gayle on his most recent performance just a ‘mildly irritating tosser with an inflated ego and hackneyed pick-up lines’.

Most women encounter this tiresome creature in nightclubs or bars and you can see them coming with shirt unbuttoned down the torso, heavy gold chain around the neck and self-important strut. You’re ready for it. Mel would be able to smack a good dozen of those suckers to the boundary in the space of a Marlon Samuels innings.

But this wasn’t a bar, or a nightclub, or a social setting. It was a workplace, and that’s the only reason Mel was momentarily thrown.

A massively public workplace as well, with a live national TV audience watching. That was the awkwardness of it all. You can’t say what he deserves to have said to him because you’re the professional. The grown-up.

It wasn’t that the comments were especially offensive – any female sports journalist who’s been in the game for five minutes has copped ten times worse than that off-camera or behind the scenes – they were just inappropriate and certainly not in any way an answer to the legitimate cricket question she asked him.

I tweeted at the time that it wasn’t smooth or clever, because I suspected Gayle thought it was.

That’s not outrage. Or a feminist diatribe.

It’s a comment from what I like to think is the reasonably informed perspective of someone who’s done similar sideline interviews at sporting events for more than three decades. I wasn’t trying to start a national conversation, as Americans love to call it.

I can’t believe I’m still even talking about it. But do you know why I am?

Because myself and several other female sports journalists who dared to criticise Gayle at the time were rounded on by droves of people on social media accusing us of being the problem. We got told again we need to get a sense of humour, loosen up, have some fun. Don’t be a sports journalist if you can’t handle it. You’re just jealous he wasn’t hitting on you! She’s only there for her looks anyway, right?

In the last 24 hours I feel like I’ve been shunted back to the 1980s, where Chris Gayle is not the problem.

The problem is I’m surrounded by a multitude of idiots who think it’s funny to watch a woman have to deal with an unwanted sexual advance in the workplace. A mild one, sure, but no doubt that’s what it was.

“Beautiful eyes, let’s go for a drink, don’t blush baby.”

Pardon me for not finding that thigh-slappingly humorous.

Bear in mind, by the way, that the vehicle for this alleged comedic gold is the format of the game that Cricket Australia is using to sell the sport to a family audience:

“See little Johnny, that’s how you talk to girls, she’ll be impressed and, by golly, your mates will be entertained.”

I honestly thought we’d come further than that.

Accuse me of over-reaction, but it’s the reaction I’m finding it hard to get over.

And for God’s sake spare me those zappy zingers like ‘people are dying in Syria’ or ‘what about that father who killed himself and his two sons?” or ‘a new bug that’s resistant to antibiotics has been found’ – why don’t you worry about something serious like that?

I do.

I’m actually capable of caring about more than one thing. Maybe the people who tweeted me along these lines have that capacity too, and should give it a try sometime.

Of course there are infinitely worse problems in the world than lewd comments made by cricketer to a reporter. But they are, by and large, complex problems that you and I can’t solve.

This one should be simple to sort out with tools you’ve got around the house, like decency and respect.

If you’re sick of hearing women complaining about sexual advances in the workplace, don’t make them. Don’t laugh at them. Don’t blame the people who call them out.

Oh, and put away that damn Barry White LP and come join me and a bunch of women who love sport and want to talk about it, write about it and commentate on it in 2016.