Jack Watts is handsome, 6’5″ and aggressively white. By conservative estimates, Watts earns probably four times what I do, despite the fact we’re both fairly average at our jobs.
We live in a society that’s built for a Jack Watts-type to not only succeed, but dominate.
I’m watching Jack Watts play the Anzac Eve game. After a goal late in the first quarter, he threatened to break the game open with speed, precise kicking and lateral movement. In typical Watts fashion, he disappears from the game almost immediately after. He finished the game with just one tackle.
I feel sorry for Jack Watts. Yes – tall, beautiful, blonde, private school Watts. It seems ludicrous that I should feel anything but resentment for this man, this caricature of privilege.
I don’t quite understand my feelings. I’m not usually the magnanimous type.
Maybe it’s because Jack Watts is a football player in the same way Delta Goodrem is a singer. In the same way a Savoy is a cracker. In the same way a Kraft Single is cheese.
Melbourne drafted the Savoy number one in the 2008 draft. Years later, we dump on the Dees for not picking what is now the consensus choice – Nic Naitanui, number two in the draft and the undisputed Pizza Shapes of players.
Comparing the relative merits of the two now, with the benefit of hindsight and a chasm of flavour between them, is unfair and tedious.
Melbourne simply messed up.
A quick dip into the 2008 draft reports is a race warriors’ buffet in confirmation bias. If you were looking for an uncomfortable, problematic side to football, you could certainly find it. Codified language dominates every profile.
Nic Naitanui had a ‘cool name’, ‘freakish’ ability, ‘a head full of dreadlocks’ and ‘a marketing department’s dream come true’. Watts was “very intelligent”, “a widely respected character” with “very very good hands”.
I’m sure Melbourne’s selection of Watts over Naitanui wasn’t remotely about race. But examining the phrasing of those reports convinces me that the reporting of it definitely was.
The fact that nine years later, we’ve embraced Naitanui as one of the more successful stars of the game shouldn’t make us believe we exist in some post-racial utopia.
Even in 2017, as an ethnic person, there is nothing more infuriating than watching the effortless success of your white mates on Tinder.
It does make a kind of sense to defend Jack Watts. Despite his height and his natural abilities, Watts was drafted into a failing administration, a revolving door of coaches and several list turnovers.
He has never had the stability to develop into the player he was touted to be. It’s no coincidence that none of Carlton’s three No. 1 picks (Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer) has eventuated to be the best player in their respective drafts.
It does make sense to write him off, too. Jack Watts is symbolic of our deepest fears- unrealised potential, public scrutiny and a rapid fall from grace. To reject Watts is to exorcise that voodoo from your own life. Jack Watts is not inspirational. Jack Watts is cautionary.
Even though I am a person of a wildly different background, an immigrant who came to this country (thanks to a 457 visa), who knew nothing but public schools and has average height, I realise that football has a way of bridging gaps, of empathy and of humanising almost any character.
It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine the pain of unrealistic expectation, of reframing your own aspirations, or the rejection of a community your career is built around.
Jack Watts will probably go down as a general failure. But isn’t that more in line with our own human experience? Most of life is failing. Surely we have more in common with Watts’s narrative than Nat Fyfe’s – an unrelatable man-horse who plays football.
Watts sells a line of clothes – ‘Skwosh’. Specifically, little patterned shorts (watermelons, pineapples, toucans etc.) You can get them for eighty dollars on the internet. I have no experience with Skwosh because (1) they’re little shorts and (2) they run you eighty dollars.
Skwosh is advertised as ‘the next best thing to swimming naked’. This is on the surface, ridiculous. Swimming naked is horrible for men – things that aren’t propellers become propellers etc.
I can only imagine when they drag my body out of the muddy Yarra, it would be embarrassing to be found naked. Obviously. But I’m willing to be empathic and understand the words of men from a different culture.
And I agree with Jack Watts, my brother.
Yes, to be found wearing shorts with watermelons on them would be slightly worse.