It is easy to deride a sportsman’s post match interview for the cliché and aphorism laden spiel that is so often spurted forth like some flailing hosepipe of rote-learned monkey gibberish.
It is very difficult, however, to write a sports article that does not utilise or rely upon the assumed wisdom of the same.
Clichés and aphorisms share much with sport: destined for continued repetition and of uncertain and flickering meaning.
A rather sly old English teacher taught me the seditious delight of overturning clichés in bad literature and exposing their indefensible shortcomings and it is a habit I have no intention of dropping. Take for example the statement that rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes.
Apply a mere dab of scrutiny and we find that a few additions to that statement are needed to describe the reality. Firstly, we should stipulate that all these shapes and sizes be of the sporting variety for no frail constitution can withstand a collision sport.
If we want the statement to hold for those who are successful at the sport then we also need to add that those shapes and sizes hold about 10 kilos more muscle mass than the average bloke on the street.
Finally we should add that there are conditions to those sizes and shapes. A small, lithe man like Shane Williams certainly could play rugby at the highest level but would he have been successful if was possessing only average speed and agility. Could a giant like Andries Bekker play if he didn’t have the co-ordination and athleticism that many men of similar height struggle to attain?
So rugby is a game for sporting types of enhanced shapes and sizes that meet certain conditions specific to each shape and size.
This victory of logic over bollocks will not, I fear, rank among the great achievements of the Aristotelian tradition but it serves as a useful introduction to the deconstruction of a sporting aphorism that has great implications for Robbie Deans and the perception of his legacy.
You are only as good as your last game.
Google registers 437,000 individual matches of that exact phrase which is used to both deride those who rest on their laurels but also to bolster those who have only recently overturned a period of failure.
Consider this phrase in terms of Scotland’s recent defeat of the Wallabies. Are Scotland an equal to the southern hemisphere teams now? I’ll let you mull over that for a while and then tell you the answer.
Are Scotland improving? Possibly; they played very well in their loss to England in the first round of the most recent Six Nations but didn’t really build on it. If we accept that their win over Australia was the result of progress under Andy Robinson how useful is a the result of that single game in establishing the nature of that progress?
We can yet keep the cliché alive by slightly altering it to ‘your last game is an indicator of your progress’. That statement is rather begging for a qualifier so, if we feel that a better indicator of progress can be attained from a deeper view, say the last 5 games, then this would leave the cliché again changed to ‘your last game is a poor indicator of your progress’.
The point, which enduring readers are now no doubt now clamouring for, is that any attempt to vindicate Robbie Deans on the back of Australia’s defeat of Wales is illogical.
Under Robbie Deans, Australia has demonstrated a clear inability to achieve consistency which has resulted in them experiencing rather embarrassing defeats by teams that Australia had distinct advantages over.
Scotland, Samoa, Ireland at the World Cup and Scotland again.
Robbie Deans’ legacy as coach of the Australian team will be one of responsibility for unprofessional levels of inconsistency by a young team that is still malleable in its sense of self and what it considers to be an acceptable performance.
The win against Wales contained some wonderful rugby but until we stop losing games we clearly shouldn’t we are simply not as good as our last win.
We are somewhere between the win against Wales and the loss to Scotland.
Enjoy the win, but we are still a team that bumbles and trips up, that accepts inexcusable defeats, that lapses and wanes, that occasionally doesn’t appear to know what it is doing and that tosses up weak excuses when it does so.
There is not a realm of human endeavour where that sort of behaviour would be considered acceptable while it is being paid for.
In short, the Wallabies are not professional and whether he deserves it or not, that is going to be Deans legacy.