Oscar Pistorius arrested: the sporting world dealt another blow

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

70 Have your say

    Oscar Pistorius leaving the Boschkop police station. (AP Photo)

    Tragic. That is the only way to describe the news out of South Africa that double-amputee sprinter and six-time Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius has been charged with the alleged murder of his girlfriend.

    It is alleged that he shot his 30-year-old model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, four times, including once in the head.

    Initial reports stated that Pistorius had shot Steenkamp after having confused her for a burglar. Police have since denied that is the case.

    The man known as ‘Blade Runner’ made history in London last year by becoming the first dual leg amputee to compete at an Olympic Games.

    He was idolized by many in his country and had a legion of fans around the world. Today, they will all be both shocked and horrified.

    At this stage, Pistorius stands as an accused man.

    Only the passage of time will give us the full story and it is a story that will fill many hours of air time and countless centimetres of column space.

    As is always the way when a high profile individual is involved – especially one from the sporting world – in such a crime the media fall-out and publicity will be substantial. Some may say overkill, if you will pardon the terminology.

    Depending on the outcome, Pistorius has the potential to go from hero to zero and the fall, should it happen, will bring with it an added dimension: that being that he is an elite level, well-known sportsman.

    What Pistorius has been charged with is a crime that happens countless times around the globe on a daily basis.

    In his homeland of South Africa murder is rife with the city of Johannesburg having one of the highest murder rates per capita in the world.

    Nearly all of those deaths will never be heard of beyond South Africa’s borders. Indeed, some in the country itself will receive only scant coverage. The Pistorius case will be a glaring exception.

    The reason is obvious – his celebrity.

    That will fuel the public desire to know what happened, no matter how ghoulish it may turn out to be. It is a sad product of celebrity in our society.

    And sport feels it more perhaps than any other sphere of life when something like this occurs. The most famous – or infamous – case is that of O J Simpson.

    The famed record-breaking NFL quarterback was the centre of world attention for many months after he was charged, and then found not guilty in a criminal court, of the 1994 murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her partner Ronald Goldman.

    Simpson was later found guilty of their wrongful deaths in a civil court. The Simpson case stands at the top of myriad serious crimes conducted by high profile athletes.

    Two other NFL footballers over the years have been charged and found guilty of first degree murder.

    Hundreds of other sportspeople worldwide have been found guilty of crime – some minor, some major. Each one of them has normally resulted in a degree of sorrow from the fans that adored and followed them.

    One of the reasons that there is such an outpouring of emotion when it comes to crimes committed by sportspeople is the feeling of ‘ownership’ that the fans possess.

    Movie stars and music legends commit the same crimes but the effect is usually not felt in the same way.

    Sport is different because the fan has invested himself in the individual.

    The fan has actively followed the individual concerned, sometimes for years. They may have paid to watch him or her perform live.
    They follow their every sporting move – and often those away from the field of play – through the media.

    Sportspeople have the ability to be looked upon as a distant relative – a second cousin from your mother’s side.

    Fans invest in sport, and not just financially. They take these people into their hearts and minds. Some almost use them as a personal biorhythm – they do well and I’ll do well.

    The fan is uplifted when his or her hero or team performs well. It rubs off. Sport connects the participant to the follower like few other things in life.

    When your corner shop is forced to close due to economic hardships people might not like it but they let it go.

    If their football team is on the brink of closure or relocation, the masses mobilize. It is again that feeling of ownership.

    One can argue the pros and cons of such a psychological connection with our sporting heroes but there is no escaping that it exists.

    And the current Pistorius case will be testament to that. He was potentially due to garner an even bigger fan base here in Australia next month as he was scheduled to race in Sydney and March.

    That will no longer occur.

    Indeed, Pistorius may well have run his last race. Time alone will tell. But, regardless of how things play out, one thing is certain. A young lady is dead.

    She deserves our heartfelt sorrow too.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (70)

    • February 15th 2013 @ 8:32am
      WSW said | February 15th 2013 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Interesting him saying that he thought it was a burglar, right…
      She arrived home 4am, look like she may of been up to something and he just snapped (but I’m just speculating).

      He is screwed expecially when there is no witnesses, it will come down to detectives analysing their relationship.

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2013 @ 7:23pm
        biltongbek said | February 15th 2013 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

        There are a lot of rumours flying around at the moment, all hearsay from people knowing people who knows him or who knows his neighbours.

        Nothing confirmed so I can’t put it on the forum because it could be libellous.

        Let me just say if these rumours are true, then Oscar is in very deep trouble.

    • February 15th 2013 @ 8:37am
      Dingo said | February 15th 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      Terrible tragedy, no doubt we will find out a lot more about this in the next few days.

      You are 100% correct in your assessment. It was evident when I was watching a report on the tv news this morning and people in South Africa were being asked their views, every one of them spoke of their sadness for him, no one mentioned the victim of this terrible crime.

    • February 15th 2013 @ 8:41am
      scallywag said | February 15th 2013 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Perhaps what underscores this tragedy is how on one hand Pistorius’ energy and determination to excel in sports had an unseen abrupt underbelly which included a violent temperament and what now appears a bad attitude towards women in general…something that one never expects to see in a national hero.


    • February 15th 2013 @ 8:48am
      Australian Rules said | February 15th 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      I travel regularly to Sth Africa and have many friends there.

      Naturally, this tragedy is just enormous news over there. I’m sure the story will evolve over the next few days.

      Condolences to this young woman’s family.

    • February 15th 2013 @ 9:12am
      Bunny Colvin said | February 15th 2013 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Interesting why this one story of crime from South Africa makes the news here. Really you must be kidding, the day in day out sheer volume of murders is more than you get in war zones, but they report this.

      Why? The person involved is famous, and white. When was the last time a violent crime story in the news about Soweto or the Cape Flats in Oz?

      After being there for a while and a victim of violent crime you have to be prepared to meet violence with violence if you want to live. Burglars in South Africa usually come with weapons, in a lot of cases automatic weapons and frequently use them. It is a world apart from Australia, so do not even begin to compare the two. If you think someone is breaking into your house, you shoot until that person is down, then worry about it afterwards. If it was just a regular thug/burglar we would not be hearing about it. The cops get a pay off to make the evidence disapear. It just gets rid of the wasted time at court and paying lawyers, works out better for everyone, the lawyers have enough on their plates as it is and the cops are underpaid so they get a bit of lunch money.

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2013 @ 10:40am
        HardcorePrawn said | February 15th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Granted, this story has already been given a lot of coverage, but then that’s to be expected given Pistorius’ international profile.

        Just as there are multiple crimes committed in SA daily, I’m sure that there were probably hundreds of crimes committed in LA during the OJ Simpson trial, but they wouldn’t have got a fraction of the attention in the media. It’s just the nature of the beast for the media to focus on the higher profile cases.

        As for crime in SA not making the news internationally, I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people that are not aware of the situation over there. There have been quite a few documentaries and other media coverage about SA’s crime rate, the ABC also recently re-broadcast Louis Theroux’s SA doco.
        In the build-up to the 2010 World Cup the SA government even complained that media outlets were painting a bad picture of the country and potentially scaring off visitors (even though 2 South African colleagues of mine actually stated that the coverage they’d seen only showed the ‘tip of the iceberg’).

        Interestingly, the case of Joseph Ntshongwana, the Blue Bulls player who murdered 3 men in 2011, got a lot of international coverage too, despite him not being hugely well known outside SA.

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2013 @ 10:40am
        biltongbek said | February 15th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        You are exaggerating a bit mate. i have lived in SA all my life, I am in the finacial services industry and can categorically tell you that what you are describing is a fair bit removed from the truth.

        The violent crimes you are talking about is mainly in untoward areas where you won’t find any lperson that can help it. I admit there is a culture of little respect for life amongst some people, but most of the country live in relative safety.

        In 15 years in the industry I have not had one client murdered.

        • February 15th 2013 @ 11:05am
          Bunny Colvin said | February 15th 2013 @ 11:05am | ! Report

          No doubt you live in a nice neighbourhood, with an electric fence with armed response?

          Go down to Yeoville and get a coffee.

          • February 15th 2013 @ 1:56pm
            Steve said | February 15th 2013 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

            Biltongbek just explained the situation in terms which suggest he knows exactly what places like Yeoville are like, so he elects to stay out of those areas. That sounds more sensible and less patronising than him trawling through them like some hipster tourist looking for the ‘real’ South Africa.
            If he lives in a nice neighbourhood with an electric fence and armed response, then fair play to him.

            • February 15th 2013 @ 2:40pm
              Bunny Colvin said | February 15th 2013 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

              Maybe if they did not have those get out clauses over there, people would make the effort to sort all these problems out for everyone. The old “stuff you jack, I’m looking after myself” attitude.

              • Roar Guru

                February 15th 2013 @ 5:25pm
                biltongbek said | February 15th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

                Who is they?

                What get out clauses?

              • February 15th 2013 @ 7:15pm
                Steve said | February 15th 2013 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

                I guess by ‘get out clauses’ he means that because some people can live well, it stops people working on solutions for social ills. The logic seems to suggest that South Africa would be better off if there weren’t successful pockets of wealth, business and industry bringing good money into the country and attracting investment etc, and if everyone lived like the people in the townships, there’d be less crime and poverty.

                I’m not sure how well that argument holds up looking at the rest of Africa though. Maybe that’s not what he meant?

        • February 15th 2013 @ 4:24pm
          kid k said | February 15th 2013 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

          you tell them biltong i’ve even lived in the townships and still visit regularly abd i’ve never been robbed or threatend with a weapon

          • Roar Guru

            February 15th 2013 @ 6:30pm
            biltongbek said | February 15th 2013 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

            kid k, the funny thing is people have perceptions created from media and people who lived here and have the intentions to exaggerate situations.

            A very good client of mine (black guy, we talk a lot about the situation in SA) has told me white people are safer in Soweto than black people, where in the past there was nothing but segregation of people there are now shopping centres, businesses etc. he said he will take me some time so I can experience life in the townships in places where we won’t usually go and I can hear for myself how people feel about politics, etc.

            Things are changing much faster than what you and I anticipate or think and this guy is a multi millionaire self made man.

            Yes, I agree and even he categorically states that there is far too much corruption in SA, but believes when Zuma takes his 200 million Rand house and retires, things are going to progess much faster.

            • February 15th 2013 @ 7:12pm
              Senator Clay Davis said | February 15th 2013 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

              Been down to Soweto a number of times and I can assure you it is pretty safe for us Aussies so as a local I am sure you would be okay. There is a few nice bars down there too. Shebeen or something like that.

              Even took the bus from Jozi central a few times and it was pretty good around there too. I think if you were by yourself at night you might become vulnerable.

              Really, like travelling anywhere 95 percent of people anywhere are fine that you meet.

              What Melbourne and towns in Oz need to adopt is that incredible mini bus system that has evolved there. Our governments, like S.A’s are incapable of delivering a reliable public transport service. Really impressed how the people just did it themselves. That is where us Aussies need to get better at. Stop worrying about governments and make it happen.

              Saw on the news problems in Townsville with teenage aborginals. The people getting robbed need to form a security force to watch over there neighbourhoods instead of complaining about it. MAKE IT HAPPEN!

            • Roar Guru

              February 16th 2013 @ 7:33pm
              SandBox said | February 16th 2013 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

              “funny thing is people have perceptions created from media and people who lived here and have the intentions to exaggerate situations.”

              Burger’s sister was raped in a secure parking facility. Rath wrote in one of his roar articles, that his mum was thrown from a balcony on to concrete. There is a link to this heinous crime where the mum gets raped, killed and they eventually kill the entire family after boiling their child alive http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/26/amaro-viana-drowned-boiling-water-robbers-_n_1706508.html

              By laying this at the feet of the media and Safa’s that have left, you are relativising crime in the same way that the catholic church relativises pedophilia.

              • Roar Guru

                February 16th 2013 @ 9:33pm
                biltongbek said | February 16th 2013 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

                I am not laying it at their feet mate, they don’t tell you the good about SA, only the bad, hence they create the perception the country is a bad place to live, which is nonsence.

      • February 15th 2013 @ 10:41am
        MMADoggzofwar said | February 15th 2013 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        agree, having spoken in depth with a few ex-pat SA’s our perception of “crime” is sa far removed its tragic to us to hear this happen but is very common place especially in the larger populated cities of SA. Its the circumstances and the people involved in this that have us wondering

      • February 15th 2013 @ 10:45am
        dadiggle said | February 15th 2013 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Geez here we go again. Not its not because his white. Its because he ran in the Olympics with no legs and been a inspiration as well as hart warming story to many. So he is news. if Australia had to report every murder in SA your going to have watch news 24/7 reading murder reports.

        But hey if your President yells Kill the Boer you wouldn’t go take a slosh without your 9mm, I don’t. I see something move I shoot to kill. Can look later who it is.

        Since the end of apartheid in 1994, over 300,000 people have been murdered in South Africa . To put this horrifying number into perspective, it is sobering to recall that the United Kingdom suffered 383,000 military deaths during World War II, after years of intense fighting across France , Germany , and the Mediterranean basin.

        • February 15th 2013 @ 11:16am
          Bunny Colvin said | February 15th 2013 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          The British military sends it’s doctors to Jo-burg hospital to get practice for wartime.

          I was last there during the World Cup following the Socceroos. I was out near Kruger Park in a lovely little town up north from Nelspruit chilling out waiting for the Oz/Serbia match thinking this place is about as safe as you can get and a good place to see Kruger from.

          Anyhow, nothing in the South African news and nothing the locals knew about, I had to read about it off the Age website but just up the street from where I was staying a bunch of armed thugs came into a hotel and bailed up a group of Aussie soccer supporters. The female in the group was sexually assaulted. I bet the crims that did it are still at large.


          We did come across the police as we had to bribe them to pay a “speeding fine”, going down a steep hill about 5 kms over the limited. About 10 coppers were waiting. I remember they say something about you having to face the judge, or go to jail then you go and sit in the back of one of their cars where they have this photocopied sheet with the “official fines prices” and they then allow you to pay in cash to the cop. Worked out to be about $10 AUD. (About $10,000 AUD(fine) should cover a murder with change I would hazard to guess)

          • February 16th 2013 @ 2:07am
            pim said | February 16th 2013 @ 2:07am | ! Report

            5 kms over the limit? Really?Get real mate- in SA you are allowed a 10km/ph leeway Typical Aussie coming to SA moaning about everything and seeing only the bad. Remember paying a bribe makes you as guilty as those asking for it. But hey it is all perfect in Aus.

          • Roar Rookie

            February 17th 2013 @ 12:29am
            Neuen said | February 17th 2013 @ 12:29am | ! Report

            lol something like that happening to us trying to make the border post of Botswana before it close. They are sitting and waiting there just before it and pull over any vehicle that do not have a Botswana registration number. You are speeding but he doesn’t even have a radar nothing, He takes cash you have to pay him and be quick cause you won’t make it in time before the border closes. Clever. But in South Africa have run into a couple of them jumping out of bushes out of nowhere. Like Rambo how they manage to hide a patrol vehicle and equipment behind a bush lol

      • February 15th 2013 @ 1:16pm
        Kasey (thankfully paid in A$ not HK$) said | February 15th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        I watched a recent story on SBS World News involving the rape of a young Black woman in a township neat Cape Town…Just because 7/9/10 deem it un-newsworthy, doesn’t mean its not getting reported in Oz.

        Hot tip: Switch to SBS World News, your brain will thank you for it.

        • February 15th 2013 @ 1:36pm
          nickoldschool said | February 15th 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

          You’re 100% right Kasey. Oz has world news and good docos, almost every night of the week, on sbs 1&2 and abc 1&2. But most ppl are lazy and uninterested and stick to the very light, both in content and quality, 7,9,10 news.

          You don’t find if you don’t look for it.

    • February 15th 2013 @ 10:01am
      LJ said | February 15th 2013 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      OJ Simpson was a running back not a quarterback.

      • Columnist

        February 15th 2013 @ 10:40am
        Glenn Mitchell said | February 15th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        You are right LJ. That’s what happens when you try to write something at 0330! Regardless, ii don’t know how I made that cock-up.

      • February 15th 2013 @ 3:19pm
        Jerome Pervez said | February 15th 2013 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

        +1 LJ for that pickup.