Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
On a steaming hot day a young kid wearing thongs, short stubbies, a terry towelling hat and undersized T-shirt eagerly perches atop his dad’s Esky on the hill of the Gabba.
Unfamiliar with and a little unnerved by the volume of invidious banter that will soon learn is commonplace as the drink accumulates and the day grows longer at the cricket, he still can’t look away from the middle of the ground, and he stands to applaud as an Englishman dispatches his soon-to-be hero, Dennis Lillee, to the boundary.
Okay, I clearly had no idea what I was doing there, but I was hooked. Test cricket was for me, and as the years passed the first day of the first Test became a pilgrimage for myself and my friends.
But as we grew older and pay cheques no longer funded weekend binges but families and mortgages, friend after friend found time too scarce to continue their joy for the game. Not me, though. My love affair continued, and I have travelled the country and the world enraptured watching the baggy greens in play.
Following the events of the last week, though, I fear that this will no longer be the case, and I’m not happy about it, not one little bit.
I want an apology because I am angry at the very real threat of losing a great love of my life.
The idea of watching the cricket now makes me feel ill. I just can’t face the notion of it. My reasons are in stark contrast to those others are contending. Due to the appalling treatment of particularly Steve Smith, I am now associating the game with so many of the worst examples of human behaviour a person can muster.
If there’s a positive to come from this, academics in the behavioural sciences now have a ready-made case study of the ease with which the media can instil mass hysteria and loathing in an unquestioning population. Let’s start with that.
Many in the media relentlessly and sensationally demonised the actual event beyond all context, deliberately whipping up public hysteria for the sole purpose of selling more copy or achieving higher ratings. Little if any care was paid to their misrepresentations or of the clearly possible consequences for the targeted ‘villains’ or their families. This simply is not of their concern.
Next for me is both tragic and depressing. The fervour and intoxicated willingness of an unquestioning, staggeringly blinkered and hypocritical, lemming-like public to embrace and progress this hysteria in an insatiable blood lust in the guise of some perceived national moral crusade.
In doing so they conveniently ignore example after example of evidence indicating that this nation’s perceived high morality and integrity is very, very different from its reality. All of this, again, while not remotely caring for the clearly possible consequences to the so-called villains and their family.
The reaction from the public beggared belief. These guys weren’t people in positions of trusted power deceiving life savings from investors, as has recently occurred in the banks. There’s a senior figure of the Catholic church currently before the courts charged with multiple historical sexual assault offences, and even he’s been subject to less media and public scrutiny.
We all hear the rhetoric of the sanctity of the dressing room, of the players being closer than blood relatives, yet not one of these teammates, past or present, has publicly stood up to defend the portrayed villains.
All are hiding from or pandering to the sensationalist, pitch-fork wielding, vile-spewing accusers instead of standing and offering, “Actually, while arguably not routine, the practice of ball tampering is not that uncommon. Perhaps you should do a little research and back off from the boys a bit.”
Brett Geeves in his Fox Sports opinion piece is the only ex-player to my knowledge to offer any truth into the relatively common and generally accepted offence in the cricket community.
All of this behaviour ultimately led of course to an experienced, match-hardened grown man whose job role would state, “Constant exposure to relentless media pressure”, to break down in tears in just that situation.
What happened next? Many thankfully saw the wrong of their ways, but not everyone did, and those who came to the realisation are not necessarily the most influential among us.
The very same hate-mongering, irresponsible journalists opted to fake some sympathy but none suggested, “Okay, everyone should back off now and give these guys a break”. Not one admitted some form of responsibility for a human being’s breakdown or for the possible serious mental health issues ensuing.
“No, we did the right thing”, they contend. “We suggested everyone should calm down!”.
Once the hounds are released, though, they don’t simply return at a whistle. Many smell blood and they like it. The harassment of these players will slow, but it won’t stop. They will now be hounded at restaurants, at traffic lights and at shops. Their children will be bullied. Why? They had the audacity to seek a questionable advantage on a sporting field – which brings me to the arguments posed.
“Okay, but ultimately they cheated!”
Yes, guilty as charged. I agree that they deserve the full force of the cricketing law for their indiscretion, perhaps even the maximum penalty, which of course entails a one-game suspension and a fine.
Yes, the world governing body for the sport sees ball tampering as such a minor indiscretion that it warrants at the most a one-game suspension, that’s it.
Some legends of the game have been charged with this indiscretion too – the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Mike Atherton, Rahul Dravid and Waqar Younis, and of course let’s not forget that current South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has faced this penalty twice.
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“But it was planned cheating! They conspired to do it!”
Again, guilty as charged – but come on, folks, do you really believe that such behaviour is uncommon in world sport, rightly or wrongly?
Let’s look at NRL footy. Each team dedicated much of their preseason training practising and perfecting their ability to cheat – perfecting when and how to be penalised for a number of indiscretions when defending their try line, allowing them to reset their defensive structure. How is this different? It is arguably worse.
“They’ve shamed Australia’s morals and integrity!”
This one is my favourite. It’s the one that really has the bile churning in my belly. Suddenly the game that has attracted ample articles predicting its demise and irrelevance is now the litmus for a nation’s integrity.
Interesting how scratching the side of a ball is of more relevance here than, say, the overseas detention of asylum seekers, the pilfering the valuable natural resources of an impoverished neighbour, the third-world health and education conditions for our first Australians, the financial exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers – the list goes on.
No, all that is irrelevant. These guys roughed up the side of a ball. They’ve shamed us all!
Such depressing, alarming reactions and behaviours are all so horrible, and all of this is now associated in my mind with the game I’ve loved for as long as I can remember – a game that, whenever I think of it, harbours just these unpalatable, disturbing associations.
It is a game that now, thanks to this, I just cannot stomach the thought of watching. I don’t deserve this, and I want an apology.