Just needs to improve his cricket now…
Boys will be boys.
We’ll hear it so often over the coming weeks and, for good or for bad, we agree and we disagree. We look up to professional sportspeople and we hold them to a better standard. We hope and expect more. There’s arguments for both sides, there’s the “they are getting paid bucket loads of money to be professional”, and there’s the “well they are still human”.
I sit somewhere in the middle.
I own a small country pub, and I’ve done everything from run small family venues with fewer than ten staff, to corporate venues where I am under an umbrella of a company that employs thousands, and where I personally oversaw more then 100 staff. Mostly young and vibrant people who like a drink and, being young and vibrant, get themselves into the occasional trouble.
So I must admit I’ve seen the best and worst of people under the influence. I’ve also experienced the highs and lows of playing sport and, while never on a professional level, I was lucky enough to be a part of highly successful clubs.
While it is a wide gap when it comes to sporting ability, the pure enjoyment and emotion from playing successfully isn’t too different.
This is the time of year where discussions regarding “Mad Monday” come up, and I felt the need to set a challenge. Not to the players necessarily, not to the ones who tend to enjoy the proceedings too much and go a step to far.
I want to throw out a challenge to the leaders, and the elder statesmen of the team. Because this is where a team, and a culture, really stands up. As far as I’m concerned, any group, regardless of creed, stature, race or affluence, has a ten per cent douche factor.
Which means that in a playing group, there’s going to be a few blokes who go to far.
There’s going to be someone who gets naked, someone who tries to kiss someone they shouldn’t, someone takes a joke to far, someone who means to apply a light touch (and ends up splitting another mate open), someone who starts shouting for a female police officer to ‘strip’, thinking they’re the entertainment (not someone coming to shut you down as the revelry has got too loud), someone who convinces 12 other mates to get undressed and wash themselves and their clothes in an automatic car wash (in order to attempt being more attractive to the opposite sex), or someone who, after 16 hours of drinking after grand final, when the nightclubs shut, decide that they aren’t finished drinking, and the airport bar is the best place to go as they open at 6am, or someone who shows up to an important uni law exam and fails due to intoxication.
Those last four were me.
I’ve never been arrested, nor detained. I am a bumbling ex league and union player who played some top grade in my home town, but only due to lack of players in the position played.
I was lucky enough to play with a team that enjoyed success, albeit that came with its own problems as, when you didn’t succeed, you failed expectations.
I’ve also worked on the other side, sponsoring said club, and having to deal with mates celebrating wins and commiserating losses. It’s a tricky job, as a manager. You want the most out of them in a fun and safe way, without jeopardising your hotel licence, your everyday customers, and also ensuring they continue to have fun and drink and celebrate.
I understand both sides, and I’ve not once done something that I regretted. I’ve done things I’ve had to own up to, or apologise, but I’ve never gone the step too far.
The reason for this? I was lucky enough to be involved with clubs that had pride in both their on-field and off-field behaviour. We partied hard and let our hair down for Silly Sunday and Mad Monday.
Once it even became Terrible Tuesday, Wicked Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday, and F***wit Friday (because if you are still drinking on Friday, you’re a f***wit).
We ‘kidnapped’ lawyers (and once an 18-year-old from school) and called electricians to fictitious jobs, so they could have a beer.
Yet we never crossed a line.
Again, because I was lucky enough to play with a team where someone always stopped the bus when it was heading towards disaster. The club captain, the coach, ex-players, someone would always pull the potentially danger person aside. They would pull their head in. Sometimes with more force than tact.
Quite frankly, this trip down memory lane is me calling on professional sportspeople to have that same mentality. Let’s stop the headlines, let’s have someone around who will stop it before it goes to far.
Just like a recently retired NRL player did with me, when several NRL players were making inroads on my partner, on a Mad Monday, and I’d asked them to “slow it down fellas”. I probably would have ended up in a blue, as it was heading down a bad path with them not taking no for an answer. The senior player stepped in, one of the players went home (which he didn’t want to), and the other one bought me a beer and we had a yarn.
Without this senior player, headlines would have ensued.
It’s not just professional players. One of my proudest moments as a coach and player is when a couple of our younger players decided to carve their names into the bar at our sponsor’s hotel.
This was discovered by the admin staff, at 6am, and we were due there as a club at 10am. The admin staff rang one of us and were worried as, quite frankly, the publican would have cracked heads and sent us on our way for the damage to a heritage listed hotel.
Us senior players rallied up the offending youngsters, regardless of hangovers, and supervised them sanding and repainting the section of the bar before 10am. Upon arrival the publican proceeded to tear us a new one, as he’d been told it had happened. However, upon finding the situation remedied, he bought everyone a beer.
So, let’s hope these players that risk injury and put everything aside for the small chance of becoming professional, who travel away from family and keep us entertained can, after a gruelling season, let their hair down and have some fun.
Let’s also hope they’ve got someone looking after them to make it doesn’t go to far and they end up in the headlines for the wrong reasons.