The View From Down Here #39

Results and a rant! A really long one, too! It’s at the end if you want to skip straight to it.

International Cricket
Fifth One Day International

Australia 7/303; South Africa 256 (45.5 overs) – Australia won by 47 runs
A consolation win for Australia, but by losing the series, they lost the number one One-Day Cricket nation spot to South Africa, yet by winning the dead rubber, they retain the number two position. A highlight was an awesome catch by Ben Laughlin, which turned the match in Australia’s favour after South Africa’s innings was looking like getting out of control. Australia have a lot of work to do before the Ashes against England… and their first job has to be to find a full-time spinner who can bat a bit, or else things are not looking good for the future.

Australian Rules Football
And another football code has decided that the rights of women and the misbehaviour of their players takes a back seat to attempting to win meaningless football games. The Adelaide Crows’ “indefinite suspension” of Nathan Bock lasted precisely one match – against a team they knew they could defeat – and so he was recalled to face top-of-the-table Geelong. Surprise! Many are defending this saying his public humiliation is punishment enough, but the public will forget and who cares about the victim anyway? Certainly not Adelaide’s supporters, who on talk back radio seemed to actually blame the girl, and mirror former player Stephen Rowe’s attitude that if it had happened at home it would neve have blown up like this and that it was probably all right. Lovely.
AFL Round Four
Brisbane 10.13 (73) lost to Collingwood 13.12 (90)
            First upset of the round. Collingwood are running hot and cold and Brisbane are having trouble adjusting to a new and apparently quite different coach (and a rookie coach at that). This was also not a good match as a spectacle, either.
Sydney 12.12 (84) def Carlton 9.13 (67)
            Good win for Sydney, and Carlton appeared a little flat. Early in the season for both these teams, however.
Hawthorn 12.13 (85) lost to Port Adelaide 17.13 (115)
            Next upset and a BIG one. Last year’s premiers losing to Port Adelaide? What the…? I am seriously rethinking my prediction that the grand final will be a repeat of last year. Hawthorn are missing that spark, and I think – as I said last week – that spark’s name is Shane Crawford.
St. Kilda 17.9 (111) slaughtered Fremantle 4.4 (28)
            As predicted, only much, much worse. I try to like Fremantle. I really do. But then they go and lose like this  – against St Kilda as well – and it makes you wonder of their hearts are really in it…
Adelaide 13.8 (86) lost handily to Geelong 21.8 (134)
            As expected, and fair enough, too. See, Crows, bringing back the girl-beater early did nothing for you except make you look petty and pathetic.
North Melbourne 10.9 (69) def Essendon 7.15 (57)
            Just a game, really. Nothing special, but not particularly horrible. In fact, dull.
Richmond 13.14 (92) lost to Melbourne 14.16 (100)
            Hang on… let me read that again… Melbourne won? Holy cow! No wonder everyone’s saying Richmond coach Terry Wallace’s job is on the line! Oh, and the game was crap.
West Coast 17.14 (116) def Western Bulldogs 12.11 (83)
            A strong home win for the Eagles. Some consider this a little bit of an upset, but I feel the Eagles at home are going to be a formidable task for any team this year.
SANFL Round Four
Norwood 11.7 (73) lost to North Adelaide 16.12 (108)
            A good win for North against Norwood at the Parade. The Redlegs normally dominate their home ground, but not this time. North’s hot-and-cold act, though, is going to be hard to take this year…
Central Districts 22.17 (149) absolutely annihilated South Adelaide 11.12 (78)
            The gap between top and bottom could not have been put more starkly than this match. I am so embarrassed by my beloved Panthers being humiliated like this…
Port Adelaide Magpies 10.11 (71) lost to Woodville-West Torrens 15.13 (103)
            And the Eagles go on their merry way, defeating Port at home
Glenelg 12.15 (87) def West Adelaide 12.11 (83)
            A close game for Glenelg against the unfancied Bloods. But West Adelaide fought well and could easily have taken the points, but when you’re out of luck, sometimes you’re always out of luck…
Bye: Sturt

Motor Sport
V-8 Supercars – Hamilton 400
Despite some complaints about the shortened qualifying period, this ended up being a real one-horse race. Whincup’s dominance is looking scary already this year. 
1st Jamie Whincup (Ford)
2nd James Courtney (Ford)
3rd Steven Johnson (Ford)
4th Lee Holdsworth (Holden)
5th Fabian Coulthard (Ford)
Formula One
I am only putting this in here for one reason – the sole Australian in the competition actually had a podium finish! I know, I can’t believe it either. Maybe some-one’s ego realises it has to be matched with actually show, I don’t know. But the rain-marred race was a catastrophe, with the pace car out for the first 20-odd minutes, torrential rain throughout and enough crashes to make watching the race worthwhile…
Chinese Grand Prix
1st Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
2nd Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
3rd Jenson Button (Brawn-Mercedes)

More interesting results, making this season harder to pick than a broken nose…
Round Three
Pulse 46 lost to Firebirds 58
Thunderbirds 43 lost to Vixens 49
            Something of an upset by the Vixens… The T-birds looked out of sorts and played like they were going to lose from the word go.
Steel 52 def Tactix 48
Magic 63 def Swifts 45
            Wow! Things are not looking good for the reigning premiers. A little bit of arrogance seems to have crept into their game, but they cannot intimidate like last year. Everyone else is onto them now. They are going to have to earn their wins, and if they don’t learn that soon this year is going to be tough for them.
Fever 57 def Mystics 46

Rugby Union
The biggest news here is the lack of crowds at the fixtures. Have the union bosses watered down the concept too far with too many teams? Are people just not interested in the sort of matches they are getting? Who knows, because no-one is actually looking into the problem in order to actually correct it in any way, shape or form.
Super 14 – Round 10
Blues 26 slaughtered Highlanders 6
Brumbies 32 just edged out Bulls 31
Hurricanes 34 def Stormers 11
Reds 20 lost to Lions 31
Waratahs 14 just going down to Force 15
Cheetahs 10 def by Chiefs 28
Sharks 10 lost to Crusaders 13
            You know, some of these matches were really close and were good matches. Why aren’t the crowds turning up? I’d love to go, but South Australia won’t get a team because we can barely conjure enough people to support one of our AFL teams and we’re an Australian Rules state!

Rugby League
Round Six
Penrith 18 lost to Brisbane 38
Gold Coast 16 def Canberra 10
            Good game, this one…
St George Illawarra 18 lost to Newcastle 24
South Sydney 8 lost to Manly 24
            Damn! Souths done by the alcoholic woman-beaters! Damn!
Warriors 17 just over Sydney Roosters 16
Cronulla 10 lost to North Queensland 34
            And thus Cronulla occupy the bottom of the ladder… You know, this was actually played here in Adelaide, and drew a crowd of almost 9000, which is quite pathetic really. And the quality of the game would not do much to garner more converts, I’m afraid.
Parramatta 18 really lost to Bulldogs 48
Wests Tigers 16 def Melbourne 6
            Don’t let the mere 10-point gap fool you – Melbourne were swamped in this game and did not look like the finalists of last year. Wests, on the other hand, look the goods now and could well shake things up come year’s end.

THE RANT! Stupid Sports People!
[Note: This is my opinion.]
            That has been the case in Australia for the past few months, and has come to a head recently.
            Uproar over what? The global economic crisis? North Korean aggression? Never-ending wars around the world?
            Sports stars behaving like morons.
            That is all that seems to have been happening in the world lately.
            And just recently, with the guilty verdict against Nick D’Arcy in court for the assault of another swimmer resulting in him being dumped from the Australian team for the world championships in Rome, you’d think World War Three had broken out. The guy is now a convicted criminal, and this conviction puts him at odds with the bylaws of Swimming Australia based around acceptable behaviour. Ergo, he stays home. But the “people” decry this action as unfair, claiming he already paid the price by missing out on the Olympics and that it will cost Australia a gold medal.
            First, good on Swimming Australia for sticking by their guns.
            Second, to hear his father and coach bleating, you can pick where this attitude of “the world is picking on me” is coming from. Has he ever had to face responsibility for anything he has done? He recently appeared in a television show where he got to put his side of the story and came across there as arrogant. He was not sorry for what he did, just for the fact he was punished.
            But he is not the only one.
            Hot on the heels of this debacle, and we have an Adelaide Crows player being suspended indefinitely for assaulting his girlfriend. And his club wanted him to do community service in an abused women’s shelter. This was pointed out that it was possibly inappropriate after a drunken assault on a woman. He was fined and forced to undergo counselling for alcohol, anger and other management. But hold the presses! His “indefinite suspension” lasted all of one week! That’s right, he missed one game which his team could not have lost against a bottom side, but was rushed back in against a much stronger opponent the next week. Oh yes, one week, that’ll show him! That’ll give his counselling and rehabilitation time to take effect!
            It should also be pointed out that a former Crows player – Stephen Rowe – said live on radio that if it had happened in the player’s home instead of public, then it would not have been as bad. Even when given the opportunity to correct himself, he didn’t. That’s right – footballers think it’s okay to hit women in their home.
            And then a group of North Melbourne football club players decided it would be funny to make a video about a rubber chicken wearing a condom and performing sex acts, and then post it on YouTube. It has been taken down, and the whole club has said it is sorry. The captain went on to say that this is not the culture of the club he has been at for fifteen years. Interesting, considering one of its former captains had sex with his vice-captain’s wife and subsequently was charged with glassing his next girlfriend and assaulting police. No, this sort of act is unprecedented at North Melbourne.
            And now the news has come in that Andrew Symonds has been given a reprieve after his own alcohol fuelled radio broadcasts, hot on the heels of missing training to go fishing and other indiscretions.
            Rugby League must be happy at this turn of events, however, as in the same week Manly’s Brett Stewart has finished serving his ban for allegedly assaulting a seventeen year old girl, to which he has plead not guilty, in January. This is the same Manly that saw the daughter of one of its major sponsors verbally abused by players.
            However, the list of rugby league indiscretions recently is just as long. A member of the Sydney Roosters was stopped at a random breath testing unit and blew around three times the legal limit. His punishment? A fine. No suspension, no internal club inquiry, nothing. On the same weekend a member of the Cronulla Sharks is alleged to have urinated on himself at a pub before collapsing unconscious into a garden bed. And then a parent of a South Sydney junior player has accused the club of glorifying alcoholism in the club’s song, which goes in part, “We’re drinking our way through the night and we’re having the time of our lives.”
            And all of this has pushed the death of cyclist Jobie Dajka to a side story. It is alleged he did not get over being dumped from the 2004 Olympic team after lying to a doping inquiry.
            So what is the root cause of this? This is a hard one, and so many theories have been advanced that it seems hard to get to the bottom of it all.
            Historically, there has been a tendency in Australia to portray our sporting heroes as just that – heroes. Their every deed has always seemed to be the source of pride in the country, and we rarely heard about any of their indiscretions. This has led to some claiming that it is the advent of the intrusive media which has resulted in more people being ‘found out’, where in the past these things would have been hushed up. And there is undoubtedly truth in that. With the advent of websites, online blogs, and sports television channels, as well as the more traditional newspapers and magazines, the task of finding ‘exclusive’ or explosive material to garner new viewers/readers has become highly competitive. And so the spotlight has been thrown upon more of the sports people and in a wider glare than ever before.
            This has another effect: the raising of the players above just heroes for sports people to so-called role models for society. They are lionised by the fawning media to the point where they think they can do no wrong, and that anything they do is all right. And if anything does go out of control, the club will come to their defence as they are so important to the club / team / Australia’s medal chances. And when this does not happen, they are at a loss and their lives seem to crumble around them. Or they lash out. Or they blame everyone else. The media and hence the public has them up on such a high pedestal that they lose all their sense of responsibility.
            But there is also the theory that the current breed of purely professional sportspeople is at least partly to blame. In the past, the majority of our sporting stars had to hold down other, ‘real’ jobs in order to survive and finance their lives. Sport was seen as a bonus. And these men and, to a lesser extent, women had their workmates there to help bring them down to earth and keep them grounded. Nowadays, these young men (primarily) are surrounded by their team-mates, their coaching staff and, as in the case of Nick D’Arcy, parents living almost vicariously through their successful progeny. They have no concept of the world outside of their sport. This means that the only culture they are exposed to is the culture of their sporting club. Sure, clubs may say they educate the players, but who are the primary influences upon these players? The older players, who were influenced by the generation before them and so on backwards. The culture of drinking, treating women as objects and thinking themselves above the law is thus ingrained in successive groups of new recruits. And without any real world exposure, how can these people know any difference?
            And that leads to the question: What can be done to stop this? Many suggestions have been put forward, like a blanket ban on alcohol for sporting stars, even more education for athletes, personal security… But how much of this would actually work? Unfortunately, we cannot change the culture of the clubs overnight, and the mentality of these (predominantly) young men. And, in that vein, here are two ways to stop this cycle of alcohol and substance abuse, violence and disgrace.
            The first is in the hip pocket. Sponsors should withdraw all moneys from clubs that go through this. Players should not just be fined, but lose payments. And the payments players should get should actually be lessened. Reduce salary caps by a lot. Sure, some players will go the Sonny Bill Williams route and play overseas, but if they play for the “love of the game”, as so many claim, then surely the money is a mere bonus and not the be-all and end-all of their sporting lives. This may also mean that some players – especially younger players who will not get paid as much as a more experienced one – may have to go out and find some alternate trade to supplement their income.
            Yes, here I am advocating a return to the 1950s.
            The second is in their exposure. They must be labelled for what they are. On television, in magazines, in the papers, everywhere else, if they are in a team, after their name should be all the things they have been found guilty of. Some may wear it as a badge of pride, but after the game is over any prospective employer of these people will be able to look and think twice about hiring the ex-player with a string of DUI offences, a few assault convictions and maybe a sexual abuse conviction there. The current generation won’t care until it is too late, but their example will become a poignant one for future generations of sportspeople.
            Now, both of these measures are quite Draconian and will never happen. And I am actually not going to sit here and genuinely advocate them. But it shows just to what level this sort of activity has infiltrated our sporting environment for measures like this to even be discussed.
            With the take-up of sporting activities declining amongst our teenaged population, with the experts claiming an ever-growing obesity problem in Australia, we cannot afford to have even more people give up playing sport or being encouraged not to continue with sport as an option because of the behaviours of a select few at the top of the food chain. Maybe the media should be encouraged to focus on the ‘good news’ stories, but, of course, the bad is always better. The whole ‘car-wreck mentality’ of slowing to watch the awful things in the world.
            This is such a tough call for all sorts of reasons. And there are clearly no easy answers. But something has to be done.
            Or else Australia’s sporting reputation is going to be based on “what happened then” not “what is happening now”…


And that’s the view…

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