Game of Thrones starts up again this week. My favourite is Arya Stark. We both have a thing about holding grudges. Arya is a bit more hard-core than me but. She has this “list” she recites every night of those who have wronged her and who she is going to kill when the opportunity arises. In Game of Thrones there are lots of sub-plots, grudges, wrong-doings and of course, tales of redemption. Jaime Lannister heartlessly pushing an innocent Bran Stark off a tower and then later losing his hand and risking his life to save Brienne of Tarth. Jorah Mormont betraying Daenerys Targaryen to get a pardon and then intervening at the last second to save her. Osha being taken prisoner by the Starks only to turn around and help Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell. I fucking love Game of Thrones.
Unfortunately what cuts it as a redemption story in Australian sport is far less compelling.
It seems the Australian media is a sucker for even the faintest whiff of something that resembles bad boy comes good. We’ve had about 6 or 7 Todd Carney ones:
“Toddy gets redemption after pissing on a guys head”
“Toddy gets redemption after setting friends anus on fire”
“Toddy gets redemption after pissing in his mouth”
If you’re more an AFL fan then Brendan Fevola is pretty much the equivalent:
“Fev gets redemption after stealing from dry cleaners”
“Fev gets redemption after getting drunk and pissing on restaurant window”
“Fev gets redemption after waving dildo round during Mad Monday celebrations”
In most cases all that’s required for a feel good Australian sport story is:
Step 1 – talented sportsperson fucks up.
Step 2 – talented sportsperson resumes being talented at sport.
While it’s no Game of Thrones it does seem to be some sort of a winning formula for Australian news outlets. This ad trumpets Shane Warne’s redemption before he would be busted for taking performance enhancing drugs, split from his wife after multiple indiscretions and generally behave like a bit of a dick.
Unfortunately in recent weeks there have been some sporting stories where the readiness to celebrate “step 2” has resulted in ignoring the actual wrong doings of athletes. One such instance was Grant Hackett’s recent triumph in the pool at the National Championships where he came third in the 400m freestyle final. As Clementine Ford wrote, while many commentators were quick to celebrate Hackett’s amazing comeback from the lows of drug addiction, very few were willing to wade into the murky water surrounding the low point of his violent rampage and subsequent split from wife Candice Alley.
Mark Colvin also didn’t mince words when noticing the media’s convenient reinvention of Hackett’s “lows”.
There was another similar instance recently where in previewing the upcoming round of NRL, ABC news chose to highlight the Sydney City Roosters versus the Canberra Raiders as the big grudge match between Blake Ferguson and his former club. ABC talked about the “rejuvenated Ferguson” looking to square the ledger against the team that sacked him for “off field indiscretions”. In 2013 Blake Ferguson was charged and convicted of indecent assault when he sexually assaulted a woman at a Cronulla night club. Subsequently his contract was torn up and he was de-reregistered by the NRL.
To describe sexual assault as an “off-field indiscretion” is definitely inappropriate, but to then use it as a way of creating a simple narrative to promote interest in the upcoming weekend of football is disrespectful to the victim and to all involved, including Blake Ferguson*.
This convenient forgetfulness by the fans and media isn’t new. One radical solution could be employing Arya’s “list” where all players placed on the list are condemned and hunted down by a blood thirsty 13 year old (as I mentioned earlier I hold grudges and Arya is my favourite). But perhaps a more reasonable approach is simply raising our expectations, so that when players do the wrong thing they at least acknowledge their mistakes and work to earn their redemption like everyone else. And hopefully we, the community and the media can be intelligent enough to see that just because someone performs well on the sporting field doesn’t mean they should be given credit for anything but just that.
*that article can be found here. To ABC’s credit this article has been re-written with most inappropriate sections removed since it was initially posted and televised on ABC 24 on March 27th 2015.