When exactly did the fun police win the war?
I was flabbergasted to hear Damian Barrett speaking on Triple M Radio Melbourne this week stop just short of accusing Joe Daniher of single-handedly destroying the fabric of the game as we know it. At pains to explain he wasn’t being a “naysayer” or a “nark”, he then preceded to be both.
What outrageous crime against football had Daniher committed to draw the searing disapproval of the upset Barrett? No, it wasn’t in relation to the ridiculous piece of fluff on his top lip. It seems that the erstwhile journo found it extraordinarily distasteful that, after kicking 6 behinds, upon kicking a goal Big Joe decided to mark the occasion with a smile and an attempt to hug former team-mate Michael Hibberd. The fact that he was on a radio program taking a light-hearted look at sport was not enough to stop Barrett being outraged by a man having fun playing a game.
I understand the necessity to fill a seemingly never ending demand for content, but is there any danger that things like this can be viewed with a level of perspective?
Firstly, Daniher’s reaction was nothing more than a moment of fun on a bleak afternoon for him and his team, nothing more, nothing less. Secondly, if on one hand you bemoan the lack of characters in the game, it is perhaps more than a little unwise to try and tear down players for any kind of individuality. I can only imagine Barrett would have been nothing short of apoplectic if he had been covering footy the day Allen Jackovic kissed his brother Glenn after kicking a goal in the early 1990s.
To be fair to Barrett – there are five words I never thought I’d write – for someone who has made a career by trawling the negative aspects of the game, his approach is far from an isolated one. For evidence of this, you need look no further than the feeding frenzy surrounding Nathan Buckley. Last year the Collingwood coach made the far from unreasonable appraisal that his position would be in jeopardy if his team missed the finals this year. Rather than welcome Buckley’s honesty, the consensus opinion of the football media was that Bucks had heaped more pressure on himself. Does anyone truly believe that the media would be speculating about his position any less had he not voiced his view? It is a self-fulfilling and ridiculous position by the media, the only extra pressure brought by Buckley’s opinion is the extra speculation as to whether it has brought extra pressure.
This kind of punishment of honesty isn’t just limited to those covering the sport, the governing bodies that profit from the media interest aren’t afraid to do so too. Glenn Maxwell experienced the sharp glare of consternation after making the error of speaking honestly to the media. For having the temerity to admit that he was unhappy to bat below Matthew Wade for Victoria, and that the keeper as captain was ultimately the reason for the order, he was howled down by anyone that had spent any time at Cricket Australia House. If being fined an undisclosed sum wasn’t sanction enough, his Test Match aspirations were publicly scoffed at by the National Coach.
I’m pretty sure Robert Groenewegen[i] would be turning in his grave, if not for the fact that he isn’t dead yet. If we continue to be outraged by any hint of individuality or difference we take another step towards being drowned in vanilla. Not that there is anything in wrong with vanilla, the world’s just a little bit better because there is chocolate, hazelnut, strawberry, rum raisin and all the other flavours in the world too. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but I sure as hell need an ice cream.
[i] For those of you unaware of Gronewegen’s exploits, the former Footscray player on the 1985 end of season trip (in)famously took control of the plane’s intercom system and informed his fellow passengers, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Groenewegen speaking, we are currently cruising at 10,000 metres. I hope you are enjoying the flight because it will be your last – we’re going down”.