Here’s a fact: I don’t like Stephen Milne.
Here’s another one. I hate him. To be honest, I enjoy hating him, and always have. Long before the rape allegations. There was always something about him, a projected cockiness that was so easy to take personalyl. Not the Jarman sort of bluster, or even Carey sort. A shifty sort.
He ran away from packs, was always doubling back towards goal, rather than charging the ball, never handballing. He celebrated goals like a spoilt brat, not Darren Bewick happy, but tensing muscles, fists clenched, snarling like an origami warrior for the cameras. Posing for the back page. Always screaming into the crowd as if he thought he was a sexy warrior beast. He was a bully, too, kicking tonnes against the mediocre, bugger all against the best. He was a superstar! Such skills! True. But I never liked those sorta blokes.
It felt good defining myself like that, having an enemy to barrack against. Good, and immature, with more than a splash of jealousy. He seemed to love it, too, and used it to kick goals. Everybody was happy.
Another fact is I didn’t know the man, and still don’t.
How many of his sort have I loved as teammates? Suddenly, all that seemed bad about them was fun. Some were what you saw and didn’t like at the start, others were top blokes!
With Milne, who knows?
It was all television. My hate was heroes and villains stuff. Comic books.
Greg Burns, the 80s St.Kilda champion, would never talk to his opponents for fear of liking them. His hate of any and everybody wearing a rival jumper was what made him so good.
John Northey would use hate to push an average playing group to Grand Finals. “The Press hate us! The other teams hate us! It’s us versus them all!”
I would imagine most people don’t like losing, but Shimma and Archer would HATE it! And look how good they were.
Me? Way down in my level of competition I hate the occasional opponent, but only the real nobs. Life is too short, footy too grand.
Milne, though, well, as a supporter his whole vibe just rubs me the wrong way.
Yet here’s the most important fact. Something way bigger than me, you, or the image of the game.
In a democracy you’re innocent until proven guilty.
This is a foundation of our society, of our morals, something that dragged us out of the medieval days of witch-hunts. Of vigilantes killing the wrongly accused, and the innocent being burned at the stake. A rule of law that took us out from the Stone Ages, from being cavemen to women and men.
Without the presumption of innocence we have no law, the judicial system means nothing. The baying mob rules.
Each case is different, we don’t know all the facts. House Speaker, Peter Slipper, was falsely accused of all sorts of stuff. Most people thought he was guilty. He was made to stand aside before his day in court. It almost toppled a democratically elected Government.
Bugger the image of the game if the mob is what it reflects. It has a duty of care to society, bigger than itself. A shiny surface can sometimes be polished by appeasing spite.
Personally, do I think Milne did it? The investigation sounded like a disgrace. I’m looking forward to the results of due process, both for potential justice for an alleged victim of the most horrible of crimes, and, whether he did it or not, to put under the microscope a sexist police culture of hero-worship before victims’ rights. But nothing is proven yet. That’s what the process is for.
For the rule of law Milne should be allowed to play until he is convicted. If he is convicted. Give him his day in court.
With all this baying we are doing ourselves and the alleged victim no justice.
Football is our religion, which is the grandest thing, but right now too many of us are throwing stones from behind its walls, either because we hate, or for the sake of an image.
A clear failure of the separation of Church and State.