General footy writing: Sports stars should have no more expectations on them than rock stars

By Nathan Ryan

The difference in community outrage between bad behaviour from sportspeople to musicians is astounding and one that I’ve never been able to fathom.

Rock stars are lauded for their extravagant, live-on-the-edge lifestyles. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Barnes, the Gallagher brothers … they’re all open about their current or previous drug use. Where were the editorials by every second journalist, letters to the editor, barrage of talkback calls and concerns about future generations when Barnes announced a comeback tour or the Rolling Stones last toured Australia?

Let’s be honest, if you’re a rock star and you’re not biffing paparazzi, snorting cocaine, having ten-to-the-bed sex romps with groupies and passing out in public every now and then, well, you don’t fit the bill of a real rock star.

As long as they produce on stage and their albums sound good then all is fine. Has a rock star ever been criticised or disciplined for “bringing the industry into disrepute”?

Sportspeople, on the other hand, need to be so straight-laced to be considered of good character or a role model. Just performing on the field is not enough. Champion swimmer Michael Phelps landed himself in huge trouble earlier this year after a photo was published of him using a bong. Phelps lost sponsorship deals, and the usual rhetoric about him letting down his family, friends and fans was churned out. Sure, he did the wrong thing but he wasn’t condoning marijuana use, he wasn’t even posing for the photo, yet he copped it. Would anyone take notice if one of the members of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was in possession of a bong?

On the home front, iconic Australian television program Countdown is just as well remembered for stars who arrived on set for an interview off their faces as it is for being a launching pad for many great careers. The thought of an AFL player in a similar condition on The Footy Show, On the Couch or Footy Classified is absurd.

Recently, every columnist’s favourite whipping boy, Ben Cousins, was fined for giving the bird to a television camera before Richmond’s clash against Fremantle. Newspaper critics Patrick Smith and Rebecca Wilson believe Cousins’ action showed he had little regard for the game, his club, family and the people that made him a star after he had been given a second chance after a much-publicised comeback from drug addiction. They both had fair points but the behaviour of rock stars in front of the camera makes Cousins look like James Hird or Nathan Buckley.

Cousins has been kicked out of his club, deregistered by the league and pilloried by most for being a person of bad character. In a nutshell what he’s done is take heaps of drugs and thumb his nose at authority – exactly the same things (but probably on a smaller scale) some of our best-loved musicians do, yet nobody screams about them: “won’t someone please think of the children?”


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    I haven’t seen too many six year old kids dress up like Keith Richards or Flea from the Chili Peppers but I saw a dozen of them with Hawthorn jumpers and the number 23 on the back at my nephew’s Auskick session on Saturday. Kids at an impressionable age idolise and adore these players and like it or not, the likes of Buddy, Juddy, Ablett and Riewoldt are role models.

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