Time to demand better behaviour from our sporting heroes

The issue at the heart of recent footballer fiascos is acceptance of the responsibility that comes with celebrity.

In many ways, it is the football establishment that has dropped the ball by not adequately preparing players for the considerable risk that celebrity can pose to their personal and professional reputations.

It is astounding that in this modern football age, which uses sophisticated training regimes including GPS tracking of players, and which depends upon split second decision-making by finely-tuned athletes, that little attempt is made to simultaneously develop the decision-making capability of these testosterone-laden men off the field.

It is astounding that in this modern football age, where literally millions of dollars are invested in the various football brands, that each player is not constantly drilled with the 24/7 responsibility he carries to protect the integrity of the brand and therefore his own livelihood.

Why is this so? In part, I believe this can be attributed to our own willingness to let successful professional sportsmen get away with blokish and yobbish behaviour. It is a combination of the “boys will be boys” deflection with the “win at any cost” mentality.

At the heart of this, it is the fans who condone the behaviour, and so the football management and sponsors follow suit.

Professional footballers can be paid up to 2-3 times more than the politicians who run our country. The politicians know that they are under constant scrutiny by the community and, while there are some notable exceptions, most act accordingly.

Conversely, professional footballers are led to believe – by management and by fans – that they are publicly accountable only for their actions on the field and that what happens after the game is nobody’s business but their own. This selective accountability is magnified if the individual is particularly talented or his club is high on the ladder.

It is indeed true that what happens in an individual’s private life is their own business. Equally though, each person must also conduct themselves in a way to ensure that their private life does not spill into and adversely impact their public life.

Surely the time has come to teach these men that their playing career is a job, not a game, and that it should be taken seriously – both on and off field. Surely the time has come for alcohol to be ruled out of a professional footballer’s life – as it is for many other professional athletes.

Surely the time has come for football management to equip these young men with the awareness and skills necessary to realise they don’t have to get drunk to have a good time, don’t have to flash their bits to have a laugh, and don’t have to demean a eoman to feel like a man.

Surely its time for the fans to realise that we have created a monster and to start demanding better behaviour from our sporting heroes.

Post script: The “St Kilda schoolgirl” posted a very similar piece of advice on her blog in February.

This post also appeared at The Notion Factory.

My heartfelt thanks to a few

Apparently I joined Twitter on 25 December 2008. I don’t remember doing it.

It’s fair to say that this time two years ago I was counting down my final days. I’d decided the circumstances under which I would end my life. It’s not that I had nothing to live for. I had a very successful career, a beautiful daughter, and a family who loved me despite my intermittent contact with them.

Nevertheless I’d come to accept that I’d grow old alone and that there was a point in time that I would become a burden on my only child. I didn’t want to be the bitter old woman that my own mother had become. So I decided I would head overseas in my late 50s (I’m currently in my 40s) and if I was still alone at 60 then I would call it a day.

I’m a loner by nature, and only begrudgingly engage with people when I’m not at work. My professional obligation to be an extravert was incredibly draining on both the mind and the soul. I love to be alone, but understand only too well how solitude can turn in upon itself, transforming a positive life force into a destructively negative one.

It’s perhaps ironic that, having sought help and become accustomed to the meds, these past two years of my depression have also been my professional best. I achieved a level of clear thinking and creativity that was fulfilling and productive. Only the very few closest to me saw the flip side of this success, where I withdrew further and further from the world once the working day was over.

It is a mere coincidence that I joined Twitter on Christmas Day two years ago.  I did not really engage with the medium until earlier this year and it was an experience which literally changed my life. But I will get to that in a moment.

My first foray into the online world was a forum for NRL fans. My daughter’s boyfriend at the time played in the lower grades and I’d rediscovered my love of the game. Debate on the forum was robust, particularly for someone like me who questioned the “boys will be boys” and “win at any cost” cultures which pervaded. It was my first experience as the member of a community where you survived entirely on your wits and words.

Then I started an eBay business, mainly to sell the embarrassingly huge amount of clothes I had purchased to bolster my faltering self esteem. What struck me about this online world was the joy of making a small but positive contribution to someone else’s life. I was overwhelmed by messages of thanks from customers whose day had been made by a new dress or fabulous shoes. This outpouring of thanks caused me to question my professional life where I constantly had to be tough and uncompromising and to win, win, win. Without realising it, my secret plan for the final trip to Europe had been replaced by a life affirming plan to remove all the stress factors from my life and to do more of what I love and enjoy – with no end point in sight.

Then came Twitter. Well, I’m not the first to say it was a revelation. I only became involved to see how the medium was being used by my professional adversaries, who I knew were much more linked into new media approaches. It was indeed like falling down the rabbit hole.

Several others have recently written to express their love for Twitter and the communities which have sprung like mushrooms around issues, causes or people. For someone like me who doesn’t even really like to leave the house, I have never before loved meeting so many different people. Unlike real life, I don’t fear walking into the many virtual rooms which make up the Twitterverse and are crowded with people that I don’t know. Nor am I afraid to join a group of unknowns and engage in their conversation.

That’s not to say the discussions aren’t robust, for indeed they are, but more respectful than on the football forum. In fact one of the distinctive features of Twitter for me is that so many people with clearly differing views can congregate and respectfully argue on a daily basis.

That is the first reason why I love Twitter. The second is the seemingly endless reserves of support and goodwill that are exhibited there. Never before have I witnessed so many people reach out to others that they do or do not know, to celebrate in times of success, express solidarity in times of duress and offer solace in times of grief.  Perhaps most importantly for me, I’ve been particularly heartened by the compassionate way that each declaration of depression has been acknowledged.

Since deciding to de-stress my life, having joined Twitter, and having rediscovered the love of writing, I have consequently quit my high-powered job. Right now I’m a Jill of Some Trades until I can get my new business idea up and running. I love going to work each day in a much less stressful environment and making a positive contribution whenever I can. And I love coming home each day to talk with my tweeps.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. At this time of remembrance and of drawing together loved ones, I want to acknowledge and thank a few people who have helped me get to this point:

  • @thewetmale, @comicjester, @zombieham and @garthgodsman for being the first tweeps to talk to me on a regular basis
  • @superopinion for his friendship and being the first to publish me
  • @greenj for being the second to publish me, and for resisting pressure to drop me because of the pseudonym
  • @mfarnsworth for his friendship and fabulous feats of political analysis
  • @awelder, @timdunlop and @benpobjie for showing me that the world of words is fiercely beautiful
  • @cjjosh for her camaraderie, compassion and friendship
  • @juliusflywheel for his wackiness, friendship and for just being there
  • and @mrdoman for bravely sharing his darkest times with us and for never stepping away from the things that daunt him.

I have learned from you all and am in a happier and healthier place for it. Please accept my heartfelt thanks.

This post also appeared on the Capril website. Participants of Capril are encouraged to wear capes during everyday activities to raise awareness and encourage the general public to make donations in support of beyondblue: the national depression initiative.

New ABC social media role an empty gesture

Why has the ABC’s appointment of a Social Media Reporter given me the irrits?

It’s certainly nothing personal against the reporter herself, who’s shown admirable ingenuity, not to mention dexterity, in live-tweeting from doorstops and press conferences and then following up with radio news stories while regularly refreshing the content on her Facebook pages. If the ABC job was to report ON social media as well to USE it, then this journalist certainly would be the right person for the job.

But the role is to report on politics. The award-winning radio journalist will be attached to the ABC’s existing radio news and current affairs team and will be “part of a range of measures designed to explore how social media can be used to enhance and extend the ABC’s coverage of national politics”.

So in fact the ABC has appointed a new Political Reporter who will use radio and social media to file her stories. That’s not quite as sexy, is it?

And perhaps this is the nub: I am irked by the fact that the ABC sees the need to explicitly create a social media role – it is to my mind an empty gesture, a case of affirmative action gone mad.

If the ABC truly did see social media as a legitimate new way to report politics, then they would not have created a specific role for one reporter: they would have simply opened up the platform for all ABC reporters to use.