After weeks of delay due to the wranglings of his legal camp, rugby player Kurtley Beale was recently found guilty of inappropriate public behaviour and sending abusive, sexually explicit text messages. Total fine $48,000. A fan-site poll suggested that 75% of fans were outraged that he wasn't punished more severely. The fan-rage escalated further when he was subsequently invited to participate in the Wallabies end of year European tour. Now he's been given a renewed contract with the ARU, again inviting the ire of the many who think he should have been summarily sacked.
Whether a fan or not, if you're the kind of person who is outraged by that kind of conduct, I suggest that you really ought not be surprised.
You shouldn't be surprised because, firstly, people will be people and, yes, boys will be boys. That's right, people, since time immemorial, have done the wrong thing. And men, in particular, have mistreated women. It's not an excuse. It's just a fact.
But is this happening more these days than before? Yeah, I think so. I started noticing a new level of sportsmen-behaving-badly in the era of League's Johns brothers and cricket's Shane Warne. Their success was ever-so-closely accompanied by multiple chapters of bad-boy behaviour: illegal betting, temper tantrums, racist slurs, improper texting, recreational drug abuse, drug-cheating, wife-cheating…
In Australia, the 90s, brought with it a new level of professionalism (read: much higher salaries) for our best sports stars. The goodness of greed, bound in the boardroom in the previous decade, had now hit the pitch. But this lethal delivery of economisation of the once sacred domain of sport and recreation, also came in an age with a new set of commonly accepted values.
And so the other reason you shouldn't be surprised by very naughty sporties is that contemporary culture feeds it. Cultural norms are determined by prevailing ideas.
Individualism is the idea that prizes individual choice. "I did what I wanted to do and I did it my way." Without considering the effect on others. Familiar? Yep: more than just the Sinatra mantra, it's the moral of the High School Musical kind of contributions to pop culture, and is the inherent life-chant of Gen Y.
It complements egocentrism, narcissism: excessive interest in oneself. Facebook. Yeah: that's prevailing.
And then there's my rights; which says "get stuffed" to authority or established standards of good and bad, because they impinge on my right to determine what's best for me. And who says what's good or bad anyway? Morality's relative.
These new favourites mix seamlessly with the stalwarts of objectification of women and the pride associated with wealth. And the results hit the news and cause outrage.
And so can we blame Kurtley, Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, the lads in the swim team, or the Essendon AFL club for their sins? Well, yes. No one would hold that the environment justifies the crime. Of course, they are responsible.
But what should we expect? What should we expect, when our culture worships them, tells them that the choice of the individual is the ultimate virtue, happily promotes objectification of women in and out of sport, gives them crazy amounts of cash and tells them that there's no such thing as right and wrong?
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