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Why should Warnie wear all the blame?

By Hugh Brown - posted Wednesday, 31 January 2001

So. Shane Warne swears to himself in frustration and suddenly he's roundly condemned by everyone with a conscience. Why??

I always thought we respected and paid Shane for his ability to make cricket balls change direction and thereby dismiss batsmen. I wasn't aware that this ability was affected by his vocabulary or his moral rectitude (or lack of it).

It is more than a little regrettable that Shane's invective was broadcast to the ears of every cricket fan in the county, but I want to take up two issues with that event. First, how was such a predictable event allowed to pass the broadcast's production equipment and, second, what is this problem we have with athletes swearing?


I wish to point out that I am ambivalent to the morality of Shane's actions in swearing in the manner he did. I do not condone that or condemn it. My intention here is to recognise that it happened and examine the media's reaction to it.

It's hard to avoid the feeling that, when events like this occur, the media rush to point fingers at the athlete in order to deflect attention from their own complicity in the broadcast.

It takes two parties to bring such obscenity to the homes of cricket fans: one party to swear and another to broadcast it (repeatedly). Given that the broadcaster has a more heightened awareness of the need for and mechanisms of censorship (they bleeped it in the newscasts), it is difficult to decide which party is more irresponsible.

There was a similar incident before a State of Origin Rugby League match at Lang Park some years ago. As part of the pre-match buildup, the cameras went down onto the field and took close-up footage of the Queensland team huddle.

It was entirely predictable: just as I was thinking "I wouldn't put that microphone so close to a bunch of highly charged football players this close to the start of a game", Mal let fly. Mal Meninga, Queensland and Australian Captain, stalwart of the game, devout Christian and all-round nice bloke, let fly a with a couple of inspirational expletives in his pre-match rev-up of his team-mates.

As I recall, no-one was particularly upset about that one. It was reasonably predictable and quite understandable and the particular TV station apologised and has not been so silly (at football matches) since. The only time cameras go near footy players before a game these days is when they're lined up singing their respective National Anthems. When the sound is on, this is arguably even more offensive that Mal or Shane's language.


This use of language is in a different class from the incident in which US one-hit wonder Ugly Kid Joe's lead singer Whitfield Crane expressed (more than his own) dissatisfaction with the annual, nationally televised, Australian Music Awards (or was it the Logoes?) by describing it as "One big f****** Karaoke machine". In that case, the outburst was not part of the carefully-scripted formula, though that fact alone should have made it even more predictable.

Why was there no-one on hand to mute Warnie's stump mike? Since the ball was nowhere near the stumps, there can have been no value in leaving the sound on to pick up the "death rattle" of the collision between ball and wicket. Since an obviously frustrated player was standing over the stumps (and we all know Warnie's no Saint), someone should have discretely turned the sound down. Which brings me to the second point.

What is this sudden issue with elite athletes swearing? Is there some doubt that it happens? Does anyone seriously think that a game like this is conducted with the players addressing each other using honorifics and anatomically-correct language?

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About the Author

Hugh Brown is a PhD candidate in the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT and teaches communication at the University of Queensland and QUT. He was editor of On Line Opinion from June 2000 until August 2004 and has a degree in journalism from the University of Queensland, for which he was awarded a University Medal. Before joining On Line Opinion he was editor of the now-defunct Tr@cks e-zine, based in Brisbane, and inaugural student editor of The Queensland Independent. He has also freelanced for a variety of publications.

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