Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ben Cousins went too far, but...

Ben Cousins was a great athlete, and a great AFL footballer. He is also a drug addict. Michael Burke has offered insightful commentary on the AFL’s illicit (read recreational) drug policy, and the anomalies of Cousins’ case, but he stops short of asking questions relating to illicit drug use and its actual connection to the nature and image of a sport. Phrases such as ‘role model’ and ‘good of the game’ feature prominently in these types of discussions, but I cannot seem to get over the idea that at base, it’s nobody’s goddamn business what substances a person puts into his or her body. Obviously, if those substances are performance enhancing, or said person is acting like a jackass in public (and Cousins’ antics at the back end of a five day coke bender at the Crown casino certainly qualifies here) or is a danger to others, then we have a problem. But if an athlete’s private activities do not affect performance, team morale, little Johnnie’s love of footy or ticket sales at next week’s Grand Final, why the hell are we testing him? So that he doesn’t ‘destroy himself’? One should take that type of paternalism to their regional gymnastics competitions where young girls are missing their periods, popping shoulders and snapping Achilles tendons like they’re chewing gum. “Oh”, comes the mutter in between mouthfuls of prawn sandwich, “the game suffers.” What? A set of rules and conventions concerning an oval ball suffers because of what Ben Cousins puts up his nose? I think what that really means is that some sacred cow - some false idol – suffers. And it suffers because of what all us ‘fans’ invest in it. ‘The game’ means ‘My Game’. And not only do we sanctify the game, but our worship of it gives birth to monsters. Our obsessions breed unbalanced demigods, born without moral compasses, as deficient in common sense as they are blessed with athletic genius. Their ambrosia, it seems, is served in a poisoned chalice. For those of you with a sense of hmour keen for a look into the belly of the beast, I recommend the Real Tiger Woods Apology: WARNING: Don’t watch if easily offended.

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