Waiting for the great leap forward

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  • Robbo goes off track

In the course of writing this blog post, Mark Robinson, having nostalgically missed scandal in media last week on 360, got so bored he decided to create some of his own by sending out a tweet (shown above) that seemed to suggest…something. Was it a joke? Was it flippant? Did it imply Fasolo was faking it? Who knows – it was comprehensively wrong, no one should dispute that. Not that depression is quantifiable, and giving it a cast all definition isn’t something that is possible given each persons personal experience. After all, I know in sporting circles through my job that what it is often equated to is being out of form, get the lad out on the track with his mates and everything will be OK – I know of at least one high-profile sportsman who opines that depression can be cured with a few runs and boundaries, training and hard work. Even when I tell that story, and don’t offer my own view, I find a split opinion – some people believe it was a sound point, some people are appalled at its flippancy. What we do know – to fall into some sort of strange catchall as to what it is, what it’s sufferers should and shouldn’t be doing, fall into some sort of depression sufferers should sit in the house all day or be condemned as faking it? That’s dangerous, ugly thinking, the kind that last resided on footy panels or off mic Q&As from the 90s that suggested players depression could be cured with a few pots, “getting a kick” and some strongly worded David Parkin motivational sprays…

360 is a show that back home in the States would be described as small l “liberal” – it has (or at least tries) to maintain a social conscience. Not enough of a conscience to let the womens footballers come to the desk on 360, but again, baby steps. Robinson would often grab Gerard Whateleys arm during the Adam Goodes saga and proclaim it was up to both of them to fight the good fight against racism. It’s a show that has been condemnatory on player behaviour, up to and including their tweets, their morality always questioned and debated. It provides that “supportive” environment with mentions of the “360 Family” until it becomes cliched, throwing its arms around those it’s likes and condemning those they don’t. Suffice to say, it likes to show its moral code strongly, and this undermines it in an ugly way.

Amazingly, less than 48 hours before Robinsons tweet, Jordan Lewis as part of “players night” told Robinson from the same desk, face to face, that social media was infiltrating the thoughts of players and impacting on their mental health. And after supportive clucking and hissing, Robinson fell into the same blokey bloke, let’s get the gag out first without thinking, “poor choice of words” blunder that his show would be on the front foot condemning. So much for social conscience, so much for fans and players as “boofheads”…

This after all was a week where Alex Fasolo stepped away from the game but also Tom Downie from the GWS Giants retired from football due to mental health issues. And for how that should be handled, we delve back to Mark Robinson opining in 2015 about how to handle the personal leave of Lance Franklin due to mental health issues…

“When you’re an AFL footballer, when you ask for understanding and compassion and support, people say, ‘We will give that to you’ and you just hope that compassion and support is not slapped back in your face.”

Quite…

However, even in the midst of a pretty disgusting tweet, it’s still interesting from my point of view to unpack the weirdly interconnected media grudges that came out of it – let’s be clear, this was a horrible tweet. Also to be clear, Robinson isn’t well liked, and it absolutely shows. After all, Liam Pickering, in no way pondering his press council spat with Robinson, thundered he should be fired from all media. Danny Frawley, having moved on from his stock jokes of “Me No Rikey” Chinese accents and jokes about drowning, decided to have a dig as well. Keep in mind, Frawley once was confronted by Robinson about an impression he did of him in a 360 parody. So there’s that, as they say in the classics. It was for certain people schadenfreude writ large, an enjoyable chance to stick the boots in. Which always leads to an interesting philosophical media debate – when you stick the boots in from a personal grudge, and in some ways you are right (it was a god awful tweet), how much stock do you truly hold? Media monitoring isn’t everyones fascination, but it is mine, and to see warmly nursed grudges come to the fore in the guise of condemnation and “support” for Alex Fasolo is darkly amusing, whichever side of the fence you reside on.

Triple M had an interesting take, because clearly Damian Barrett and James Brayshaw, and this is on record, don’t like Robinson at all. And strangely – and call me precious – the clip about insensitive tweets (also involving Bill Brownless) started with Bill Brownless making a fat joke about Glenn McFarlane. Because that’s fine of course. That’s without picking apart that again this is Triple M, hardly the height of sensitivity as a radio station. The radio station that chortles at the misery of others, is as blokey bloke as it comes to the mantra of “you dish it out and you cop it”, that, quote, “invented getting personal” – there is a nausea that comes from Triple M taking a moral high ground. A sick feeling in the guts that they don’t see anything wrong with some of the worst abuse dished out on Australian radio (under the guise of banter) only to circle the wagons when someone criticises them. And it was equally nauseating that they turned the segment back to being about themselves. And keep in mind, this was Damian Barrett muttering about player wellbeing, when he is writing articles about who should retire, who’s being traded, who’s out of form, and who’s Tom Rockliff and what’s the 200th thing wrong with Tom Rockliff. Triple M that made a joke about drowning a woman. That employs Luke Darcy who made a joke about Jarryd Rougheads cancer? It’s not hard to see this as jumping on a kicking, rather than serious analysis of what’s gone wrong?

Again though, are they wrong about Mark Robinson? Do they make a good point about the Jon “Uncomfortable” Ralphs and Suzie O’Briens sitting on their keyboards not commenting on this tweet because they all work in the same building? It’s too hard to wade through the midsts of hypocrisy and the sense of axes being ground to truly have an opinion…

And of course, yet again, in a moment designed entirely to enrage, infuriate and bewilder, the Age decided to go to the one person who can calmly, expertly, and delicately judge the best way to handle the sensitive issue of depression. A man with poise, restraint and…oh wait, they lost that persons number, so they just asked Wayne Carey. WAYNE CAREY! Hang on, it’s here somewhere…ah yes, something happened in 2007…what was that again?

WAYNE Carey was last night forced to apologise to depression sufferer Nathan Thompson after saying the Kangaroos star would end up committing suicide.

Carey, a former AFL star who made the comment as a panellist on Channel 9 at the weekend, appeared to be unaware the microphones had been switched back on after an ad break.

As the show’s music suddenly stopped, Carey could be heard saying: “He’ll end up necking himself.”

The cameras show him laughing nervously before host Tony Jones quickly changed the subject.

Ah yes, and again, no one truly, truly thought asking Wayne Carey about depression and how it’s “good to talk” might be a tad insensitive? If you wanted something just as sickening, depressing and saddening as the original tweet, that surely is it…

Everything before the tweet

This football season has been very strange – it’s been notable because it’s been about football. This just won’t do – you see the creators of the “footy agenda” and the narrative construct that we all are meant to enjoy and devour are a bit lost at the moment, disparate seeds on the wind, trying to find things to write about. After all, it wasn’t hard to come into work on a slow news day, and type out a quick pre or post sandwich thousand words on the Essendon “saga” between pots at the bar in the last few years. It didn’t require a lot of thought. There’s an irony that Mark Robinson sighed almost nostalgically on 360 last week about the lack of scandal, like he missed it, yearned for something to opine on, and then got bored as discussed above and made some of his own. Without the overarching narrative that Essendon provided in the last few years, the football media has been left scrambling with nothing to talk about bar decent games of football (yawn), some vague Dustin Martin contract news that could just be guesswork and a Collingwood football review (double yawn). Given there’s a show on Channel 9 that exists entirely to hate football (Footy Classified) and a “newshound” on every show, not to mention Ross Lyons “penny dreadful” reporters clamouring for a story (amazingly, it now seems there are 2 accredited journalists per player, or close to it), it was worth monitoring just how lost the media was this past Monday.

After all, there was Garry Lyon trying to rile the SEN audience up with a dart about Cale Hooker (let’s be honest, it’s hard to imagine the phones lighting up about Cale Hooker), Damian Barrett tried to come up with something about Nick Riewoldt which was typically wishy-washy (maybe he should retire? Maybe St Kilda should retire him? Or maybe he should play on? I’m not sure, but you clicked on it). Then there was a half-hearted stab at creating outrage over a couple of free kicks, Mark Robinson became a personal crusader against the power of the punch, someone rang Hayden Kennedy and was surprised and amazed he thought the umpires were right, and finally Monday ended on some sort of furore about Caroline Wilson not voting for Dustin Martin as best on ground in the Dreamtime game. People with a very long memory may remember the original promos for AFL 360 (I’m talking back in the days Mark McClure used to appear via Skype from the pub) that promised “the media watching the media” – but in truth, media commenting on media on TV on a Monday night is the ultimate sign of vacuity – it shows nothing but the world of grudges, spats and agendas the media carries. It makes for terrible TV. It is self-indulgent, especially on a Monday, the traditional gathering of weekend opinions about that neglected thing called football…

What’s come out of this hotchpotch of opinions, fuzzy stats and logic? A desire for a genuine football show. Watching old episodes of Talking Footy on Youtube from the 90s is startling, as people with a passion for football talk about the game and revel in its enjoyment and magic, taking their time to discuss the game. Not an agenda or overuse of the lab in sight. There is, out there, a strong desire for an interesting, entertaining show about football. Not agenda, not spats, not terrible comedy skits or everything set to emotional montage music, not heroes and villains and “what does this all mean”? – just…football. The first producer, TV channel, media department or social media department that pours effort and energy into football, simple, humble football, and a show about it on TV is going to hit a winner. The time is definitely right. The appetite for such a show is growing. After all, deep down, the best parts of, lets say, 360, are the bits about football cards, old jumpers, kids sending in photos and Bob Murphys rascals. It isn’t when solemnity kicks in around what Collingwood losing a game actually MEANS in the bigger picture and someone is finished as a coach at 0-1 in the season.

Maybe someone can make a show about the AFLW competition that isn’t about agendas and spats? No, now I’m being crazy…

  • Caro votes

So I hold my hand up and say I’m never sure about Caroline Wilson. You find there’s an admiration for her generally among female football fans. An admiration for her dogged determination to damn well write whatever she wants, McGuires, Brayshaws and trolling Youtube commenters be damned. It must be exhausting not having the boys club backing her, and every single comment about her article somehow involving “banter” about her looks. On the other – she is part of a show that actively hates football, and of course, part of that is I’m never sure if she herself is worn down by the fight so much, that football just isn’t something she enjoys watching anymore. So I’m torn sometimes. Here’s what I do know – she is vastly, vastly overqualified to give any opinion on football she wants. If she watches a game of football, she is entitled to give an opinion on it. If she has an opinion on football, she is entitled to give it. What she doesn’t deserve regardless of opinion is to be told in a patronising, pat on the head way “Ah well, you got that one wrong, and I’m sure you’ll admit it”…

In the midst of the Monday hubbub and froth and bubble, there came out the above controversy (alleged) because Caro left Dustin Martin off the votes. It’s ingrained in the history of football the “botched votes” – Lou Richards giving the TV to Robert Klomp, the Brownlow leaks that go wrong, anything to do with the Ross Glendinning medal. It’s part of football, in its DNA, the debate as to who played well, who didn’t…but rarely has any analysis of someones votes dripped with such basic condescension as Luke Darcy at his disingenuous smug best announcing on Talking Footy “Caro got that wrong, and I’m sure she’d admit it”. Oh would she? Why? Why would she have to admit to you she got it wrong? It was an awful segment, the media at its navel gazing worst. From a PR point of view, it absolutely doesn’t make a segment anyone would want to watch. Defining yourself in strident opposition to something as unimportant as media votes? An absolute channel changer, or to use blokey bloke language Darcy would understand, the “glass eye”…

Then of course her bête noire  Eddie McGuire decided it had to be personal against Dustin Martin, and suddenly everyone was off to the races. The whole thing smacked of “woman has contrary opinion SHOCK!”. Yes, it was uncomfortable. The Triple M agenda crew circling the wagons around that uppity woman who’s a thorn in their side again. This had a nasty, personal edge to it, and it was horribly unpleasant to see a woman have to “defend her votes” – of course, Wilson is big enough to defend herself, but Darcy deciding to “blowtorch” her didn’t feel big, clever, entertaining or “in fun” – it felt like a reminder to know your place. Fall into line…

 

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