At the Beckham call of the cult of personality
Is David Beckham coming to Australia? Who cares? I don’t. His overly tattooed torso, has-been right foot and toothpick wife can come to Australia if they like, or not. I couldn’t give a stuff, and we shouldn’t either. But we do. We really, really do.
Personalities drive the public’s interest in a sport, especially when it’s a public not already familiar with that sport, but those personalities rarely have the same effect on the field as they do off it.
The result is sports reporting that focuses on the mediocre effects of a darling or bad boy, which disregards the superior play of a comparatively unknown, or a team effort. Since they haven’t married a starlet, kicked goals overseas, or been involved in a drug or sex scandal. (Insert cheap Bulldogs, Sharks, Premier League etc joke here).
A young unknown might score two goals for Melbourne Victory, but if Harry Kewell has a near miss and is maybe injured, that’s far bigger news.
Exactly the same thing happens with actors, and all celebrities. Someone gives a standout performance in a film, nobody cares. Someone gets caught with a hooker, has foppish charm and gives a passable performance in a romcom, we collectively lose our minds.
The same problem also exists in politics, with all that attention still going to Kevin Rudd, and on television, where people remain interested in Lara Bingle. I honestly don’t know why anyone was ever interested in her. By mentioning her here, I know I’m not helping. But the worst offenders? The X-Men, and the way Wolverine hogs all the attention, although his super powers are more shiny than effective. (Any nerds reading this just spilled an energy drink all over World of Warcraft.)
We’re so interested in these people because we love a good story, and once the media has created a story around a person, every new morsel of news about them adds to that ongoing narrative. It’s not so much what they’re doing now that’s interesting, it’s what they’re doing now in context of what they’ve done.
Hence Brendan Fevola kicking goals in the country is still news.
With the A-League, it’s the prioritising of notoriety over talent. Young players are missing out because teams feel like they need to overpay overseas has-beens, in order to drag people to games, and this is one reason our national team is suffering.
Again with movies, male actors too old for action are trotted out repeatedly owing to their profile, and it’s all getting a bit squeamish. Especially when there’s over 20 years between them and the lead lady.
The AFL fell into the same trap, and by marketing standards, it was a huge success. Israel Falou was never going to be any good at AFL. With rugby league, he’s a superstar, but in terms of AFL there are scores of more talented players in lower leagues out there every weekend. Even in the off season.
Using the media generated by his crossing codes, Western Sydney launched their brand, and he was utterly hopeless. But kids took an interest in Izzy, the media reported every time he got near it, or didn’t, and when he left the code after two years, he’d generated millions of dollars worth of exposure, easily covering the cost of his contract.
The only problem? He was supposed to be playing football. His efforts at AFL remind me of the American Lingerie Football League. Just look pretty and smile for the camera. Thanks champ.
The NRL also lost out. A spectacular player has sacrificed two of his best years wandering around like he’s lost a contact lens. All for cash.
Players who are paid for their profile, and not for their performance, undermine the integrity of all our team sports. In the same way that reality television undermines shows with actual scripts and a point. The media blows the achievements of these individuals so out of proportion, that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it’s a team sport. Piggybacking on someone’s established public profile for attention is a cheap, horrible gimmick but while it continues to succeed, it won’t be going anywhere.
With this article, I suppose I’m doing something similar. Creating attention for my upcoming stand up show, but there are a few differences. I’m not doing either just for the money, I believe in what I’m writing and I’m not a has been, I’m hopefully a has not yet been. Otherwise, I’ll just be another never was.
If you didn’t mind this rant, why not come see some live stand up?
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