Cheering Ben Cousins into the abyss
Ben Cousins must be the only drug addict in Australia who can get arrested by the police with an alleged 4g of ice hidden in his bum and be cheered as a hero by rubber-necking punters.
And while Cousins continues to enjoy legend status, one of the most disliked people in Perth right now would be the Channel Seven reporter who dared to question the former footballer after his arrest, prompting Cousins to explode with rage, screaming “you don’t f…ing care about me” and looking for all the world like he was about to belt the camera.
Just to be clear, Ben Cousins is not Lady Diana. This is not a story of one man’s battle for privacy against an intrusive media which will stop at nothing to get the story and hounds him at every turn. Indeed given the clubby nature of sport in smaller cities, I’d be surprised if the true story about Cousins wasn’t known for many years but was hushed up under the old mate’s act, especially when West Coast were winning flags
It’s the story of a man who has made dumb choices. Dumb choices about how he behaves, dumb choices about who he is friends with. It’s also a story about a man who has been let down for years by his enablers, the people who turned a blind eye to his behaviour because he was great on the park, a merchandiser’s dream, a crowd-puller, and who is now so ravaged by drug abuse that his best efforts to emerge clean on the other side of rehab keep coming unstuck.
It is also a story which should continue to be told by the media. Not on the self-interested grounds that we can legitimately tell it under the laws, or in accordance with the code of ethics – you know, because he is a public figure, and was approached the other night in a public place. It should be told on the grounds that the broader community - and young people in particular – should see the shocking truth about what drugs do to people and have their air-headed illusions about Cousins’ “legend” status destroyed forever more.
This might sound cruel or callous in holding Cousins up as the unfortunate one-man warning message to broader society. As his tattoo says, such is life. The fact that people can stand there like fools on the street and cheer a bloke whose life has ended up in the toilet shows that there are plenty of people out there who need a wake-up call. It is especially important in the case of Cousins because, whether he likes it or not, the bloke was a role model to so many young people. As a genius footballer, but also as party boy, the fast life Cousins led would undoubtedly have been seen by young men as proof that you could be fit and look like a million bucks, yet still party until dawn, coked up to the eyeballs, high on meth, off your face on piss and pills. You might be able to do it for a while but you will end up where he is eventually, so it is probably wiser not to start in the first place.
Cousins showed enormous courage I thought when he agreed some 18 months ago to take part in a documentary about his road to ruin, and what then looked like redemption. Critics said it was a public relations stunt aimed at engendering sympathy, cooked up by cunning media strategists who wanted to restore his reputation. Whatever its intent, the end product of that exercise was a stomach-churning video of Cousins coming down, sitting shirtless in a crappy apartment, alone on a kitchen chair, twitching and blinking and oddly smiling to himself as the drugs went through his system. The video totally shredded any sense of the glamour of drugs, and showed – wrongly, with the benefit of hindsight – that Cousins was committed to turning his life around.
You can easily understand why Cousins would explode and lash out in the presence of that young journo from Channel Seven. He’s wrong though when he says that nobody cares about him. I doubt that there’s a person in Australia who doesn’t care about him. Watching Ben Cousins play footy was one of life’s joys, even if your club was on the receiving end of a defeat at the hands of the Eagles.
But as the gifted AFL commentator (and West Australian) Dennis Cometti said the other night, cheering Ben Cousins in his newly shattered state is the last thing he needs. All it does is cement his sense of victimhood, when what he needs, again, is the mother of all wake-up calls to straighten himself out. Maybe this arrest will be it. You would have to hope so. Jeff Kennett said that a stint in jail might finally give him the jolt he needs to change his ways. The tragic reality is that whatever happens, it almost looks too late. And sadly, that’s a story.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
How the totally awesome weather in Australia recently is hurting retailers http://t.co/4dvDwDlNZG
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…