Counterpunch: Don’t kick Magnussen while he’s down
He’s gone and done it. That cocky, no good bastard from Port Macquarie, James Magnussen, has got what he deserves. Defeat. Beaten. Pulled down a peg or two. Smashed like a guitar.
That’s what we all really wanted to see happen in the 4 x 100 men’s freestyle relay isn’t it? While the team branded the Weapons Of Mass Destruction spectacularly, shockingly self-imploded, what has come as no great surprise is the speed with which those-who-know-better have rushed in to kick the smug swimmer while he’s down.
At stake for them is not the faltering potential of an athlete who carried no less than 20 million people on his back, but that this overly confident and happy-to-talk-himself-up upstart got taught a very public lesson in what Australia expects of its stars. You can be good but shut the hell up about it.
When Maggie, the nickname he adopted from his Australian swimming teammates (not the more marketable and trick-wired Missile), first emerged as an heir apparent to Ian Thorpe’s mantle as “king of the pool” he impressed all with his willingness to engage in the game, speak openly about his talent and, gasp, set bigger, higher, faster goals for himself in pursuit of glory for his country.
In the lead up to London, after months of being plastered everywhere as the poster boy for our gold medal hopes (and let’s be honest, bragging rights) he did the unthinkable and put on record these immortal words (now being used against him).
“I think at this stage where I am at with my preparation and my times at the moment, the biggest competitor here this week for me will be myself and my head space.”
Are you reading this, can you believe such brazen-ness? He went on.
“I feel like if I can overcome the pressures from back home that I know are there, I’m sure I can better my results from last year at the world championships and get the job done.”
When asked what the public should expect?
Well, how very dare he set us up like that?
After the smouldering wreck of the 4 x 100 relay, and the inevitable game of “Stacks On Mags” that has followed, here’s what he should have said to keep us all nice and comfortable in our ordinariness.
“To be frank, I’m shitting myself. I don’t think I have a chance in hell. My times, though the fastest in the world this year, most likely are a fluke and I’m just a flash-in-the-pan. This whole routine I’ve had going, of being open and available to the public, is just for show because why anyone would put their faith in my ability is beyond me. But heck I’ll take the free plane trip and the endorsement deals now because when I fail, which ultimately I will, no-one will want to know me.”
That’s what we really wanted to hear from King James isn’t it?
Magnussen’s failure was not in the pool, false-starting his first step on the road to the dias most of us had all pre-written for him, but in daring to dream then putting it out there.
Many compared his brand of self-belief to that of the Americans we have had a history of both loathing and loving for their attitude. Obama says “Yes We Can”, we’re mesmerised, inspired, envious of such a Presidential pro-active call to arms.
When US swimmer Gary Hall Jr, who famously pledged to beat our boys in 2000 by “smashing them like guitars” we laughed ourselves silly when the Aussie foursome strummed him a victory salute on the Sydney pool deck.
It was all part of the theatre then, we’re just on the wrong side of it now.
Telling Magnussen to get back in the box we want him in is not the answer, it’s lifting him up from the crumpled mess who sat a beaten man behind the blocks, lost in all sense of the word.
Let him get back to battling the biggest competitor he warned us about: “myself and my headspace.”
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
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…