It now appears Port Adelaide player John McCarthy was trying to leap into a palm tree from a roof of a Vegas casino building when he plummeted to his death.

Safe to assume no AFL players caught the Donnie and Marie show

That means we can almost certainly attribute this tragedy to skylarking or hi-jinx or tomfoolery or one of those other comical terms which you’ll find in the file marked “boys will be boys”.

You’re more or less obliged to use the adjective “tragic” in these types of cases, as though it’s disrespectful to use the word “death” on its own. That said, John McCarthy’s death was tragic, firstly because it was needless, and secondly, because he was young, intelligent, talented and by all accounts a good guy.

It’s hard to be angry about boys being boys, especially when they’re injuring no one but themselves. That said, if one side of this saga deserves the magnifying glass treatment, it’s the culture of end-of-season football celebrations.

The Age’s chief football writer Caroline Wilson mentioned this issue in passing in her column yesterday when she wrote:

“Too many young men die in tragic accidents while holidaying overseas. Too many AFL footballers find themselves in dangerous situations during end-of-season trips.”

The rest of her story was about the case itself, and she said no more on the issue of end-of-season trips. So let’s say a bit more here. Let’s talk about the culture of those trips and other season-ending celebrations like Mad Monday.

Players hit it pretty hard at this time of year, and it’s pretty obvious that they end up in places like Vegas because Vegas is all about booze and gambling, two vices they are largely denied during the ever-lengthening football season.

Footballers in Vegas can indulge free of the gaze of the finger-waving media and fans, and do the sort of stuff most 20-somethings get up to without having to answer to anyone.

The football season gets longer each year. Players are back at training by early November. It’s easy to characterise footballers as buffoons who do little more than play Playstation in their ample spare time, but the fact is, they train hard, and are public property 24/7.

All of that becomes wearing. Even though footballers don’t dig ditches or deal with bitchy office politics for a living like those of us with real jobs, the routine and the public scrutiny grinds them down.

Their lives are so regimented and micro-monitored in these days of football ultra-professionalism, yet they are denied the chance to let off steam like the rest of us. Have a drink and a million phone cameras snap into action. Have more than a few drinks and a thousand TV and news cameras do likewise.

To use an Adelaide example, last year Adelaide Crows player Taylor Walker (he of the mullet who was among his team’s best against the Swans last weekend) was spotted at a local footy game drinking a beer. A beer! The horror! That sparked all kinds of outrage, with claims he was either a bad role model, or that as an elite athlete he should not have been drinking alcohol during the season at all.

Many players, especially those in their early 20s, just aren’t emotionally ready for that kind of scrutiny. So when the all-too-brief off season comes around, they’re off to Vegas. And then, like teenagers denied access to Dad’s liquor cabinet, their first instinct when let off the leash is to binge.

We don’t know enough about the John McCarthy case for now to say whether he over-indulged.

But we know more than enough about the litany of incidents on end-of-season football trips involving numerous clubs down the years to mount a pretty good case for a slightly longer leash on AFL players during the season proper. Let young men be young men during the footy season.

Who knows? They may then even be tempted to go overseas with their partners rather than with the same sweaty blokes they’ve been sharing showers and hotel rooms for the past 10 months.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented

23 comments

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    • Tubesteak says:

      02:24pm | 12/09/12

      What goes in Vegas, slays in Vegas

      ....too soon?

    • SM says:

      02:56pm | 12/09/12

      unfunny more of an issue…

    • Mahhrat says:

      03:07pm | 12/09/12

      I think maybe…

    • SM says:

      03:37pm | 12/09/12

      jokes tend to fail when you get the lead in wrong

      replace goes with happens, but still unfunny

      keep trying Tubesteak…

    • Tubesteak says:

      04:33pm | 12/09/12

      I’ve heard “goes” and “happens”. Both are valid.

      Most importantly, it made me laugh and that’s all that counts.

    • scubasteve says:

      04:39pm | 12/09/12

      bwahh haw haw haw.

      good one tubesteak.

      SLAYS - your killing me.

    • Ally says:

      02:40pm | 12/09/12

      Ant, the question is who are all these supposedly outraged people that squawk when a player is spotted having a beer? Do they actually exist or is it faux outrage generated by the media?

      I personally don’t care if players for my team get drunk or go to parties during the season so long as it’s legal (ie doesn’t end up in a drunken brawl or involve illegal drugs) and it doesn’t affect their performance. A lot of the “scandal” could be avoided if players properly locked down their social network sites so members of the public and the media can’t see their personal pictures/posts and if the media ignores stories from some slapper about shagging so and so.

      Players do end up being role models to young kids, but this shouldn’t mean they have to behave like nuns. After all, I’d hardly think the parents finding outrage with player behaviour would behave like saints 24/7 in front of their kids.

    • Bear says:

      03:45pm | 12/09/12

      It’s faux but those in the media generate and are the outraged. Which is why media are such untrustworthy whores.

    • marley says:

      04:49pm | 12/09/12

      @Bear - whores have clients.  That’s how they make a living.  So blame the johns as much as the whores.

    • Bear says:

      05:48pm | 12/09/12

      @marley, the johns ought to know the 6” 3 bearded girl is not all she seems too.

    • marley says:

      06:44pm | 12/09/12

      @Bear - uhhm, that’s exactly what some johns are looking for. 

      Both literally and metaphorically.

    • the cynic says:

      02:46pm | 12/09/12

      “Their lives are so regimented and micro-monitored in these days of football ultra-professionalism, yet they are denied the chance to let off steam like the rest of us.”  This is all well and good but trying to justify the un justifiable doesn’t pass muster. Letting of steam by harking back to our ancestral roots from the time we were swinging through the trees is not a wise experiment in regression. Especially with a skin full on the roof of building at 4 in the morning and the mindset that I am invincible, hell I’m a football hero I can walk on water.  Maybe that is what he should have tried to perform. It may have sobered him up and brought him back to earth in a far more comfortable and softer landing.

    • Bear says:

      02:53pm | 12/09/12

      Typical caro, “these things happen all the time.” actually no. This is the first time a professional player has died due to supposed “hi jinx”. please don’t turn this into a big nappy campaign nannies!

    • Porter says:

      03:31pm | 12/09/12

      Agreed, I can’t recall any dangerous or death incidents, or even near death at that.

    • Bomb78 says:

      04:51pm | 12/09/12

      Bear: it’s not the first time, how about Ben Alexander? Driving drunk without a seat belt, ran a red light, other players in the car with him.

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:11pm | 12/09/12

      I have to ask…who ‘skylarks’ on a roof without an audience?

      i think bits are missing of the story still…...to ‘save embarrasment’....

    • S.L says:

      04:04pm | 12/09/12

      My thoughts exactly Dave…...........

    • Punters Pal says:

      04:23pm | 12/09/12

      Well, there was no audience of his team mates, but it doesn’t he was alone on that roof. God only knows what he got up to.

    • iansand says:

      06:10pm | 12/09/12

      I know Vegas is pretty weird, but even there they don’t have ATMs on roofs that are not normally accessible to the public.

    • Anubis says:

      04:12pm | 12/09/12

      “he was young, intelligent, talented and by all accounts a good guy.” - How intelligent is leaping of the roof a building to try to land on a palm tree? Doesn’t sound that intelligent to me.

    • steiner says:

      04:22pm | 12/09/12

      Blind drunk comes to mind.
      Why the booze is not a bigger issue, rather than glamorized in our society, is a huge problem.

    • Croweater says:

      05:36pm | 12/09/12

      Way too early to be writing this up Anthony. The full facts are not yet known. All your peice is doing is creating a forum for numpties like some of those above to give us their 2c worth. How would you feel if if it was a member of your family this happened to (accident, suicide or whatever) and you had people posting comments like these on blogs before anyone really knew what happened? Why not show some respect for the guys family and what they’re going through? Of course you do have stories to file and targets to meet…..

    • MP says:

      06:57pm | 12/09/12

      There must be more to the story, much more.  No-one attempts a stunt like that, alcohol or not.  Maybe something harsher was induced…say Stillnox which alot of people take to help them sleep on the plane.

      Sold as “ambien’ in the States, stillnox was found in the systems of Michael Jackson, Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith and a whole lot of people who died in their sleep or died under due unusual circumstances.  Of course Ambien was usually combined with other stuff to produce fatals results.  Sometimes benign things like cough medication, alcohol, even panadol. 

      I guess we’ll never know….

 

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