Johnathan Thurston and the rise of the so-what scandal
Is anyone really that shocked at a rugby league player having a big night on the turps?
The arrest in Brisbane this morning of Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston is, as Darren Lockyer said of his mate, a real pity for him and he’ll be cursing himself for (allegedly) pushing the boundaries with the cops.
But it’s neither corrupt like a salary cap rort nor a flagrant moral infraction like taking performance-enhancers. It’s a low-level bit of stupidity and right-minded people will assess it with a shrug.
NRL chief executive David Gallop must get a little chill every time he gets a text message. What is it now - two dozen players doing a nudie run around the Opera House?
I’ve written before in support of the terrible punishment visited on the Melbourne Storm after the salary cap breaches were uncovered. It fit the offence and put the behaviour of those involved in the incident in perspective. What was staggering was that for a period some directors of the club thought they shouldn’t have to take their medicine.
And there should be perspective on things like Thurston’s behaviour too. Coming down heavy on every misdemeanour means that when someone really steps out of line the condemnation can seem hollow.
In an era when a loss of privacy is the inescapable price of fame the reaction to every misdemeanour cannot be - and increasingly, thankfully, isn’t - knee-jerk blanket outrage.
I’ll ask it again: is anyone really that shocked at an NRL player getting into an alcohol-fuelled but minor altercation with police after a night out?
Thurston deserves a bit of a public talking-to, maybe offered a bit of counselling to check his head is screwed on OK after a long season. If he is charged and, say, fined a bit, then that should be the end of the matter and he can go back to playing his excellent football.
The Thurston news this morning reminded me of George Michael’s jailing yesterday – the kind of celeb-in-a-scrape story that is increasingly commonplace.
Michael is the original so-what celebrity. The 1998 toilet incident produced one of the great newspaper front pages of all time – The Sun’s Zip Me Up Before You Go Go – and outed him as gay. But as a gay friend of mine said about it this week, his reaction when it happened was: “What, it took people until now to figure that out?”
When Michael was in Sydney recently his partying antics for a month were reported with a deserving nonchalance, as nothing more than enjoying a hedonistic lifestyle.
He popped up on the Grindr website, an iPhone-based dating service which introduces men to each other by location. Michael’s name on the service was “Back for Wood”.
Surprising, yes. “Back for Wood” amusing, yes.
As the judge said when sentencing the singer to a six-to-eight week stretch in the clink for crashing his car into a photography shop after a drug bender, the real problem was that he put other lives at risk.
Well, damn right, and now he has some time to have a think about that. When he’s out the reporting of his private life will continue but again, it’s just the reality of modern fame.
Lindsay Lohan breaches bail. Britney Spears has a huge hissy fit, gives someone the finger. Johnathan Thurston gets on the turps. All of it is grist to a constantly turning mill of reporting on the lives of people who are famous not because they are role models but because they are talented stars in industries that people pay good money to follow.
Call me an optimist but I don’t think most people are surprised these days by low-level recklessness of celebrities and sports stars.
It’s no longer a matter of whether their lives should be reported in such detail, but knowing when they deserve our total condemnation. Just ask Mel Gibson.
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