One rule for sports stars, another for us mere mortals
Wouldn’t it be a wondrous thing if we were all treated like sports stars? Adored, spoiled and treated like gods with a sense of entitlement that knows no bounds.
Never having to pay for a drink or stand in a queue, paid squillions to do what we love, nubile young things throwing themselves at us, wives willing to turn a blind eye and fans eager to defend us to the death no matter how impertinent or obnoxious we behave. Indeed any act of arseclownery is tolerated as long as we perform on the field.
Even if we descend into criminal behaviour, our extensive support network is there to catch us and the ever indulgent public is always eager to give us yet another chance. No behavior, no matter how abhorrent and criminal is going to see us robbed of the opportunity to redeem ourselves.
Even when we are clearly the villain we are painted as a victim of circumstance or of publicity hungry miscreants who can’t really be trusted, even if a jury finds them to be truthful.
And so, no one was particularly surprised this week when Mike Tyson was inducted into Boxing’s Hall of Fame. It was a feelgood moment as the tearful rapist and alleged wife beater was hailed a hero.
Contrast this with Queensland man Bob Riddler who had his Disaster Heroes’ award withdrawn after authorities became aware of his criminal past. Riddler was convicted of raping a sex worker in 1997 for which he served a 12 year sentence.
Some would argue he has repaid his debt to society while many including Queensland Premier Anna Bligh believe his conviction makes him unworthy of being dubbed a hero. One can understand the government’s attitude. Sure, Riddler worked tirelessly for the Ipswich community after the January floods but this man has forever impacted the life of an innocent woman. How would she feel about him being dubbed a hero?
It is clear that while sporting gods may have the slate wiped clean once they rejoin society, mere mortals are not afforded the same privilege. Tyson is hailed a hero, seen by millions in Hangover movies and even had his pigeon-fancying ways chronicled in a documentary. Fans choose to conveniently forget that this softly spoken thug not only bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear but has been accused of repeatedly beating former partners and convicted of rape.
This selective blindness is not just an American affliction; it is something we excel at right here in Australia. Last week, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was so enraged by a St Kilda fan who screamed abuse at Collingwood player and former jailbird, Andrew Krakouer, that he was caught on camera red faced and gesticulating wildly in a display that can only be described as unpresidential.
McGuire at first claimed that there were racial overtones to the abuse before backtracking and admitting that the offending fan yelled out nothing worse than, “kick him while he’s down” presumably in reference to what Krakouer himself did to Justin Martin, the victim of a brutal attack carried out by Krakouer and his brother. Martin was so badly beaten that he spent two weeks in intensive care.
Krakouer was jailed for the assault which District Court Judge Kate O’Brien described as “vicious and cowardly” adding that “the attack was unprovoked, persistent and brutal.” She then sentenced him to what many consider a manifestly inadequate term which saw him eligible for parole in just 16 months for a charge that carried a 20 year maximum.
And yet Krakouer is continually painted as a victim deserving our sympathy instead of a violent aggressor who chased his victim through a car park and repeatedly kicked him in the head as he lay helpless on the ground. Can you imagine an ordinary man who wasn’t an AFL player being so fiercely defended?
It may be argued that it is not just sportsmen but celebrities of all kinds who are afforded this special treatment. But other than the occasional rap star, most celebrities who do serious jail time are not welcomed back with open arms.
Sure your garden variety philanderers like Anthony Weiner, Hugh Grant or Arnold Schwarzenegger are eventually forgiven once they complete the now mandatory period of rehab to overcome their “addiction” but we still tend to judge those whose transgression crosses the line into violence.
Unless they happen to possess an unnatural sporting prowess in which case all is quickly forgiven and forgotten. Yes, it would be a wondrous thing to be treated like a sports star, even for a day.
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