Spin cycle relegates true remorse to the bench
Bought a new washing machine the other day. It works better than the old one, is quieter, and uses less energy. But one thing is the same. That spin cycle at the end of the wash still takes as long as it always did. Some things just can’t be rushed.
The same cannot be said for the spin cycle of modern sporting scandals. Wayward players and their handlers, wily to the imminent public outcry after a night-on-the-piss gone wrong or equivalent misdemeanour, move at lightning speed to ward off the damage.
This weekend’s Todd Carney drink-driving incident was a classic case. Early Saturday morning, the man who was proudly starting to wear the tag “former bad boy” was arrested for drink-driving.
By Saturday night, the story was all over the media and was splashed across both Sydney Sunday papers. And in a breathtaking display of audacity and the spin cycle in super fast-forward mode, Carney somehow emerged looking like something resembling a good guy.
Let’s piece this thing together, to show just how downright cleverly Team Carney played this.
First, some quick background. Carney, you’ll recall, has had numerous alcohol-fuelled incidents over the years, several involving vehicles he was driving.
The last straw came in 2009, when he copped a suspended 12 month jail sentence and was banned from his hometown of Goulburn (which the mean-spirited might suggest was not such a punishment).
Carney headed north, playing a season away from the NRL’s bright lights at the Atherton Roosters in North Queensland. He lived and worked in the local pub, which some might have said was like letting the lunatic run the asylum, but which turned out to be a brilliant move.
For the first time, Carney saw through sober eyes how obnoxious people can be when they’re drunk. As he himself will tell you, it wasn’t pretty.
Cut to 2010. Back in the NRL at the Sydney Roosters, Carney stays off the booze for the bulk of a dream season, which culminates in the Dally M medal and an unlikely grand final appearance for his team, who were wooden spooners the year before.
Quite a recovery. And then this. On Saturday morning, the night after a boozy function, Carney is booked for drink-driving in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where he lives. Across the media, the offence is reported as “low-range” drink-driving”, but really, over the limit is over the limit.
In fact, as a P-Plater, Carney’s reading of 0.052 is significantly over the limit as he is not allowed any alcohol whatsoever in his system. It is also a fair amount of grog to have in an avowed non-drinker ‘s system the morning after a function, when you’re driving to meet your financial advisor at 7am.
Oh look, I just mentioned the fact that Carney was going to visit his financial advisor. At 7am. On a Saturday. His financial advisor, mind you. As you do, on a Saturday morning.
I’m not for a minute suggesting this is not the truth. But how convenient that this nugget of information should appear in every story. Kinda makes you think: “Wow, this guy sure is busy, diligent and financially prudent” doesn’t it.
At the very least, it helps banish thoughts of irresponsibility from your mind, and stops you thinking about the fact that drink drivers kill innocents with alarming regularity.
Not long after leaving the police station, Carney met with Roosters boss Nick Politis, coach Brian Smith and his agent David Riolo.
At least one of those three individuals is a tip top bloke whose mentorship of Carney was 90 per cent of the reason behind his success in 2010. All three are adept at crisis management.
And wouldn’t you know it. You open the Sunday papers and there’s Carney with this:
“I was shattered when it happened and thought about quitting. I knew I had let a lot of people down and it seemed like it was all too much. But then I thought about it and quitting would have been the easy way out.”
See how this stuff works? The focus is on Carney’s pain, not his wrongdoing. It’s all about a sacrifice he was never actually going to make (his career).
And that line about not quitting because that would have been the easy way out, oh please. Carney has found an easy way out, and it goes like this: Act super contrite. Press on as usual.
Trashy American daytime soaps pack in death, vengeance, divorce and marriage all before the first ad break, and this weekend’s saga feels a bit the same: too quick, too staged.
Todd Carney did brinkmanship, navel-gazing and newfound resolve, all in the tiny gap between his mid-morning release from the police station and the mid-afternoon deadline for the Sunday early editions. And you thought he was only quick on the field.
No one’s saying Carney is the baddest dude going round in the NRL, or that he’s any worse than players in other codes, as David Penberthy reminded us all yesterday.
But for all the sordidness of Ricky Nixon’s actions, there’s something just as disturbing about an instant emotional turnaround of the sort which in real life would take weeks, months, or a year at the Atherton Roosters.
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