Summer of Shane
The third cricket Test starts today. But whether Australia recovers, England continues to stomp its foot on our throat, or a huge meteorite crashes into the WACA, there’s really only one sports story in town.
It’s a story which has spilled well beyond the sports pages, and it shoots off in an exciting new direction each week, enlivening an otherwise flat sporting summer.
The story is of course Shane Warne.
Warney just won’t go away. Though he retired nearly four years ago now, at the end of the corresponding Ashes series, his legend just keeps growing. When Warne retired, he described his cricket career as a “journey” about 27 times. Well, if cricket was a journey, retirement has been a nonstop trip aboard Virgin Galactic. And clearly, he’s loving it.
Warne, post retirement is - in no particular order - a TV presenter, a poker player, a serial philanderer, the frontman of the Shane Warne Foundation, a Maccas burger salesman, a Channel Nine commentator and so much more.
Warne has something like 20 business and charitable entities to whom he is answerable. He has an office in the main street of Brighton (the Melbourne suburb where also lives) and has a terrific PR who seems to run his life. Her motto is probably something between “idle hands do the devil’s work” and “all work and no play makes Shane a dull boy”. Bottom line, Shane is busy. But not so busy he can’t hang out with his rich mates.
Even when Warne does something really, really everyday, like lending his mate his $450,000 yellow Lamborghini Gallardos, something newsworthy happens. Touring English batsman Kevin Pietersen picked up a $239 fine for speeding on the Great Ocean Road, a similar number to his run tally in the Adelaide Test.
When Warne played cricket, each delivery was followed by an “oooh” even if it was an innocuous ball missing the stumps by two feet. Batsmen fell for the ploy, believing that everything he did was somehow tinged with magic. Now we, the public, are the ones saying “oooh” even if we profess to hate him. Most of us have tuned in to Warne’s TV show at least once, even though it’s about as riveting as a Hart to Hart rerun with dodgy Mandarin subtitles.
The question is why? Why is this bogan-made-good dominating summer conversation? Why does he have 250,000 twitter followers while Russell Crowe, who is arguably much more famous worldwide, has 115,000?
My best guess is that Warne still hangs it out there. No one will ever accuse Warney of falsifying his image for corporate gain, or of kowtowing to some blandified code of conduct enforced by Tyrannosaurus Sporting Body. Shane Warne is Shane Warne. Warts, sexts, diuretics and all.
He’s far from perfect, and his private life is possibly all the worse for it.
But Shane Warne has steadfastly refused to de-larrikinise himself, and in an age when image makeovers among public figures are as common as boob jobs, there’s something kind of reassuring about the realness of the bloke. Apart from his teeth, that is.
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