You wanna fight? Why footballers get targeted
Kung-Fu master, movie star and all-round whoop ass machine Bruce Lee found it hard to walk down the street in Hong Kong without being challenged to a fight by some bloke who’d watched too many of his films.
Lee would receive letters daily from other Kung Fu academies putting forward their best students for a chance to fight the master. Unsurprisingly Lee was not amused: “I find this sort of thing really annoying, I’m not going to fight with anybody.”
The bashing of AFL superstar Lance “Buddy” Franklin in a Perth nightclub (at least on the facts available) is further evidence of a less sophisticated Australian version of this ego driven phenomena.
Our version of the ancient honorable challenge involves a stupid pissed bloke confronting a drinking sport’s star and letting him know how shit they really did play in round 14 and why he’s been overrated since day one and come to think of it he oughta take him out of commission right now.
This either ends in sport’s star getting attacked or punching out said annoying pissed bloke, or a combination of the two.
It goes without saying that elite athletes, especially footballers of all codes, have the uncanny ability to act like complete tossers when in a group together. Tosser high master black-belt status is generally reached during the end of season celebrations.
You cannot blame any member of the public for Jason Taylor recently getting sacked from the Rabbitohs after getting in a fight with his own player.
But there is an often unrecognized element to sport stars behaving badly that is the fault of the general public and not some alcohol fuelled, drug crazed egomaniac that turned on some unsuspecting member of society.
It’s true that a lot of these incidents invariably happen at about 3 am at a “notorious Kings Cross nightspot”, but footballers, especially at the end of the season, have as much right to be in a nightclub as anyone else.
Last year Wests Tigers rugby league genius and all-round nice guy Benji Marshall (I must admit to being a big Tigers’ fan) was attacked in a Kings Cross club after being baited by a bloke for around 20 minutes, which included being spat at.
The Daily Telegraph ran photos of the fight which they bought off an on-looker.
Despite the paper making it clear Marshall had done nothing to provoke the bloke at the bar, Marshall accused the Tele of orchestrating a set-up with a waiting photographer. It turned out Marshall hadn’t been set-up, but you could forgive him for thinking as much.
Despite the notion of planting a provocateur grossly over estimating the organizational capabilities of Australian newspapers, the fact the provocation was so incessant and there was somebody on hand to photograph him shows that newspapers wouldn’t need to run a set-up. It’s just the lot of someone like Marshall when they choose to go out at night now.
Marshall’s retaliation was one end of the spectrum when a player was almost entirely exonerated. But in incidents where the player is not as restrained as Benji Marshall they might not be as lucky, and neither may the pissed challenger.
It’s not clear what the circumstances leading up to Buddy Franklin’s bashing were but he was out with his sister West Coast Fever Netballer Bianca Franklin and her boyfriend, Wallabies fly-half Matt Giteau, as well as fellow Wallaby Nathan Sharpe. Four people who are likely to attract attention at any bar in the country.
Police are saying that Franklin had nothing to do with the fight and for his part Franklin said in a statement this afternoon:
“I was on the way to the toilet when an altercation broke out and I copped one in the face.”
“I’m fine, no real injury, it’s just a bit disappointing to have that happen when you’re out just trying to enjoy some time off with family and friends.”
We could imagine the disastrous fall-out for Buddy if he had thumped someone back in the head, let alone the real threat of an athlete like him being capable of killing someone with a well-placed punch or two. To his credit, Franklin seems to have chosen not to open up the can of whoop ass on the thoughtful individual who thought it a good idea to punch one of the largest men in the AFL.
Footballers are often responsible for the fall-out from their own stupid behavior but they can’t always be responsible for that of others around them. The Buddy incident is a further reminder of the fact that in life, as in football, dickheads will be dickheads.
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