As we’re reminded regularly by the mainstream media, our sports stars don’t always get it right. They have bad moments, even bad days, in competition and well removed from it.
With most “off-field” indiscretions, it’s just the athlete’s reputation that takes a jolt. But on occasions, their character is drawn into question as well.
The Third Half’s Brand Erosion Award pays homage to the more serious acts of athlete self immolation.
The King – Wayne Carey
If there’s anything more un-Austrawl-yian than having an affair with the “Mrs” of your good mate – your teammate and captain – I haven’t encountered it yet. might as well have knocked off his beer too, and at the same time, uttered the words “Don’t you know who I am?”
Regrettably it was this horrid error in judgement which in 2004 almost completely redefined the career record and standing of a genuine AFL superstar – Wayne Carey, aka, The King.
Carey’s only true ally in the aftermath was time, and fading memories. And of course, waiting for somebody else to do something worse. Somebody like…
On February 18, 2010, the world – or at least a decent chunk of it – watched and listened as golf’s “Big Cat”, the King of the Fairway Jungle, first emerged from hiding to address the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his alley cat existence, and the double life he’d lived for years.
It wouldn’t have been the worldwide drama it was, had Woods not been presented as sport’s ultimate lilywhite, the blissfully happy married father of two, role model, clean skin, corporate clothes hoist, logo-ed up to within an inch of his life.
But he had. The public had been dudded.
Brand erosion, arguably even more severe than King Carey.
And then along came Lance Armstrong, or more accurately the truth about Lance, the seven time winner of Cycling’s Biggest Prize, the Tour De France, an athlete so extraordinary, so brave and so tough, he beat cancer in between his triumphs.
But finally the world discovered the truth. Armstrong was not just a participant in the systemic doping of his era, he was one of the main architects, a driving force.
The benchmark for Brand Erosion now sits with Armstrong.
Hence the Third Half’s monthly gong, the Golden Lance.
Some past winners…
We’ve had any number of contenders step up onto the Podium of Fools overthe course of the year, variously sullying their reputations, the reputations of their club, their sport, even their country. In the spirit of Christmas, we won’t run the cart over them again, except of course, to announce the winner of the Golden Lance – the orange BMW driving, police provoking, journo-jousting, Davis Cup diminishing, hardcourt softhead, Bernard Tomic. Not a great year for Bernie, 2012. Just 11 months ago, he was right on the cusp of becoming “Our Bernie”, powering his way through to the fourth round of the Australian Open with courage, skill and humility. Since then, he’s bounced from one deplorable episode to the next, reaching the nadir at the US Open in September, when he spat back, like a six year-old, at a tennis commentator who had the temerity to question the quality of his performance. As one wag suggested, Bernie has a good serve, but his dummy spit down the line is unplayable. Bernie could be a great young bloke – we don’t know. But on the strength of what we are witnessing at the moment, he’s an overindulged, underperforming prat. Tomic the tank engine. Sadly many have already written him off. 2013 will determine whether the rest of us do.
July / August 2013
Wallaby wunderkind James O’Connor set the bar high early this month, missing practically every team commitment in a week, bar the match, in the lead up to the last Lions Test. O’Connor’s behavior towards teammates, Rugby administrators and fans alike was contemptuous. The upshot is that no Rugby franchise in the country now really wants him, so his only option is to go back “”home” to the Western Force, the team which he left because it didn’t suit “his brand”. So what does that make O’Connor now? A “home brand”, I suppose. Sadly, that’s the value proposition he’s creating. Super talent, but can somebody – anybody – please slap him? Down in Melbourne, we’ve got Essendon – they’re going well, aren’t they? Collateral damage everywhere, bar the playing ranks. And of course, the untouchable one. To be honest, I don’t really care where it finishes, just as long as it does finish. And quickly. Over in Europe, we’ve had Aussie cycling’s Mr Clean, Stuart O’Grady, come clean that he was in fact a little bit dirty. Only for two weeks, though. Way back in 1998. Good-oh –whatever you reckon. Stuart, we understand why you did what you did, but that doesn’t mean we’ll ever be able to look at you and your achievements in quite the same light again. In all, three fine brand erosion candidates, but bearing the brunt of the King tide of self destruction (for the second month in a row) the hard hitting, trash talking Davey Warner. You’d think somebody who’s just dodged a bullet – by snotting an opponent in a bar and not being sent home – would have stayed out of the firing line, even for a month or two. But not our Dave. He fronts back up at the “It’s all OK” Corral, and gets in another stink by shooting off his mouth, just days after telling the world that he wants to be the new Mr Cricket. Contrition. Get a dictionary Dave and look it up. Then slap a media ban on yourself. In fact, impose a talking ban. Leave it to your bat.
As usual, the end of season, a perilous time of year for pea brains – character flaws tend to surface rapidly. St Kilda’s Clinton Jones provided irrefutable evidence, igniting a dwarf who’d be engaged to provide security throughout the club’s mad Monday celebrations. (What could possibly have gone wrong?) In fairness to Jones, it was hardly discriminatory. The Saints players were setting one another alight as well. Talk about laugh. What a hoot. Prior to that, we had the eternally defiant James Hird finally plead…. …well …nothing really. James was either sorry but not wrong, or wrong but not sorry – I couldn’t work out which. Around the same time, Richmond’s Jake King, at the height of AFL sensitivity around criminal infiltration of the code, thought it suitable to usher the boss of the Bandidos Bikie gang into the Tigers’ dressing shed for a bit of meet and greet. Brilliant. Jake either doesn’t care or doesn’t have a clue. All worthy contenders however , for sheer consistency over the full season, the gong goes to the underperforming, faction fighting, self harming rabble that is the Parramatta Eels Rugby League Club. It’s hard to imaging a more dysfunctional outfit in professional sport. Only those within the organisation could tell you who the real opponents are, but from the outside looking in, it seems the Eels are playing amongst themselves in their own little mini NRL. You could point one finger at Ricky Stuart, League’s angriest ant, for dismembering the club further and not sticking around to sew up the wounds (12 he sacked mid-season). But who could blame him? At some stage next season, Stuart himself most likely would have been rogered – why wait around to see which faction was responsible? All I can say, sport does funny things to passionate people with egos.