I’m sure that you, like me, were shocked and appalled beyond all reason when you found out that a professional rugby league player had been – oh god the humanity – photographed with a bag of white powder.
Can you believe it? White powder! In a bag! A footballer, of all people! Let us take a moment to retrieve our heart pills, because this has shaken us all to our cores.
The offending player was Shaun Lane, and the photo in question was taken during last year’s “Mad Monday” celebrations, that special part of the footballing year when players, their season over, can get twelve months’ worth of drinking and stupidity in in a 24-hour period. Apparently, the photo is supposed to set our hands a-wringing and our tongues a-clucking.
Certainly, that’s the effect it had on NRL legend Benji Marshall, who said that player behaviour needed a “redesign”. “So that whole point of when you want to take a photo of yourself doing something silly and send it, we've got to be better than that,” Marshall solemnly intoned, begging his fellow footballers to take a good hard look at themselves.
I take Benji’s point, and I’m all in favour of sportsmen conducting themselves with greater decorum. But there’s a counterpoint here that isn’t being made enough, which is, in a nutshell: who gives a shit?
Seriously. Who cares? Do you? A lot of people say they do, whenever photos of this kind emerge. “It’s not a good look,” they say. But to whom is not a good look? Who sees a picture of a rugby league star with a bag of white powder, or dancing in the nude, or passed out drunk on the floor, and has any thought more vehement than “eh, kind of a dickhead”, before getting on with their lives?
It’s certainly appalling when sporting stars abuse their position to harm others: the list of footy players who’ve committed various assaults is a litany of shame. But general drunken stupidity? Why should we be bothered by that? We know young men can be dumb, and we know young men can get huge amounts of alcohol down their necks. We know that in large groups both of these tendencies are intensified. As a society, have we not generally made peace with this? As long as they’re not hurting anyone or anything besides their own livers, why should the general public give a toss about the recreational idiocies of our famous athletes?
I’m not saying we should applaud the white-powder-bag-carrying shenanigans of footballing heroes. I’m just saying it’s really not any of our business, and it’s not even particularly interesting. The only reason we make a fuss about such affairs is that there’s a ravenous sporting media desperate for our eyeballs, and it’s that media that’s trained us to act like extracurricular sporting wankery is important. I say it’s time to stop following instructions, and decide for ourselves what’s a “scandal” and what isn’t. And a photo of a dude with some powder? That ain’t it.