The Demise of Accountability

alison gordon's picture

SYDNEY - Like many of my fellow footy fans, I have read and viewed several news stories of late across different mediums and publications about the reckless, irresponsible and downright stupid behaviour young male athletes, primarily footballers, continue to display on a fairly regular basis.

Some might say this is just boys being boys - others say it's an institutionalised part of footy culture that has suddenly become a problem (hasn't it always been one?) and that we should remove or at least try and change it in some positive way.

Alcohol abuses, gambling problems, drug use, offensive behaviour towards women, breaking the law - the cases are mounting, both in number and severity, despite all the bad press they receive. Let me say now, I am not implying the media is faultless - of course they can be relentless in chasing a headline even if there isn't one. Yet there is no denying that many of the recent incidents involving high profile football players across a variety of codes have indeed occurred, with many of these responsible "men" or "role models" wanting to wear the victim label square across their foreheads.

I had to chuckle when I learned that one particular repeat offender claimed the reason he had to relocate overseas (yes, move countries) is that the media portrayed him unfairly and chased him out of town. Forget the fact that the reason he was so present in the mind of the media and the public was because he continually put himself there. I think I always miss the part where we are supposed to feel sorry for these "professionals"? They put themselves in the public eye as mentors for young players, they visit schools and spend time with kids, they want all the publicity they can get when it suits them - but the moment they do something wrong they want us to pretend they don't exist and excuse them for what they have done.

Is the problem that nobody has made them painfully aware that like every other individual in society they are (or should be) completely accountable for their actions? Do these players lack personal guidance from their managers, colleagues and club officials - or are they just interested in getting a slice of their salary and having them win games for their club? Or are they simply paid too more than they are worth?

Surely someone has to be held responsible for the dangerous attitude that is rapidly spinning out of control in this sporting arena - then again, our society has become accustomed to playing the "it's someone else's fault" card. Why should it be any different in this space?


The Demise of Accountability

Alison, I think you have raised an issue that extends well beyound the boundaries of male athletes, young or otherwise. I think it's an issue of how women in Australia are treated in general - it's just that the rugger-buggers get more than their fair share of the limelight.

Responsibility doesn't live here any more

The problem probably extends beyond the club culture. I believe there is an interesting shift in the way people are experiencing the sense of responsibility in Australia -- it is encouraged through the school system (where young people seem to be developing a sense of 'customer-entitlement', rather than a sense of responsibility, "bad teachers" and "bad parents" are to blame for poor results, etc), through the general lack of purpose (young people are brought up to believe that being a celebrity is the ultimate achievement, and celebrity culture is connected with the idea of untouchability or immunity to the conventions of decent behaviour), and a general philosophy of self-absorption (it's all about me, me, me -- hence, a young footballer leaves the country because he's "hounded", not because his actions got him there in the first place).

In a sense, this is a wider social malaise that cannot be cured with acute attacks on those who are most visibly 'suffering' from it -- if we encourage a culture where everyone is blaming everyone else for their actions (one slips on a banana in a park, one takes a Council to Court; corporate culture is famous for its 'blame somebody else' mentality; teachers blame governments, governments blame parents, parents blame teachers ...), we're actually letting this sort of behaviour flourish while establishing who's to blame, rather than doing something about it.

As for the previous comment on the treatment of women, if the Brimble case is anything to go by, if parlamentarians are allowed to call female journalists "Skanky Hos" or label a childless woman unfit for the PM's role, that is a whole separate area of discussion. Are the two connected? Probably.


I agree with the comments about the general atttiude to women - without getting on the sisterhood bandwagon too much though, I think it is of greater concern that some of these athletes or "celebrities" as they have become demonstrate such a lack of composure in the public space. I am so sick of hearing them blame the media and every other possible cause when the going gets tough.

As a follow-up

Just to support my initial comments on footballers behaving badly, another two cases in point came up earlier in the week, from two different codes. Both incidents involved alcohol in the wee hours of the morning.

Though one was not serious and didn't affect any innocent member of the public, one official was quoted as saying "boys will be boys"....oh yes, I forgot this was a legitimate excuse.

A new dimension

Yes folks, yet another incident involving an athlete this week and as usual, alcohol was a significant factor.

The case in point involves an alleged assault in a public space but I must say I read an interesting point of view in one of the papers following this - are these high profile celebrities the real victims?

Are there people out there wanting to use fame as leverage and deliberately target these people as a way of making money through expensive lawsuits?

I hadn't thought of this angle, we are often too busy blaming all the vices of fame, but I think it has validity. If you know someone is in the public eye and will make headlines if they get into trouble (and perhaps do anything to save themselves and get out of hot water) - why not push their buttons....if you dare?

It's dangerous territory but I am sure there are some people out their wanting to cause a fuss and make a dollar at the expense of someone else.