I believe it was William S. Burroughs who counseled against dealing with a religious man, on the grounds that he owes you nothing and is convinced he answers to a higher authority. Well, in this town, football is religion.
So similar warnings apply to the intellectual munchkins at the AFL, who show absolutely no capacity to be bound by honour, answering to the higher calling of making fistfuls of cash. In fact, they can ride roughshod over the most basic tenets of natural justice and decency without flinching.
The first example is that of Barry Hall, a key player for some team or other. This huge strapping thug-for-hire punched an opposition player in the stomach as he ran past him. Of course, he was subjected to the pseudo-judicial procedures of the AFL. As he was clearly guilty - caught on tape and with about three million witnesses - he received a one match suspension, in line with other rulings.
Barry's Playful Nudge
Source: Herald Sun
At this point, a crowd of football fans assembled at AFL HQ brandishing pitchforks and flaming torches, led by the usual media hacks, failed players and armchair biff-artists. Bizarrely, the Sydney Catholic Archbishop George Pell got swept up in the furor and offered the suggestion that it was "a playful little nudge"! It's Catholic moral leadership like that that kicked off so many pogroms, witch hunts, inquisitions and crusades. (We're also entitled to question whether a man whose appalling judgment about acts of violence could be trusted to not down-play kiddy fiddlers within his own organisation.)
The AFL Tribunal, unable to stand up to such pressure, quickly capitulated and let Barry Hall play at the Grand Final. Their rationale? When Barry punched the other bloke it was actually "in play" rather than "behind play". Even a five year-old child could point out the ethical bankruptcy in that line of reasoning. Not to mention the idea that a player should get off because missing the Grand Final would be a shame. Still, this is not an isolated incident: the AFL Tribunal let Travis Gaspar off for elbowing a guy in the face before the ball was even bounced!
Still, what should we care? If they want to cage over the Telstra Dome and have Thunderdome-style rules - two teams enter, one team leaves - then that's their prerogative, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. What happens on the ground doesn't stay there. An "anything goes" policy gees the boys up and increase the overall levels of violence off the field too. But also, these thugs are pin-ups and heroes to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men. And when they see them assaulting their opponents - and having that condoned by the tribal elders and judiciary - then it legitimises violence for all. And the rest of us have to walk the streets with kids who think that going the biff is okay.
Of course, the AFL Tribunal's cowed performance and willingness to roll-over is even more disturbing when you consider the AFL's proposal to have its judicial authority extended to include rape cases. Imagine if a crowd gathered out the front during such a hearing, shouting "Let him go - the bitch deserved it" or "There was only three of them - she's had worse" and similar. Horrifying.
The next case of the AFL disregarding the rules when it suits it is the question over who will sing the National Anthem at the Grand Final this year. The AFL had contracted acclaimed singer Ms Silvie Paladino for the gig.
Seasoned Board-Treader Ms Sylvie Paladino
Fair enough. But then, the AFL shamelessly welched on the deal on the grounds that Brittney Spears impersonator Delta Goodrem might be able to make it. Possibly. Although, why this hadn't occurred to anyone at the AFL or Delta's camp months ago is a mystery. Ironically, Delta will use the occasion to push her latest saccharine offering (A Little Too Late):
Ex-Neighbours Starlet Delta What's-Her-Face
Source: Delta's Marketing Machine.
Of course, Sylvie is entitled to be upset at the shitty behaviour of the AFL:
I'm very disappointed to say the least," Paladino said. "I'm angry, very angry the AFL weren't honest from the beginning. I don't have any grudges towards Delta, but you don't contract another artist and then bump her at the last minute. It's absolutely disrespectful." Her manager, Mark Gogoll, said the AFL had acted "unprofessionally" ... (The Age, 22/9/2005)
Hear, hear. The AFL - and, I suspect, Delta's management team - should hang their heads in shame.
But, of course, this is football, so the normal rules don't apply. Whether it be commerce or justice, the AFL just is not bound by decency and will do whatever it can get away with. Anyone entering into agreements with the AFL should keep this in mind - if the can, they'll rob you blind.
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