A petulant Chris Tarrant (of the troubled Collingwood FC) has gone on the offensive after reading a less-than-flattering piece in The Australian about his legendary drinking binges. In a brave display of machismo, his manager even mentioned defamation action. Uh oh!
Many people were shocked to learn the Tarrant reads the broadsheets at all. More likely, he has a media monitoring service scouring the globe for references to himself, sending him clippings (Hi Mrs Tarrant, if you're reading!). Hell, along with police statements, these newspaper reports are probably the only way he can fill in those "missing hours" on weekends.
"What did you get up to on Saturday, Taz?"
"Dunno - let me just flick through mX ... Yeah, 'parrantly I was at Motel.".
The piece in question - extensively reproduced below due to the Murdoch press's reluctance to leave material online - certainly painted a picture of a "Rock and Roll Lifestyle":
TWO weeks after he was involved in a drunken brawl outside a Port Melbourne nightclub, Chris Tarrant was back at the bar. This time there was no fight and no police investigation.
Tarrant appeared to have trouble standing but didn't find trouble. As he stumbled on to the pavement outside to make his way home the only thing thumping was the music.
Tarrant left no later than 2am.
A few nights later, Tarrant was spotted at a Jet concert, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. Whatever the lessons of Tarrant's infamous Pie fight with team-mate Ben Johnson, the out-of-form forward hasn't let it curb his rock 'n roll lifestyle.
When these instances are brought to the attention of Collingwood officials, you can hear their exasperation on the other end of the phone line. A part of them wants to know the latest Taz tale but mostly, they'd rather not.
Whatever Tarrant gets up to in his spare time is best kept between Tarrant and the barman. A remarkable Saturday night is when Tarrant heads home early; not when he stays out late.
Tarrant has played poorly for the past three weeks and tested the patience of his team-mates and coach.
He was fined $5000, as was Johnson, for involving himself in a car park brawl at 3am. He has been mooted for trade but does not accept that an AFL playing contract, alcohol and regular late nights make for a combustive mix. (The Australian, 18/8/2006)
Hardly character assassination, but enough to see hairy-chested talk of lawsuits bandied around. What really got Tarrant's entourage steamed was the allegation that Tarrant was at a Jet concert with a drink and smoke:
Tarrant's manager Paul Connors said the report was incorrect and the player was with him on the night he was alleged to have been at the concert.
"Quite frankly it is defamatory, unless there's a significant retraction and apology in the paper tomorrow we will be considering our legal position," Connors told radio station 3AW. (The Australian, 18/8/2006)
Really? Defamation action? Could they argue with a straight face that this actually worsened Tarrant's reputation in the eyes of the public? Rival broadsheet The Age noted:
Tarrant's manager Paul Connors demanded a retraction, saying the player had not even attended the concert and instead had been at his house for dinner that evening. The Australian ran a small correction yesterday, but it did not satisfy Connors. "We will be meeting with our lawyers on Monday, the apology fell short of what we expected," he said yesterday. (Psst, The Age, 20/8/2006)
I couldn't find any references to this "correction" or lodging of papers with the Victorian County Court, but I'll continue to keep an eye on developments.
Poor Chris. Under siege from all fronts. It must be tough being a massively wealthy, famous and worshipped young man with all that free time. That's why you need friends like Eddie McGuire to step up to bat for you:
... McGuire said the scrutiny on Tarrant, sidelined by shin splints, was "totally unfair".
"We understand that Collingwood sells papers ... I run a media company, I know what the attraction of Collingwood is.
"But it is unfair at times when the scrutiny goes onto these young men. While it's a big story for the media, big stories come and go ... but the football clubs and even their families have to deal with the aftermath of that and we have to be very careful that we don't push these highly strung young athletes at times too far." (The Australian, 19/8/2006)
Can we presume that "highly strung" is Eddie's codeword for "psychologically-damaged", "anti-social" and "mal-adjusted"? Eddie's all about making excuses for his footballers' behaviour, because they might win him a Premiership. What a shallow, avaricious little man.
Chris Tarrant also got much-needed support from the venerable silver-back of the Collingwood troop, Nathan Buckley. In a positive sign, Buckley conceded that the media scrutiny (perhaps including this website) was working:
Buckley confirmed the playing group had met this week and resolved to stay away from nightclubs until the end of the finals campaign.
"We needed to get together and reinforce the values of the team," he said.
"We needed to discuss how we were going to control the situations that are, by and large, out of our control, and that is the environment we found ourselves as a club and a playing group.
"Part of that is taking ourselves out of that environment.
"We discussed that and we hope not to have a continuation of what we have been seeing and reading."
He said the pressure and scrutiny on AFL footballers was intensifying every year.
"I just think it is a vicious cycle at the moment that I don't enjoy and I'm sure most of the other players don't enjoy," he said. (Herald-Sun, 20/8/2006)
Yeah, I bet they don't like the scrutiny. Remember back in the day, when players could enjoy a night out by getting shit-faced, going the biff in the carpark and then taking turns on a young woman in the toilets - and none of it got in the papers? Ahhh, memories ...
Of course, all of this talk of a ban on Collingwood players in nightclubs seems at odds with their decision to purchase The Beach nightclub in Albert Park, for $7 million (or 7 Buckleys, in Collingwood currency).
Gifted wordsmith and diarist Jonathan Green (of The Age) had dipped his quill in a particularly-vicious poison when he penned this barb-laden riposte:
The Collingwood Football Club did the only sensible thing for an organisation continually undermined by what seems to be a rabid culture of undisciplined binge drinking: it bought a pub. Faced with a playing list heavy with aggressive drunks and a running sore of bad publicity, the next step was obvious: bring the drinking and the brawling and the drunk-driving and the bitch-slapping in-house. Thus it was that the Pies forked out $7 million for their own Albert Park nightclub, The Beach.
It won't be long before fans, locals and club diehards alike can enjoy a quiet beer in the convivial surrounds of the 4am licensed Tarrant/Johnson Bar or treat the girlfriend to a bag of chips and a shandy in the Alan Didak Lounge. Pull up in the Cameron Cloke car park for one of the club's signature "Braindamage" nights or just dance away amid the flashing lights and flailing haymakers of the Dane Swan disco.
At the end of the evening why not use the free in-house phone to dial 1300-MIL-LANE for a lift home? It's a car-pool service run with an emphasis on speed and erratic lane changes by club legends Chad Morrison and Brodie Holland.
Football hasn't seen the like since North Melbourne — in a comparatively modest venture — unveiled the Wayne Carey toilet back in 2002. (The Age, 19/8/2006)
(NB: hyperlinks added by me, to ensure people "get" the references.)
Wow. I am in awe. I've been bagging footballers for 18 months, but it never occurred to me to publish Darren Millane jokes. I've long-enjoyed Green's prose, but he has now been elevated to genius status. I prostrate myself before The Master. Please, sir, can we have another?
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