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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Footy Stars Plus Traffic Equals ...

What is it with footballers that they refuse to accept that road rules apply to them too? Is it because they are arrogant, contemptuous, spoilt brats? Maybe it's their hard-wired need for thrill-seeking and risk-taking behaviour? Or is it simply that magistrates keep doling out laughable sentences, making a mockery of social expectations? We examine these questions in light of the latest round of traffic offences from AFL footballers.

Working in reverse chronological order, we have Mark Williams (of Hawthorn) sentenced today in the Melbourne Magistrates Courts (AFL Division):

[The Court] heard that police found Williams was driving whilst unlicensed after a cyclist rode into the back of his car in Burnley on October 25 last year.

A prosecutor said police checks found Williams' licence had been suspended for 12 months four months earlier, after he was issued with a traffic infringement notice for speeding.

Senior Constable Jo Leechman said Williams later admitted driving while licence suspended but denied knowing that his licence had been suspended.

She said that on April 11 this year, Williams sped away from police in Newport at a speed estimated to at 94kmh in a 50kmh zone. (The Age, 19/7/2006)

His defence team ran the "pillar of the community" line. Williams donated $3000 (less than a week's wages) to some underprivileged kids somewhere. He also did some "voluntary work" (signing footballs for an hour I bet). Oh, did I mention that he did all this good works after the incident and on the advice of the spin-doctors at his club? Speaks volumes about his character ...

So he's a reckless law-breaking idiot who gets caught, has his licence cancelled, then gets into another incident while driving unlicensed (and, presumably, uninsured), denies wrong-doing, covers it up with some spin-induced "good works", feigns ignorance of his own prior sentence ... what a disgrace. Still, you'd think the judiciary would react sternly after their prior orders were just flagrantly ignored - hey, they might love their footy but they have to protect their own authority, right?

Wrong. Quoth the article:
Williams was put on a 12-month undertaking with conditions that he undergo a road trauma awareness, pay $1500 to that course and not reoffend.

His licence was suspended for the minimum mandatory period of six months. (ibid)

So, he got the minimum penalty - only because it was mandatory - and a fine amounting to what he'll earn before the first quarter siren on Saturday. Oh, and he was told to not reoffend. I've wondered aloud before at magistrates using "now you have to obey the law" as a penalty. It's truly bizarre. What else? Perhaps the magistrate should have ordered Williams to "keep on breathing", "maintain your kidneys on or about your person at all times" and "comply with Newton's Third Law of Motion". Telling people who have already broken the law - including a restrictions imposed on them for breaking an earlier law! - to stop breaking the law (or we'll tell you again) is an exercise in futility. Magistrates aren't stupid, so why do they keep on doing it? I'm genuinely baffled.

"Softly, softly" was also the order of the day for another (former) AFL "hero" sentenced for blatantly ignoring traffic laws that are only for the rest of us - including ignoring an earlier court order to stop driving:
Corey McKernan was today fined $1000 for driving while disqualified and for using his mobile phone at the same time.

McKernan, 32, had lost his licence for six months for exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit last November, Melbourne Magistrates Court was told today.

Then on May 2 this year, police observed him in his car using his mobile phone while stopped at traffic lights in South Melbourne. (ibid)

That's right. Laws are for other people, not footballers. Presumably, the magical aura of legal exemption extends even after the playing career is over. To reinforce this new-found piece of jurisprudence, the magistrate suspended his sentence for just 14 days. That's right, a whole fortnight. (Wanna bet he'll still drive anyway? Hell, he's done it before!)

These cases of driving anyway after being told to stop (due to earlier infringements) sound familiar ... that's right! Brodie Holland did the same thing back in January! He even tried the old "I didn't know I was unlicensed" trick. Since then, we've seen Michael Gardiner's spectacular drunken self-destruction at the wheel of a hotted-up bogan-wagon, Chad Morrison hung out to dry by Collingwood for drink-driving and Ben Cousins doing a runner when confronted with a booze-bus. Let's not forget Jay Shulz and his very expensive drink-driving incident last year.

It's not enough that footballers get free priority taxis (only mugs queue and pay for cabs) - Sav Rocca had the right idea in getting chauffeur-driven by his own personal police car (with lights and sirens too, if you don't mind).

Yep, anyway you look at it, the normal rules of the road don't apply to these superstars. They can drink and drive. They can speed. They can drive unlicensed. They can get ferried around at others' expense. All safe in the knowledge that an over-awed judiciary will never, ever impose a penalty of any consequence.

Hell, I'm surprised that Melbourne's Commonwealth Games "exclusive Games lanes" weren't kept in place for the sole use of football players. Now there's an idea that the AFL Players' Association would get behind!

Citations: The Age, 19/7/2006

Word Count: 925

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Out-Of-Control Footballer Hits Skids

Perennial pest Michael Gardiner (of the troubled West Coast Eagles) has finally done what we've all been waiting for and thrown away his footy career. Again. This time, it was a breathlessly stupid and destructive car accident that - miraculously - avoided injury.

Michael Gardiner has long been featured on The Speccy, with his involvement with known underworld figures and drug-dealers, or bringing his club into disrepute with mysterious references to "off-field behaviour". While he's only mustered 18 games in the past three seasons, the Weagles are now seriously reviewing their half million dollar spend on him.

Reality Sets in for Michael Gardiner, Facing The Dole Queue Next Year
Source: The Age

But first, the gory details of what happened. As usual, The Age had the skinny:
West Coast AFL ruckman Michael Gardiner may have been speeding when his car struck a street sign and careered into two parked cars in Perth overnight, police say.

Gardiner was taken to hospital with minor injuries after the crash in the beach-side suburb of Scarborough shortly after 11:30pm (WST) on Monday.

Gardiner's black Holden Commodore and one of the parked cars, a Holden Statesman, were extensively damaged and may have been written-off, police say.

The other vehicle was also damaged substantially.

"Speed may have been a factor in the crash because of the damage to all of the vehicles," a police spokeswoman told AAP.

"That is forming part of the investigation.

"He is very lucky he wasn't more seriously injured." (The Age, 18/7/2006)

Now, it's not immediately obvious to me whether the police officer quoted here talking about "speed" is referring to velocity or methamphetamines. It's plausible that either physics or chemistry was involved in this one. The Age also reports that drug sniffer dogs were going over the car, and a Cicatrin bottle (an antiobiotic) was found. I imagine they'll be looking at the contents closely. Gardiner admitted to blowing over 0.05 BAC too, but at this point it's unclear if drug samples were taken.

You can see a nice slideshow of the damaged suburbia wrought by Gardiner's de trop black SS Commodore (what else would a cashed-up bogan drive?).

The reaction from his club was swift - a paltry $5000 fine (the maximum under the union agreement) and immediate - though not permanent - suspension:
[Eagles Chief Executive Terry] Nisbett said it was highly unlikely the club would renew his contract at the end of the year.

"Mike's let a lot of people down, more importantly himself because he was on track and things were going well for him," he said. (ABC Sport, 19/7/2006)

Other AFL clubs were also backing away, underlining Gardiner's prospects of signing on to the dole next year:
Yesterday, an overwhelming majority of AFL clubs suggested the 2003 All-Australian was unlikely to appear in their colours next season.

No club expressed even mild interest in the ruckman and what might be required to trade for his services. Most expressed reservations about his physical ability, apart from the off-field issues that have sabotaged what should have been a stellar career. (The Age, 18/7/2006)

However, we've seen this before. This is the Terry Nesbit who sent Gardiner packing to the B-Leagues earlier this year, only to let him back after a couple of months. Already club officials are preparing the ground for Gardiner's eventual reinstatement:
[Club Chairman Dalton] Gooding told 6PR's Liam Bartlett that the football club was unable to sack Gardiner, who had admitted drinking alcohol before crashing his car into two parked vehicles near his home in Scarborough on Monday night.

Mr Gooding said that under a collective bargaining agreement with the AFL Players' Association, Gardiner's contract could not be terminated.


"As a footballer, his career is not over,'' Mr Gooding said. "Whether he remains at the West Coast Eagles after the end of this season is remote, but certainly the door has not been firmly shut.


"But obviously we'd need a considerable improvement in Michael's attitude, which is disappointing in view of the fact that when he got sent back to Claremont (for two months earlier this season) he'd done everything right. (Perth Now, 19/7/2006)

So, I guess it's the standard modus operandi: they'll ride out the current storm and put him back in the side in about, oh, I dunno, a month? Let him get a few matches in during the finals and come back next year.

Really, the club needs to put their foot down and take a stand on this. If they don't, they're sending a signal that says "hey - being good at footy can make up for any number of sins." This will encourage worse and worse behaviour by the players, which - as role models - engenders deteriorating standards throughout society. We should not have to put up with feckless morons jeopardising our collective well-being so that a footy club can kick a few more goals.

West Coast Eagles, we urge you to be strong and keep this dickhead out of your team. For good.

*** UPDATE ***

Turns out Gardiner's been charged with drink-driving and will front up to the beak in Perth. Still, it's unlikely Gardiner will be out for good ... suitably cynical analysis from Murdoch's man Patrick Smith about how West Coast's ranking will over-ride all other considerations.

Is Michael Gardiner Depressed?

It's a little known fact that senior officials in AFL clubs are automatically conferred with medical qualifications, in recognition of their extraordinary capacities and responsibilities. For example, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, the West Coast Eagles were able to diagnose Gardiner via press release:
Of greatest concern is Michael's depressed mental state and the club intends to further assist him to ensure that he gets the appropriate counselling and off-field direction required to get his life in order. (Footy Goss, 18/7/2006)

This was backed up by club CEO Trevor Nisbett ("I think it is [depression] ..."), who will be guest starring in an upcoming episode of TV's House, MD, alongside Hugh Lawrie. We're all looking forward to that. Chairman Dalton Gooding had a bob each way with "Well, something is not right . Whether it's depression or a lack of discipline, or what." Wise man. Best to not rush to any conclusions.

And what of the man himself? Gardiner is quoted as saying "I'm not depressed. I wasn't depressed last night, I'm not depressed now and I'm staggered the club is going down that path." Sadly, refusal to face up to depression is a well-known, classic sign of depression. It's also a highly-reliable indicator of not being depressed. This dilemma has confounded some of the best medical brains in the business - but not Nisbett. The clarity that can only come from not being a trained psychiatrist is his diagnostic strength. Good on ya, Trev.

But Gardiner - depressed or otherwise - does raise a pertinent point. Why would the club be going down that path? What kind of new development or find could they be preparing the public for with such claims?

Apropos of nothing at all, did you know that some people into "party drugs" take (legal) anti-depressants at the same time? It's an interesting little fact. You see, drugs like methamphetamines and ecstasy work by stimulating the release of a neurotransmitter (="natural brain chemical") called serotonin. This is what gives you the high. However, the body quickly re-absorbs it, meaning your pill will wear off after about four hours.

Many anti-depressants are from a class called SSRIs (="Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors"). This class of drugs will - as you can guess from the name - stop your body from absorbing that serotonin that your pill just released. That means you have a bigger, longer-lasting high. Neat, hey? But of course, it's very dangerous and only for hard-core, drug-addled, extreme risk-takers.

Something to ponder, no?

Citations: The Age, 18/7/2006; ABC Sport, 19/7/2006; The Age, 18/7/2006; Perth Now, 19/7/2006; Footy Goss, 18/7/2006

Word Count: 1355

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Gay Fan Site Cops Footballer Hate

The omnipresent AFL shop steward, Brendan Gale, has instructed his winged monkeys to send a nastygram to a footy fan site, ordering them to shut down their gallery. What sort of a business turns on its customers like that? Only one staffed by a bunch of arrogant, hate-filled and moronic spoilt brats.

The AFL Players' Association head Brendan Gale has been harassing the fan site Gay Footy since April, regarding its use of photographs of AFL players in undress or near-undress.

Bizarrely, Gale defended the gallery:

"The site is quite an informative site actually, with chat and a various array of features," Mr Gale told ABC radio today.

"One of the features is a gay footy picture gallery, and there were hundreds of footballers in various states, a lot of typical training shots, some with tops off.

"These are images that have probably already been on the public record and in no way were they offensive or inappropriate." (SMH, 29/6/2006)

Then what's the problem, Brendan? Rather than just "coming out" and saying what they really think, they dug up a legal-eagle prepared to bat for their team:
[L]egal services consultant Bernie Shinners said the photos were "of significant concern" to players. "Photographs that show a player in a socially embarrassing position such as in the showers and in various states of undress are defamatory . . ." he said. (The Age, 28/6/2006)

What a load of tosh. Even corporate law firm Minter Ellison (who make buckets of cash out of running defamation cases - hello if you're reading!) poo-pooed the notion:
Minter Ellison lawyer Cindy Christian said Australian courts did not recognise a right to privacy, and the issue of players being defamed by the website was "very questionable". (Ibid.)

The website in question made it clear that the fansite wasn't implying the featured players were gay with a disclaimer stating "Inclusion in this site does not imply sexual preference."

The AFL Players' Association has been at pains to state it's nothing to do with being a gay website at all; no, it's just players' privacy they're trying to protect. Brendan even went out on a limb stating that:

The association would have "absolutely" taken the same action against a straight-themed website, he said. (Ibid.)

Really? So I suppose fansites were women post pictures of semi-nude footballers and go "wow, he's hot", "yeah, I'd love to lick his abs" etc would get sent threatening legal letters too? Sites like this one and this one. Sites were the participants have names like Kim and Lisa and Lizzy and Emily and Jessy. The existence of such female-oriented sites demonstrably invalidates Brendan's claim of being even-handed.

Here's what I reckon is actually going on.

Step 1. Slightly dim footballers turn up to commercial photo shoots and allow candid shots to promote themselves as sex objects. Presumably, turning on the chicks with a few beefcake shots will help their post-footy career, earn them money somehow ... or have more, err, immediate benefits.

Case in point: The Candyman Brodie Holland, famed for being a multimedia-tart with oiled-up, pouting specials like this:

Broad Appeal: Brodie Holland Flaunts His Money-Maker

Step 2. Said footballers stumble onto the internet (or, more likely, a clueful friend points it out to them) and they realise that it's not just women "enjoying themselves" with these images. Uh oh!

Step 3. Gay panic sets in. They feel under threat and worry that their more blokey mates - already suspicious of their facials, group bondings and the extensive grooming of your modern metrosexual - might deem them actively homosexual unless they stridently act to remove the images.

Step 4. They get their union to "do something". Lawyers are brought in, nasty legal threats made. Double-standard results (since the footballers are quite happy for women to ogle the photos). Publicity machine kicks in to minimise damage. Largely docile and gay-hostile footballing-public secretly (or publicly) agree with hypocrisy, making PR flaks' job very easy.

To add fuel to the fire, the legal geniuses at the AFL Players' Association also asked for a photograph of a fully-clothed Western Bulldogs player holding his daughter on the field to be taken down.

Is this really gay porn?
Source:Western Bulldogs gallery

What are they saying? That gay people seeking photos of big hunky young men are necessarily also pedophiles who will derive sexual enjoyment from seeing clothed little girls? There's some very sinister reasoning going on here.

It's no secret that the AFL is a deeply-homophobic environment, where bigotry and infantile attitudes are ingrained. There are currently over 500 professional footballers. Many thousands have gone through its ranks in the past few decades. None have discussed their homosexuality. Of course, it could be that there weren't any. Or - much more plausible - the ones that are there have been frightened or pressured into staying silent.

How will the league move forward when blatant gay-hating double-standards like this go unchallenged? Where is the outrage and condemnation? The players need to get wise and accept that their appeal spans all flavours of human sexuality, or they should stop shamelessly promoting it to make a buck.

You can't have your (beef)cake and eat it, boys. Just grow up and get over yourselves.

Citations: SMH, 29/6/2006; The Age, 28/6/2006; or publicly

Word Count: 907

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