So, another football season has come and gone. Hooray. Oh I used to follow football, a bit, when I was younger, managed to get excited when “my” teams won, became briefly downhearted when they didn’t. Even went to a game or two of the WANFL (shows how old I am) in Perth as a teenager. But I began to lose interest when the codes became professional. When the WA and SA leagues were relegated to amateur hour and the AFL took over with artificial teams like the Eagles and Crows being created (back in the good old days, teams were actually based in a district, and were referred to accordingly, this creation of artificial teams with idiotic non-location based “names” was another turn-off). Similarly in Rugby League as the Broncos and Raiders emerged. I started to find I had little interest in who won these artificial contests and indeed could barely remember who had won the competitions the previous year.
But mainly I suppose the rise and rise of millionaire football players was the turn off. Always discussion during the season, and outside the season, about footballers behaving badly. Every week or two some footballer will not only get drunk out of his brain but emerge from a nightclub or pub at 5am to let the world, and the local police force, know that he is drunk out of his brain by committing various unacceptable acts. Sports commentators, presumably on the basis that it’s best not to throw the first stone never knowing whose glasshouse is in the way, generally don’t condemn the acts as such. Men are men after all, and a bit of violence is only to be expected – on and off the field. No the criticism is always along the lines that these people are “role models” for the young. Indeed I heard one commentator say in effect that the reason why footballers had bank accounts bigger than the budgets of some small countries was not because they played football but because they were being paid to be role models, so they weren’t earning their pay when they appeared, behaving badly, on CCTV cameras outside nightclubs.
Now it has never occurred to me to have a footballer as a role model, so I would join in the hysterical laughter from CEOs of football clubs (who pay millions, and juggle salary caps, for one reason, and one reason only – to win premierships) when that statement was made. But there is anyway a curiously restricted view of what a role model is. For sports commentators a role model is purely a negative thing – a footballer should avoid doing drugs, getting drunk in public, abusing women. Now I guess this is fine as far as it goes, but since there must be 21, 999,000 people, including me, who also don’t do those things, I am not sure exactly how a footballer not doing them either qualifies for role modelhood.
It is hard to imagine, conversely, any positive aspects of being a role model that a footballer can do. The only reason these guys are in the public eye is that they have an ability to catch and kick a football. In all other respects they are no different to the average guy in the pub on a Friday night, or walking down the street on a Monday morning. So why would you choose (unless you wanted to be a footballer) a footballer as a role model for, well, life I suppose? If I was advising young people as to who they could look to as role models for their future life I might advise them to consider nurses, teachers, police officers, scientists, soldiers, aged care workers, conservationists, farmers, emergency workers, public servants. If they used those people as role models I don’t think we would need to call on footballers to fill the, er, role.
Unless you wanted to be a footballer and earn far more money than any of those good people I have mentioned.