Responsibility in the Modern Age

dane swan assault

You’ve read it all this week following Friday’s astonishing comeback by Essendon in Perth against the AFL’s own version of a Boa Constrictor, the Fremantle Dockers. It was a tough week for those at Windy Hill, and they were able to deal with the adversity and produce a remarkable performance.

You know what? I’m sick of reading stuff like that in that context. And not just because of my bordering-on-pathological distaste for anything associated with the Essendon Footy Club.

A number of the players have talked about what they went through last week, and you could be confused into thinking you were talking to a victim, or someone who suffered some misfortune for which they had no control over. And this is simply not true – the adversity the Essendon Football Club finds itself in it entirely the creation of the Essendon Football Club.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of their problems, they hired a unaccredited sports scientist without a background check and then followed his instruction, even when they were contrary to the instructions of the club doctor, a man with decades of practical experience and a degree in his field.

By that is beside my point. My point is more and more, sporting people talk about going through adversity without even acknowledging they were the sole authors of their adversity.

Take Dane Swan, who this week plays his 200th game for Collingwood. As is usual for a big milestone, he got a profile piece in The Age today on his journey through the sometimes “horrible world” of being an AFL footballer.

Swan was nearly delisted in 2005. Here’s how he describes the time:

“‘I got into a little bit of trouble off the field, and that’s a negative in one way, but I think that was probably the thing that really kick-started my career.”

Well, I’m glad it only took getting three-quarters cut with some mates and beating the living suitcase out of a cleaner at Federation Square to turn his football around.

Sporting stars live in a different world now, where a psychology has been developed in order to assist players to deal with difficult times and keep performing no matter what happens. They can compartmentalise aspects of their lives, except when connecting them can lead to even greater levels of performance. Unfortunately, it leads to selfish statements like Swan’s one above. Something that was not just a negative, but a criminal action, can be seen as the start of something much more positive than the player deserved, which may very well just have been a short stint in prison.

It also takes away from real moments of adversity, such as the difficulties some players have gone through with family members suffering illnesses.

So, I don’t want to hear how hard it was for Swan, because it was probably harder for the other bloke, who doesn’t have a lucrative career to fall back on.

I don’t want to hear how hard it was for Tiger Woods, a man worth many tens of millions of dollars, when his marriage broke up solely because of his behaviour.

And I don’t want to hear how hard a week it was for Essendon, because it would not have been so hard if only they had behaved differently.

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