i won’t dispute the fact ben cousins is a phenomenal football player. i won’t argue he didn’t have a drug problem or drugs, no matter how recreational, didn’t affect his game – be that for good or bad. my problem doesn’t lie with him, or even with the way this issue was handled by the afl. my problem lies with the media.
unfortunately, the attention given to ben cousins and his drug debarcle was, in its plainest form, embellished by the media and their cult following – us. (we sucked it dry, couldn’t wait for his next move, ready with axes to chop him down again.) this was only heightened again last week when a documentary was aired spanning two nights titled “such is life.” to me, this is a ludicrous title. cousins sports a tattoo with these words blazoned across his abdomen, so i can understand the reference to him. however, the media is now associating ben cousins with a person embedded in australian history with his famous last words. i don’t feel it appropriate that it is now implied cousins shares a similar legend to australian outlaw hero ned kelly. i blatantly do not think the life of a drug addicted footballer should be at all compared to that of an australian legend.
you’d be hard pressed finding an australian who doesn’t know the story of ben cousins over the past couple of years. the media exhausted his life in front of an audience of 25 million voyeuristic individuals drooling for more: from his initial outing to the way the afl handled the problem, to his subsequent “rise” again to stardom and success, finally going out on a high last weekend on the shoulders of his teammates…as though he were worthy of all that became of him. and, in some ways, i guess he is. he saw the light and instead of giving up, he soldiered on. and, i do feel he should be applauded for that. he veered right back on the straight and narrow.
however, what i don’t feel to be right is how he has been publicly shamed for his actions. i do not condone what he has done or the embarrassment caused to himself and his family. in fact, i think he’s a right royal idiot. but, i blame the media. (perhaps he would have recovered quicker if the afl had kept the information under wraps and allowed him the space needed for rehabilitation. but, we’ll never know.) he has been scorned, abused and made an example of, all at the cost of his privacy. the media created a monster – what a disastrous role model he is for today’s children. i don’t think, at the start of his career, cousins had a conscious thought: i can’t wait to start my football career so i can be a role model for children around australia. unfortunately, he needed to think like that and take some responsibility for his actions. that said, pre-internet, pre-tv, pre communication other than a 20 page newspaper, and you’d never know any of his personal life.
my dad argued: “i had baseball cards with my favourite players on them when i was a kid. i wanted to be like them.” but the difference is no one knew anything about these athletes apart from their name, batting average and the team they played for. did they have a divorce? did they drink too much on the weekend? did they steal an apple as a child? no one knew. and who cares? these personal facts do not affect the playing ability or success of an athlete. unfortunately for cousins, the media thought it did. and fortunately for the media, australians lapped it up.
the alf dealt with the issue by suspending cousins indefinitely. good move. the media dealt with the issue be covering his every move. he couldn’t escape. now, they have glamourised his habit by creating a success story from it. i understand there is success involved, but this has gone on too long. what’s next? plus, the media has done a complete one eighty. cutting him down, commending his rise…why should we still care?
congratulations ben cousins, you’re now clean, you’ll be in the history books for your footy efforts and you’ve set a new standard for drug testing in the afl. but, you were a drug addict. and you were a role model, whether you liked it or not. and now you have to deal with the fact that everyone knows everything about you…good one media; reporting on super important things. our lives have been consumed by something so trivial, it isn’t worth knowing. may ben cousins rest in retirement.