Cheer Up, Shane Watson

I know that people carry themselves in different ways and you shouldn’t judge people on their appearances because you don’t know their back-story, but with Shane Watson it’s different.

Put simply, his on-field – and off-field, to be fair – body language is the worst I’ve ever seen of a professional sportsman. He makes poor Gil from the Simpsons look like fucking Richard Simmons on MDMA. He makes me want to email him links to positive self-improvement websites, or something. Because something’s got to be wrong, right?

But there isn’t. This is just how he acts.

I can’t understand how this can happen. How can someone who has been invested in so heavily by the Australian Institute of Sport and Cricket Australia, through all his injuries and form slumps, feel as if he’s been hard done by? What is going on in his head?

Watson has been playing international cricket since 2002, which means he’s been playing for Australia since the age of 21. He struggled to consistently crack the Australian side during the glorious mid-2000s era, where Andrew Symonds (rightfully) usurped him as the number one choice all-rounder.

“I don’t need MDMA to party!”

But now he is the vice captain of the Australian cricket team – and has even captained a test match, despite his flat refusal to do a basic homework task assigned for the entire team following a loss in India. He has made literally millions of dollars playing in the Indian Premier League, let’s not forget that. In fact, according to Forbes, Watson is the highest paid cricketer outside of India, earning over US$5.9 million in 2012.

He is also recently married and just became a father for the first time. His wife is a rather attractive Fox Sports News presenter, so he’s got that going for him as well.

So with all this in mind, I really struggle to understand how he manages to consistently look like he hates life.

I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, but I’ve heard it referenced so many times by people that I feel as if I have. Gladwell explains how Bill Gates was first introduced to computers in 1968, a time when barely anyone had such access to that technology, and then spent countless hours teaching himself how to program computers.

Gladwell also talks in his book of the ‘10,000 hour rule’, in which he – borrowing an existing theory by some academic called Anders Ericsson – says that to become truly “great” at anything, one must put in a certain amount of time (at least 10,000 hours).

Basically, Gates had all the elements in his favour to become as successful as he could have been in the computer industry – and he put in the required 10,000 hours to achieve greatness.

Gates, a true ‘outlier’

You could make the case that Shane Watson somewhat fits Gladwell’s description of an outlier. As a youth, he would have put in the required 10,000 hours to become recognised by the AIS and given a full scholarship. He was also in his prime at the time the IPL came about, meaning he was perfectly positioned to become an instant millionaire – which he did. Now, he’s lucky that Australia lacks the depth of talent to necessitate his axing from the side, to the point where he is almost indispensable as test vice-captain.

But the key difference with Shane Watson is that despite his boundless opportunities, he has failed to achieve anywhere near “greatness.”

Therefore he is a different kind of outlier.

He is an outlier in terms of his technique, which despite years of professional coaching and financial/human resources he has failed to master.

He is an outlier in terms of his personality and body language, in that amid a team of individuals who are clearly happy to be there, he acts as if Cricket Australia held a gun to his head in the dressing-room and told him to “get out there or I’ll kill your mother.”

“I hate my job”

I don’t understand how someone who has been earmarked for so long as a long-term Australian cricketer, who has had every opportunity in the world despite barely living up to one-tenth of his talent, who has a stable home life and a wealth of riches, can just mope around like a moody, privileged teenager on a CityRail train, blocking out the world by listening to Paramore through their expensive Beats By Dre headphones.

I’ve captained cricket teams in the past and occasionally there will be someone with an attitude problem; someone who will not take kindly to being sent to fine leg or being taken out of the attack. But that’s different, obviously, because it’s a) amateur sport; b) maybe they don’t really give a fuck; c) perhaps they’ve got real-life ‘off the field’ shit to deal with.

But if you’re playing for Australia, representing your country, and being paid millions to do it, by choice, I think the viewing public deserves to see you at least pretending to enjoy yourself. The rest of us would gladly give up our office jobs to play a bit of cricket every now and then. Shit, we’d probably even take a pay cut to do so.

Also, if you looked like you were a good bloke, then perhaps people would give you less of a hard time? Just a thought.

By Dave Edwards

Rugby League And Existentialism Do Not Mix Well

Ever had a day where you just couldn’t be fucked? The Canberra Raiders did, yesterday.

Being a rugby league player must be a terrible existence. If I ever feel like I “can’t be fucked,” which is increasingly often, I can always just stay in bed and watch countless episodes of whatever-HBO-TV-series-is-currently-the-most-critically-acclaimed. I can call in a fake sick day at work; I can go to an inner west cafe and read street press mags like I’m John Cusack and it’s a rainy day in Portland, or something.

But a rugby league player can’t just “not give a fuck” on game day. Despite how they’re feeling, they must rid themselves of all self-doubt/ennui/existentialism and put in 110% (100% is not enough, this has already been clearly established) to appease their fans and critics alike, for they will surely be judged on their results. They have a team – A TEAM! – of doctors, nutritionists, trainers, physios, coaches and general staffers – not to mention a board of directors – whose sheer livelihoods depend on how these 17 players perform. That’s a lot of fucking pressure.

All that we ask, as fans, is that a team “tries their heart out,” for supporters are emotionally – and often financially, be it as club members or gambling drones – invested in the team’s success. But I get it, sometimes you just don’t feel like trying. It’s the human condition. Rugby league players are not robots; some even have emotions and feelings. You’d be surprised.

“Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?”

I can have a shit day at work and no one really notices – or gives a shit – that I’m actually dying inside. And that’s great; I thrive on that lack of dependence at the moment. The Danny Weidlers and Paul Kents of this world have no interest in my daily productivity – and that’s how I’d like to keep it, although Weidler does have sources in strange places.

What’s more, is that I can have a shit day/week/year and embark upon a series of ill-advised benders – and no one’s going to step in and sanction me for doing so. Sure, some friends and family may gently inquire whether this is the right course of action for me to be taking at this stage in my life, but for the most part I’m free to ride this violent, self-loathing downhill spiral for as long as need be.

A rugby league player can’t do this. It would interfere with their strict nutritional plan and probably incur some kind of club penalty/stern disapproval from the “leadership group.” And that’s why I could never be a rugby league player; my mind would constantly be asking “why the fuck am I participating in this zero-sum game?”

68-4 is a pretty heinous scoreline in anyone’s language. But cut the Raiders some slack. Sometimes you just can’t be fucked, eh?

By Dave Edwards