Let me start this article off by saying I am not a politically correct person.*
I despise the need to tread so finely around people’s delicate sensibilities in this ridiculous age we live in, but the times they are a-changin’ and I celebrate David Pocock for the stand he made against the Waratahs. It amazes me that a strong contingent of the media, and even some of my mates, don’t agree. Are we really that backward?
Greg Martin said last week that Pocock would never captain the Wallabies again. He said that the incident had fractured the game between “clear-thinking, modern-thinking footballers who will support David Pocock and the more old school, hard heads who will say that was a disgrace he shouldn’t have done that.”
Well if that is the case, good. Would the old school hard heads now kindly stand down, retire to their “gentlemen’s” clubs with the Donald Sterlings of this world and leave the game to those clear-thinking folk to guide it competently through the modern age.
Whether you like it or not, the F-word is the new N-word, and if Jaques Potgieter had used the N-word instead, I guarantee we would not be having this debate.
Even Potgieter realised he crossed the line and ‘fessed up and apologised. Fair play to him, that took guts. He even went to a training session with gay rugby union club Sydney Convicts, where he no doubt had a few eye opening conversations on the effect the word ‘faggot’ can have on some gay men.**
Given he is probably the only Waratah possessing a strong South African accent, there’s a good chance Pocock knew full well it was he who said it. This is a key point that Pocock’s critics are happy to ignore. Pocock did not point the finger directly at Potgieter, he just made a general complaint. That is not dobbing, as Rebecca Wilson would like you to believe, it is anything but.
It was actually Rebecca Wilson’s article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph that inspired me to write this piece. I thought the issue had been laid to rest. Pocock and Potgieter were back to playing footy. We had all moved on. But Wilson’s article filled me such a stomach churning rage that I couldn’t resist.
Wilson is obviously of the school of thought that what happens on the field stays on the field. A long sacrosanct and unwritten law that is basically an excuse for thugs to do whatever the hell they like and expect the bloke who got stretchered off unconscious not to arc up when he awakens.
I for one am 50/50 on this rule. I acknowledge that things are said and done in the heat of the moment, but I have seen too many blokes use it as an excuse to behave like absolute scumbags on the paddock and hide behind it after a game.
Wilson accused Pocock of setting a dangerous precedent and even inferred that he is hypocritical for not complaining about references to female genitalia and anti-female barbs. In this, as in so much else, she has erred. Pocock’s reasoning for speaking out, and has been for some time, is that there could be a guy on the field struggling to accept his sexuality and the usage of aggressive terms like “faggot” are hardly going to encourage him to embrace himself and expect acceptance from his peers.
It would be insanely hypocritical for Pocock to say this off the field and then not back it up on it. There might be a bloke on the field struggling to deal with Jaques Potgieter actually messing about with his wife’s genitalia, but that’s not for Pocock, or anyone but those two and his wife to sort out.
Wilson said, “When the flanker heard the taunts last weekend, he was engaged in a bitter on-field battle with a clearly superior team, frustrated by the Brumbies’ lack of form against a gun opposition.” She is clearly inferring here that it was sour grapes. I see a clear-thinking (there it is again) individual who is able to keep his cool in the heat of battle. I see a leader, and someone I want to lead our country against the All Blacks in a World Cup final.
I had an incident in a nightclub recently where I thought a high profile footballer, with well known behavioural issues, was, as Vince Vaughn would say, “eye-fucking the shit out of me.” Real sleazy shit. I felt positively violated by his gaze. Chances are, this was not the case. I had imbibed a fair bit of delicious life-affirming whiskey by this stage and he was probably more concerned for my well-being (or his). But it got me thinking – it would make so much sense.
We always wonder why these guys, who seemingly have it all, continually screw things up and risk everything for another night out. They are undoubtedly young men with inner-demons (for lack of a better term) and statistically there are gay men running around in the top levels of each code. Living with that secret and being surrounded by people who make consistent disparaging remarks about it, even in jest, could not be easy. I imagine the urge to act out would be overwhelming at times.***
Yet Wilson would prefer we just ignore these problems. It’s just the way it is. Suck it up and get on with it. Her comparison to her own experience in the workplace as a woman is fair, but her suggestion that one is best to just ignore it and get on with the job must have even the most apathetic feminists pulling their hair out.
If people don’t stand up and say something, things will never change. And to those saying Pocock should just shut up and play footy, maybe you should just shut up and watch it.
By Alasdair McClintock
* If you think that, you can go fist yourself.
** Watch the poker scene from Episode 2, Season 1, of “Louie,” if you would like an insight.
*** I’m not saying every footballer with behavioural issues is a closet homosexual, but I will go as far to say that they probably are.