It’s hard to feel sympathy for footballers.

Regardless of the code, when footballers are off the field, their number one pastime seems to be abusing and degrading the opposite sex. It isn’t right to make generalisations, nor are such generalisations entirely accurate. But still, I’m willing to contend that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

I don’t know Nick Riewoldt, but I certainly wouldn’t assume that he is a rapist or serial abuser of women. And by the same token, the ‘anonymous’ teenager at the centre of the kerfuffle has to be taken on her own cognizance; there is no way to know if she took the naked photos of Nick Del Santo, Riewoldt, et al or if she stole them. She may well have made elements of her story up. What is most remarkable about her, however, is the candour with which she has spoken when interviewed. She hasn’t tried to use the attention as a platform for any kind of performance; she has shown herself to be both frank and naive, a most persuasive combination.       

As a citizen, you’re observing the drama. And the most resonant stories are the poetic ones; the ones that capture the imagination. To this end, when you read stories about celebrities, you’re not relating to people. You’re relating to characters the way you would on a stage, like the figures that populate a play like King Lear or Twelfth Night. What’s different about the media is that it is populated by ‘real’ people. I don’t presume to make any kind of assessment of anyone who figures, but the media is constantly reporting these kinds of stories about footballers.  Just today, there is this;


in which “A model says she was punched in the face by a Brisbane Lions player during a scuffle with members of the team at a restaurant.”

Earlier in the year, we read about AFL player Andrew Lovett sacked from St Kilda on the basis of rape allegations.


 The internet provides a veritable grab-bag of sports stars-sex-and-violence-against-women stories. No code is more often reported than Rugby. Who could forget the Matthew Johns saga:


And my personal ‘favorite’, six players from the Cantebury Bulldogs Rugby League team gang-raping a woman in a Coffs Harbor resort pool in 2004. She was found shivering, in a foetal position, by the pool cleaner at 6AM the following morning.


 After the police dropped the charges due to insufficient evidence, the Canterbury Bulldogs’ CEO, Malcolm Noad, was quoted as saying: “Let’s believe that nothing happened at Coffs Harbour.”[What a fucking degenerate pig – I hope he googles himself and that particular epithet shows up on his search engine. Unfortunately, it’s about as far as I’m going to be able to get to sticking my finger in his eye.] 

It is difficult to equate a few naked photos with an ordeal like gang-rape, and I hardly think that in six months’ time, the trauma Riewoldt has undergone will register, if at all. I find it hard to believe that it won’t, in fact, help his batting average when he goes out clubbing. That aside, if you look at the story from the perspective of the ‘average’ citizen, it has the arc of a great drama in that it is lit by a particularly piquant irony; look at all the trouble one feisty teenage girl can cause with a camera and a few texts.

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