Wayne Carey: The Truth Hurts

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I went into this book hoping for a Raging Bull story (I’m referring, of course, to Martin Scorsese’s film about the boxer, Jake La Motta). That said, I was expecting a fairly blunt and simplistic tool designed to resuscitate Wayne’s media career. I was disappointed on the one hand, confirmed on the other, but nonetheless, held in the grip of the tale.

It’s got the hallmarks of an archetypical story: a brilliant athlete, possibly the best of all time, reaches the lofty heights of glory and public opinion. The world is his oyster, and then, in the words of Joe Pesci in Casino, he “went and fucked it all up.”

It’s hard to make out the man behind the key strokes; it’s written in Wayne’s voice, presumably thrown by his ghost-writer, Charles Happell. His childhood as a dirt-poor kid in a home fraught by a nut-case despot of a father is harrowing, and, only the hardest heart wouldn’t be taken on-side.

“Kevin Carey, known as ‘the hardest man in the Riverina’ commanded respect at home the same way he did in the pub. One example of his paternal advice was that when you’re fighting, you should hold your bottom lip out to catch the blood which streams from the cuts in your face. You can then spit this into the face of your opponent when the opportunity arises.”

– p.9

The sophistication of moral design emerges as the story proceeds, no doubt the strategy for which Happell was employed. Basically, it goes like this: Wayne was the product of a nightmarish domestic situation. He was surrounded by booze and violence while growing up and the only sanctuary for him was ‘footy’.

866643-wayne-careyAs his football career progressed, success, adulation and cashola made it even harder for him to cope and he came to use alcohol as a crutch. As things began to unravel, he added drugs to the mix.

Wayne has now seen the light and takes responsibility for things he did, even though most of them (if not all of them) were not what they appeared, weren’t as bad as they appeared, and whatever is left over, well, he was so out of it he doesn’t remember.

Some of it is so ridiculous, it’s awesome. Have a listen to this:

“As we were strolling along, a guy walked past with a few of his mates and grabbed this girl I knew on the arse.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘You shouldn’t do that’.

-p.81

Wayne didn’t use drugs until he had split from his wife Sally and finished playing football (illegal drugs, i.e. cocaine, anyway), and only cheated on her so ruthlessly because he was trying to make her leave him. In the end, he left her – 8 weeks after the birth of their daughter – because she was too good a person to do the deed.

***

Then he took up with Kate Nielsen. At this point, the story takes a turn for the significantly worse. Wayne began ‘dabbling’ with cocaine round this time and his behaviour deteriorated accordingly.

512855--wayne-carey-and-kate-neilson-at-home-in-the-redland-6993167-jpgIn fact, the high point of sympathy (for me) came after he was arrested by four Miami police officers while sleeping in his hotel room. When he fought back, they arrested and jailed him.

Being in jail in nothing but your underpants, surrounded by drug dealers, pimps, and other serious crims, would almost scare them all the way off you. Wayne says he was in tears several times, and that is a pretty reasonable response. Whether he’s a bad guy or no, at that point, I believed that he had clearly reached his nadir.

But then, he got back to Australia and, courtesy of the Bolivian marching powder, found himself punching on with the Melbourne police at his Port Melbourne apartment after he called them. It seemed there was no lowest point. He just kept going down.

962775-wayne-carey-arrestedIf nothing else, The Truth Hurts is a cracking read. It’s got all kinds of fascinating aspects, and by the end of it, even if he hadn’t convinced me of everything from his perspective, he’d certainly cast some long shadows of doubt.

…Until I started googling to see what else I could find. Wayne asked Kate Nielsen to marry him, but their engagement was broken off after she caught him cheating on her. Then, he was busted trying to enter Barwon Prison with cocaine on his clothes (granted, this doesn’t prove he was using; it was only on his clothes).

***

He did the Enough Rope interview with Andrew Denton in March 2008 because it wasn’t a paid gig and felt he needed to ‘set the record straight’. On reflection, Wayne says he wasn’t in the best frame of mind to discuss the “catastrophic mistakes” he’d made, and had not been as forthright or articulate in his answers as he should have been. As a result, he

“…Wasn’t too happy with how it had gone. To this day I haven’t watched a replay of the show, nor am I interested in watching it.”

– p.347

(The transcript of the interview can be read here.)

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s2201719.htm

Denton chases him down over omissions and evasions like a hunting dog after a fox. Finally, he stops hearts with the following question, in regard to Carey hitting Nielsen in the face with a wine glass:

Now I’ve read your account about what happened that night in Miami in October last year and to be honest it baffled me, it involved the wine glass, which I’ve brought because I’d like you to try and explain to me how it was, if you can demonstrate to me, how it was that you ended up cutting Kate’s face with a wine glass?”

Wayne’s response was as follows:

“If the, like I said, whether the glass broke and the end consequence was that Kate got a cut lip and I did that, and it was and it’s unacceptable.”

On the subject of Miami, Wayne told Denton:

“Once again I can’t remember, everything was a blur, I remember that they were around me, I was half asleep, I remember them you know going to grab me and I just remember trying to not allow them to throw me on the ground.”


DENTON: “Is it possible they’re right?”


CAREY: “No. I don’t think so. I definitely didn’t kick anyone and I definitely didn’t elbow anyone.”

The arresting officer, Bill Schwarz, told a different story.

Miami Police Lieutenant Bill Schwartz said Carey was a “mess” and should have left his aggression on the football field.  Instead he used “his famous foot” to kick an officer in the mouth.


“It looks as though he used his wine glass to try to knock out his girlfriend, his foot and elbow to try to knock out some cops and his head to try to knock out a police car,”  Lt Schwartz  said. 
He said the officers did not know who Carey was.
”To us, he was just another thug.’

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/carey-a-drunken-thug-us-police/story-e6frf7jo-1111115433984

***

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The documentary film Tyson chooses a different path through strikingly similar territory. It turns out that James Toback, a critically well-regarded filmmaker of the seventies, is actually a good friend of Iron Mike’s.

If you want to get Shakespearean about it (and it’s my blog, so I do,) Mike’s fatal flaw was his aggression. It made him a champion in the ring, and completely incapable of functioning outside it.

Ironically, the focus on Tyson’s aggression as an athlete redeems him significantly; it forces us to see him as a sportsman covered in glory, first and foremost. The doco uses this as a platform to conclusively explain how he became a criminal and social disaster afterwards.

Tyson’s athletic success is coupled with footage of a young, awkward, obviously introverted man interviewed on television by hostile and adversarial interviewers. This footage throws into sharp relief the limitations of a young man who, had he not been renowned for his exceptional athletic gifts, would more than likely have been a soft, shy street-kid who turned to violence and ended up in the penitentiary much sooner, for a lot longer.

Mike – and Toback – had the advantage of seeking redemption after most of the ‘bad’ press had subsided while The Truth Hurts was working against the tide of it. In fact, according to even his former employers, the Kangaroos, Wayne has passed into infamy:

NORTH Melbourne coach Brad Scott says Wayne Carey will be stigmatised for the rest of his life for his treatment of women.

The comments were made in a new anti-violence training DVD being used as the AFL’s latest training tool on improving player attitudes towards violence against women.

Scott did not mention Carey by name but referred to one of the greatest players the game had seen.

“We’re talking about arguably the greatest player ever to play for this football club, arguably ever to play, yet he still has this stigma of what he’s done in the past and that stigma will stick with him for life.

“Whether you think that’s fortunate or unfortunate it’s a fact,” Scott said.

Carey refused to comment when contacted by the Herald Sun yesterday.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/brad-scott-says-wayne-carey-will-be-stigmatised-for-the-rest-of-his-life-for-treatment-of-women/story-fn7x8me2-1226334020808

***

Those of us who have seen Wayne play, or seen his apology for groping the woman in King Street, know his fatal flaw to be  something else. In fact, the biography works to play down his aggression wherever possible, and regularly asserts what a shy kid he was and how his sensitivity, if anything, was the seat of his aggression.

Anyone who saw him on The Footy Show in 2004 with former team mate and (former) best friend Anthony Stevens, would have seen a different quality; a quality as distinctive as a stripe running all the way down his back.

Glenn Archer confronts Wayne Carey

Stevens and Carey sought to auction their premiership jumpers to raise money for a muscular dystrophy charity. Stevens seemed to be trembling on the edge of tears, but Carey was reserved, staring down on everyone with a kind of regal arrogance.

He reasserted his desire to hit Jason Akermanis, who had threatened to resign from the Brisbane Bears had Carey been drafted in the wake of the Kellie Stevens barbeque scandal. Sam Newman demanded to know why the media had given Carey such a hard time if in fact, ‘nothing had happened’. Carey remained aggressive and defiant. His eyes were shining with hate.

You can’t know a person by watching them on television. But the most watchable, indeed, those who are referred to as ‘personalities’, create the impression that you can. In a perverse way, Carey did that unintentionally.

He created the impression of a man who wasn’t very smart, but had a great talent for kicking a pigskin ball. It made him a lot of money, and those things reinforced his belief that he was superior to everyone around him.

That superiority gave him the right to take whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He exercised that right ruthlessly, whether it was groping a stranger on a public street, or having sex with his best friend’s wife in a toilet at a team barbeque.

He was so superior, in fact, he didn’t even have to conceal that belief and asserted it whenever it suited him, regardless of who was watching. The danger came when he was arrested for crimes of violence, including violence against women. With that came the danger that the public would start switching off. For good.

Now, he’s had his teeth capped, his hair regrown and his face has been stretched tightly across his head and appears as a commentator on Channel Ten’s The Game Plan. When I googled the show, his blurb came up with a list of his playing credentials but no mention of any scandal, whatsoever.

Wayne Carey.I had wanted to read The Truth Hurts as soon as it came out. At the time however, I turned it over in an airport bookstore and balked at the price; $35 for a book about a recidivist footballer. I bought it a month ago in a book discount center. There was a whole Wall of Wayne. It was the day after he was busted with the cocaine on his suit when trying to enter Barwon Prison. It cost me five dollars.

***

I read The Truth Hurts because I thought it was a story that would appeal to me; put simply, masculinity expressed and defined through sport, hard work paying dividends, the path that talent chooses. And, of course, there’s always the car-crash factor of a spectacular fall from grace, all made more poignant by the fact it was an Australian story.

Most people emerge from books or films with their own understanding of what was communicated, or how it spoke to them, depending on how they assemble the material presented. Let’s face it; hardly anyone reads in terms of exactly what the author intended – such a reading is hardly worth your time.

It’s difficult to read The Truth Hurts as a tragedy, for a couple of reasons. One, the fatal flaw is present only in its absence, and consequently, the book doesn’t provide catharsis from watching the hero’s suffering. Wayne never really falls, and if you read the newspaper headlines that parallel the events of the book (and its aftermath), you don’t see much more than a shady figure gliding from one malignant act to the next.

While googling, I found the incident which concluded the story for me. It isn’t in the book, and it means I’m reading broadly, using my imagination to connect disparate continents of ‘fact’.

Part of what really drew me into the story was Wayne’s experience of a tyrannical father. The ultimate failure which I have dreaded my whole life is to have turned into mine; a coward and a bully, not to mention an emotionally unpredictable, unstable lunatic.

I believed that was the worst thing that could happen. However, I think there is something else as bad, possibly worse, and it happened to Wayne.

After their separation in the 1970s, Carey Sr moved from the family home in Wagga Wagga, NSW, to Adelaide with three of their five children: Wayne, Sammy and Karen.
 He said his son had a weakness for women and alcohol, and this was his undoing. “It’s the piss and his dick,” he said.
 Carey Sr attacked Wayne’s decision to speak publicly about the family’s troubled past, and vowed to sell his story.


“He’s going for sympathy. I don’t give a f—. I’ll just come out with the truth.”
 He said he had been drinking “all my life” but insisted he did not have a drinking problem.
 Carey Sr threatened to consult lawyers over the Enough Rope interview, in which he expects to be accused of inflicting violence upon his family.
 “Whatever he (interviewer Andrew Denton) comes out with, I’ll sue the pants off him,” he said.
 “It is bull—-. It will all be bull—-.”

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/carey-to-plead-not-guilty-in-us/story-e6frf7kx-1111115927953

For the devil to speak the ultimate, vulgar truth of you and to speak it for all the world to hear; it’s a failure to make you shudder.

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2 Responses to “Wayne Carey: The Truth Hurts”

  1. Kentus_Maximus Says:

    Sounds like an interesting read that could have been a lot more interesting had they developed the story of the man and not necessarily the incidents that led to his demise…

  2. Julie Hock Says:

    A well written and interesting article, but my conclusion is that we are nevertheless responsible for our actions regardless of past influences and experiences. A damaged person must still face up to the effect his/her behaviour has on other people – a reason maybe but not an excuse.

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