Sportspeople should know their limitations
21 October 2022
Clint Eastwood, in the character of Inspector ‘Dirty’ Harry Callaghan, delivered what may well be one of the most underrated lines in film history in the 1973 classic Magnum Force: ‘A man’s got to know his limitations.’
It is sage advice, all too often ignored.
Sporting figures and organisations too often see themselves as political figures who take it upon themselves to meddle in public policy and worse, our private opinions.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, but the problem with these sportspeople is that by telling us what to think, they forget that we watch them not for their opinions, but for their apparent sporting talent. More often than not, they are ill-informed. They forget their limitations.
It’s also easy to lecture and hector people when you earn in a month what most hard-working people who watch you probably wouldn’t earn in a lifetime. Sports people have no issues putting food on the table, therefore in most cases when they play politics, they are well outside their league.
In Italy, when footballers earning millions of euros a year aren’t playing all that well, or getting too much media attention, the fans push back by yelling at them ‘Vai a lavorare!’ – Get a real job!
Being from Western Australia, I would bet any money that I know more about the Hancock family than any pampered, self-righteous sportsperson from the east.
It is well understood in WA business circles that, at the time of his death, Hancock Prospecting was not in the best financial shape. There was particular concern over the Roy Hill mining tenements. Hancock’s daughter, Gina Rinehart, who took over Hancock Prospecting after her father’s death, was urged to abandon the project. Notably, all professional advice at the time insisted that the tenements were of little value. Mrs Rinehart went against that advice and turned the company around. Roy Hill is now a first-class major iron ore mine, creating jobs both directly and indirectly, for thousands of people.
However, simply because one rookie player, Donnell Wallam, objected to wearing the logo of Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, reportedly because of comments her father made about Indigenous people 38 years ago, Netball Australia is facing a Woke player revolt.
Netball is $7 million in debt, meaning Mrs Rinehart’s $15 million would go a long way – as have the many millions she has invested in sport over the years that has, among other things, kept Swimming Australia afloat, (not to mention her great philanthropic work through her charity, the Georgina Hope Foundation).
Wallam is a rookie. She should concentrate on cementing her place in the team – and there may not be a team at all if she doesn’t want Mrs Rinehart’s sponsorship. No more international sporting trips for her. No glossy magazine stories. Maybe then she would have to get a real job…?
Oh, and how many people has she employed in her lifetime?
Another man who doesn’t know his limitations is part-time cricketer, and full time virtue signaller, Pat Cummins.
On Tuesday it was reported that Cricket Australia was tearing up a $40 million sponsorship deal with Alinta Energy.
The agreement fell over after Test Captain Pat Cummins confronted Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley because Alinta burns coal to light homes and power businesses.
As James Morrow wrote in the Daily Telegraph, note that Cummins didn’t suggest that Cricket Australia stop jetting its players around the world to swing a bat or give up playing day/night games under the lights.
And never mind that those evening matches may soon become a lot harder to organise anyway, given Alinta CEO Jeff Dimery’s warnings that the rush to green power is going to cause ‘devastating’ energy price rises.
Now a bunch of pampered Australian Rules footballers are the latest to step outside their area of competence by joining the demands for an end to fossil fuel sponsorship of sporting clubs, with several Fremantle Dockers players calling on their team to cut its ties with oil and gas giant Woodside, saying ‘it did not align with the club’s values’.
Isn’t the only ‘value’ in sport to win, and to do so playing well and fairly?
If not, I have a suggestion to help players understand ‘values’. Since they don’t want companies that employ thousands of people, many of whom pay good money for season tickets to watch them kick a pigskin full of wind, paying their inflated wages, let’s go back to the semi-professional days when players combined having real jobs with playing sport on the weekend? They might then learn a thing or two, become better informed, and realise their pontificating is ill-founded, not to mention jarring.
Without corporate sponsorship, you cannot have professional sport. Go woke, go broke.
The other problem with virtue signalling in sport is that it can backfire.
When the Wallabies took to the field against England earlier in Sydney, they sang the Australian National Anthem in the Indigenous language of the area, the Yugambeh language. However, this could be seen as exclusion rather than inclusion, since there are over 300 Indigenous languages in Australia.
As it turned out, the Wallabies lost the match, convincingly, bringing a deeper meaning to go woke, go broke.
As Katherine Deves, the Australian campaigner to Save Women’s Sports said, many people ‘do not want to get involved in these political movements and just want to play football’. Indeed, professional sport should be an escape from politics and partisan causes, not a vehicle to promote them.
The words of ‘Dirty’ Harry Callaghan are more relevant now than ever.
Dr Rocco Loiacono is a legal academic, writer and translator