In Defense of Mia Freedman… and Cadel!

After three weeks of a 2am bedtimes I was a little slow to catch the hysteria that whipped up after Mia Freedman appeared on the today show and had this reaction to Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France.

“I’m the opposite of fired up. I’m fired down. I just don’t care.”.

“The way Australian sportspeople are revered as heroes and worshipped above every other profession.”.

Well that and a few other comments by Freedman shared with Karl Stefanovic on the Today Show had people going out of their minds. So much so they bombarded Freedman’s Twitter and email with abusive messages and claims that she was un-Australian. Well knock me over with a Lamington and call me Bob Downe but as someone who watched every televised second of the Tour I was not in any way offended or annoyed by Freedman’s comments. She doesn’t share my love of the three weeks in France and sport in general. So where I get joy from watching my beloved Hawthorn Hawks winning flags, I am guessing she gets her kicks from the launch of the latest Jimmy Choo’s.

That doesn’t make me or her un-Australian. If Freedman had said she couldn’t get excited about Buddy bending one back from 50 out after running the wing with a couple of bounces I wouldn’t be so offended that I’d go out of my way to personally abuse and insult her. That is un-Australian!

What followed Freedman’s comments was the usual exaggerated outrage, head shaking and angry outburst and then the aforementioned abuse that went her way. There was also the unsavoury d@#k measuring where many reeled off their list of sporting achievements in the suburban park which then some how justified their attacks. Well not one to be left out let me flop mine out on the table and see how I measure up.

Sport, I love it. I have played most sports you can name, played rep. Cricket, Basketball, Soccer and a whole host of other sports. I’ve managed Australian champion boxers, attended everything from Boxing Day test matches to Para-Olympics, written for Motorsport magazines, punted a fair chunk on the dish lickers and watch more sport on the box in a week than is probably healthy. And still, I am not offended by Freedman’s comments in the slightest possible way.

Because the achievement’s of Cadel Evans both on and off the bike can’t be in anyway impacted by a few lines of one social commentator who didn’t even watch Evans compete. Perhaps Freedman’s biggest error was to pick the one sportsman who is virtually flawless from what any of us can tell. He is a cyclist whose sheer mental strength and determination propels him above and beyond those who are seemingly more naturally talented. In a sport littered with drug abusers he is bleach white clean and if winning wasn’t enough he supports freedom for Tibet, “Trying to bring awareness of the Tibet movement is something someone in my position can do.” Not only that the list of charities and good causes he has donated to are endless and he is married a beautiful and brilliant Italian. I rank Cadel’s win in the Tour second only to Cathy Freeman’s win at the Sydney Olympics in terms of Australian sporting achievement. Both left me feeling something I cannot describe but the sort of joy that has you jumping around the living room floating with pride and elation.

In a sports mad nation that loves an underdog and the never say die attitude Cadel Evans is pretty close to Jesus Christ in Lycra. And anyone who has attacked Jesus in the USA publically probably knows how Mia is feeling right about now. But is that ok? Of course not, we are not Iran with a bunch of Ayatollahs telling us who we can and cannot be angry at. We don’t kill people for drawing cartoons and we are meant to allow freedom of speech and welcome diversity of opinion. That includes people saying things we don’t agree with.

Mia also raises a very pertinent point, Sports people really do earn too much money. There are football players (soccer to those who didn’t listen to Johnny Warren) who with endorsements earn a million bucks a week. And there are many actors, singers and “entertainers” earning similar amounts. That is obscene when we are still paying nurses, teachers, disability carers, soldiers and a whole host of other folks minimum wage. Mia Freedman simply made some valid points, expressed that she wasn’t that into sport and for having her own opinion was attacked. And it was only a few weeks ago that the mortified Karl Stefanovic made ignorant and offensive comments about an Australian who is an 8 time World Champion.

Mia Freedman didn’t attack Cadel Evans, she didn’t know enough about him to do that. What she attacked is the idea and a reality, that sports people do in fact earn a lot more than those on the front line of saving lives. But all that was lost in a level of behaviour we really should not tolerate in a modern Australia. And certainly not the sort of chest beating and abuse you would never see from Cadel Evans. How does he handle those on the other side? He grits his teeth, looks them in the eye and then rides right past them. And then when all is said and done he gives them a hug on the podium. That is an Australian that makes me proud!

Posted on July 27, 2011, in Politics, Sport and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. A calm rational voice on the Internet?, noone can hear you above the screams. 😉

  2. Mostly I agree with the sentiments of your post, but what really annoyed me about this was that Mia tweeted that she was going to annoy millions of Australians.

    Pre-meditated attention seeking? You betcha. Don’t waste any empathy on the thousands of extra blog hits she received.

  3. Thank you. In everything that has been written and all the hate-mail and abuse I have received (and continue to receive), what perplexes me is how my comments were somehow perceived to be an attack on cycling or cyclists or even sport.
    This mystifies me because I wished to do none of those things. It’s simply not how I feel.
    Admittedly, my timing was lousy. Live TV doesn’t always provide the oppportunity for detailed or nuanced discussion.
    I was, as you appreciated, simply questioning the emphasis on sport in the context of all kinds of other achievements. I think we should celebrate them ALL. But we don’t.

    Also, I have realised that much of my body language, tone and the occasional eye-roll was mistakenly interpreted as being directed at Cadel. Or cycling.
    It wasn’t.
    I was rolling my eyes at Karl in the way I so often do. We have that kind of banter.
    Anyway, just to reiterate I have no problem with Cadel or cyclists! Far from it…

  4. I don’t have a problem with the ‘sportspeople aren’t heroes’ bit; but I do have a problem with her hypocrisy in saying that Jessica Watson is a hero. She claimed that”…she has returned a hero (as she should, her achievement is astonishing)”. If achieving something astonishing is enough to be a hero, I don’t know how Evans can’t be considered a hero. Jessica Watson was basically a rich brat gallivanting around the oceans; plenty of people could have done that given the support she received. Evans trained incredibly hard over years, and is blessed with an unbelievable physiological makeup – very few could do what he has.

    I personally think the status of hero should be reserved for those working under intense, life and death situations – soldiers, doctors and the like. However, if you use the definition that Freedman has herself provided that it simply requires astonishing achievement, I don’t see how she could not consider Evans a hero, regardless of her ignorance of sports.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. I think what we have proven is that you can have the debate without the name calling and hate mail.

    Everyone’s opinion is essentially right because we all see Cadel’s achievement in different ways. For those involved in cycling or those like myself who have watched every stage of the tour for years we had something emotionally invested. If you don’t follow sport at all then I think on the surface the pay and adulation is over the top. And even if you watch it I think most can agree we should celebrate all achievement and not just the sporting ones.

    What has been interesting to me, is as someone who uses their blog to try and push issues of social importance (or what I think is important) this post has been this blogs most read. Thousands have read it over the last 2 days where other posts about the famine in Somalia have attracted just 50 views.

    In a way this goes to prove some of what Mia was saying. That perhaps we do indeed focus too much on sport. And as I pointed out, I am sports mad, so guilty as charged.

    So with that I hope people can find it in their hearts and click on the social vibe banner in the right column and with a few clicks, no money required, donate food to the starving children of the Horn of Africa. Atleast then some good will have come out of all this fuss!

    Martin Hodgson

  6. Hi Martin,

    I think you have made some great points and would like to thank you for your balanced and reasoned argument and support of sensible debate. I’m sure many people like me appreciate what you have said and I’m hopefully many people who has come across your blog through this debate will get some more understanding of whats happening in Africa and contribute to efforts to improve the situation.

    You’ve certainly picked up one more reader today 🙂

  7. Thanks beetwo77,

    Greatly appreciate the feedback. I think it was a case of people getting a bit worked up over a pretty small issue, but I think we have to draw the line at hate mail, abuse etc when we are just talking about sport. As much as we love it.

    And you are right, this post has been the most read with 1000’s of people checking it out and many have taken the time to read about the other issues I prefer to raise such as what is happening in the Horn of Africa. And I hope people continue to take a small part of their day to look at the other issues going on in Australia and the world apart from those that dominant the mainstream media.

    Thanks again,

  8. Mia Freedman certainly hit a nerve! Funny though, every person and his dog has waded into the carbon tax debate, wanting to give their few cents worth. Right to voice your opinion (whatever that opinion is) seems to be in vogue at the moment. So why come down like a ton of bricks when someone does just that?
    I’m a big fan of cycling and was thrilled to see Cadel win the Tour, but if someone else isn’t I don’t see how that takes anything away from his victory.
    It doesn’t really say much for the robustness of sport, cycling, or our egos if a few comments made (in the negative) sends everyone into a tail spin.

  9. Abusing someone for voicing an opinion? How un-Australian is that?

    Ignoring the outrage, I chose to read Mia’s response in the Age this weekend and have to admit that I think that she’s been given more than her fair share of unwarranted abuse.
    So, she’s not a cycling fan, so what? I’m sure that there are plenty of other Australians that feel the same way, just as there are plenty that wouldn’t be too interested in other sporting individuals or teams.
    Does it make someone un-Australian if they weren’t that fussed about the Socceroos at the last 2 World Cups? Probably not. I imagine that there would have been loads that didn’t show any interest in a sport they’d never followed before, and probably didn’t understand. I seem to recall that Kevin Sheedy has a habit of bad-mouthing soccer players; where were the howls of protest about his un-Australian words prior to a World Cup?
    Does is make someone un-Australian if they choose not to follow the Wallabies in the up-coming Rugby World Cup? Everyone is aware that the Rugby World Cup is imminent, aren’t they? Of course we all are! Even those that live in AFL heartlands like Melbourne and Adelaide? Surely it would be un-Australian to not be. Can we really be sure that if an AFL-linked media personality starts complaining about rugby and its players (as is sure to happen once the media glare turns towards NZ later this year) that they will bear the brunt of the same tsunami of abuse that Ms Freedman did? No.

    Mia’s point that real heroes are the ones out there working in other roles (eg. Nurses, Doctors etc.) is something that I could imagine Cadel Evans wholeheartedly agreeing with. And for that she was castigated by Karl Stefanovic? Karl Stefanovic!?
    Now, I don’t watch much Channel 9, but can anyone tell me if they’ve ever detected much pro-cycling bias from Karl and his fellow Today presenters? Or are they the sort to don a Green & Gold scarf whenever an Australian sportsperson or team does something spectacular on the international stage, then return to ignoring them once the event is over, or when the aforementioned person or team has been eliminated?
    Where was Channel 9’s hyperbole when Cadel came second in the TdF for example? Isn’t that still a monumental event? Can you imagine New Zealanders giving a collective “Meh!” if one of theirs got themselves onto the podium in Paris? No, neither can I.

    So, I really think that some people need to have a bit of perspective; Cadel did great things in France (and he has done some really admirable charity work too), but we shouldn’t have a go at someone for not displaying a fervent interest in his sport.
    Personally, as a regular cyclist, I’d rather take offence at the types that have gone all “Oi! Oi! Oi!” about Cadel since the TdF but who couldn’t tell you his name a month ago, or worse, actively disliked him as he didn’t fit the stereotype of an Australian sportsman; and who, when in their cars, still insist on hating on us regular cyclists for “not paying tax” or having the audacity to get through heavy traffic faster than them.

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