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!