Saturday, April 11, 2009

Miranda Devine, Kimberly Crow, Nick D'Arcy, Simon Cowley, Eggshell Skulls and Swimming for Loners

(Above: Gustave Dore's engraving The Deluge, showing that in antediluvian times, there was a case for swimming as a handy skill).

With slacker columnist Michael Duffy taking Easter off, all we have as a certifiable loon in The Sydney Morning Herald is Miranda the Devine.

When not savaging Marcus Einfeld for lying about a speeding ticket, or battling nonsense about global climate change, or worrying about the affect on the intertubes on our plastic elastic brains, or blaming greenies for the bushfires, or promoting wifely duties, Devine is actually a humble supporter of noble causes, as she shows in D'Arcy defence walks on eggshells.

Yep, it seems when lads get together for a drunken 2.30 am session in a pub, and one of them delivers a blow to the skull which causes considerable damage, the lad delivering the blow should lead with the eggshell skull defence.

It goes something like this. Because people don't go around with signs pinned to them that says "beware I have an eggshell skull", and because, let's face it, it would be damn anti-social and even a little rude to ask someone if they had an eggshell skull, the fact is you never do know if someone might have an eggshell skull.

Now you might think in this context best not to throw a punch, or perhaps to pause ever so briefly, and ask the likely recipient of a blow "Excuse me, but are you aware that you have had, might have, or as a result of me landing a blow, are likely to develop an eggshell skull, before I thump the shit out of you with a king hit."

If only Marcus Einfeld had this defence available to him before trotting off to jail - like I lied through my teeth because I have an eggshell skull, so please let me off with a fine.

Poor Miranda is tremendously worried about the suffering of swimmer Nick D'Arcy, whose punishment just goes on and on (unlike Einfeld's, which doesn't go on and on enough). Really it was just a very early morning barroom altercation between two drunk young men trying to assert their manhood. The sort of thing every young man will do at some stage - get pissed and king hit someone.

But wait, what's this? After explaining the eggshell skull rule, Miranda notes that the victim, one Simon Cowley might not have had an eggshell skull. Well that makes it tricky.

Plan B. No one could have anticipated the severity of Cowley's injuries, least of all D'Arcy. And it's true, whenever I've king hit someone, I've never been able to assess the severity of the injuries I inflict, which have ranged from mild bruising to a lingering painful death (but that involves my patented 'touch of death' move, handed down to me by Wudang master Chi).

So let's see how Miranda the Devine pleads on behalf of D'Arcy. Well it seems he's spoiled and self-pitying with an overprotective father and harping mother, he's a prickly, even unpleasant character, involved in a mind-numbingly tedious individual sport called swimming, which doesn't exactly require advanced social skills. Indeedy, the wretched sport requires single minded aggressiveness, pursued by special types of loners with unappealing personalities.

What, and we fund this anti-social, antediluvian activity?

Ah, the gentle face of Miranda. You see, Australia is the land of the second chance, the penal colony where human detritus of another world found a way to build a new life.

When did we become so punitive and unforgiving?

Well actually a couple of weeks ago Miranda when you cheered on sending a seventy year old to jail for lying,  noting that while a jail sentence may seem harsh, it would serve to restore an element of public trust in the value of truth.

Given all this, somehow I should now care about drunken swimmers brawling in a pub?

I wonder if, confronted by the tabloids, and by your denigration of swimming as a vaguely obscene and nightmarish activity practised by loons and loners, Swimming Australia decided to exercise a little caution in the matter. Or at least a little bit more than D'Arcy did when he let fly the king hit, clearly not remembering what happened to cricketer David Hookes when he copped a handy blow from a pub bouncer.

In case you think Miranda the Devine is the only voice raised in anguish, we also have Kimberly Crow in The Age, brooding in her column on How to adjust to a life more ordinary.

Crow manages to spend her entire column worrying about D'Arcy's suffering, without once mentioning or even considering the notion that Simon Cowley might also be suffering.

Somehow it all becomes the fault of Swimming Australia that D'Arcy biffed Cowley, and gets punished in the courts, but also in swimming, for an act which Crow describes as despicable. I guess that means it's bad but not as bad as dethpicable.

So if Swimming Australia is entitled to exercise its right (and responsibility) to protect its image and standards of behavior, as Crow says, what's the beef?

Well somehow Crow manages to interweave Darcy's fate with the death of cyclist Jobie Dajka, banned for lying in a doping affair, and for assaulting the national track coach, before spiralling into a depressive and alcohol-related funk.

Yep, it's all about the unbearable pressure of sport, and the suffering of athletes. There's Andrew Johns, and diver Chantelle Newbery, and footballer Wayne Schwass, and mental illness and despair.

But exactly what makes sport so special? How exactly is an athlete privileged and entitled, in terms of mental illness or suffering, in a way that Heath Ledger isn't? What exactly do all these sad stories have to do with a drunken punch delivered in a pub, by a man who really hadn't attracted much attention until he let fly with his paw?

Here's a thought. Avoid assaulting people and you avoid trouble. It's what most people are asked to do, and those that don't generally cop some social indignation, maybe a little prison time, or if lucky, a suspended sentence.

If you sign up to a sport, and the rules of that particular game, follow them. If you don't, and cop a little trouble for shenanigans, don't blame the sport, or the sporting body, which usually just wants things to go along swimmingly. If you chose to go into a sport that involves living in a glass cage, offering medals, glory and tasty sponsorships selling junk food like Nutrigrain, don't get on the piss and don't king hit people.

It's funny how all the special pleading in Australia always goes down for sporting folk, with talk of rehabilitation, redemption, education, vulnerability and responsibility, holistic development, nurturing and duties of care. Crow even ends her column hoping that Nick D'Arcy doesn't become just one more example of our sporting institutions' structural failures.

Indeedy, and you might also think the same about Simon Cowley, though it seems here that the main problem for Cowley is that at 28, he's old and over the hill, while D'Arcy is a lot younger and has worked his way back into form.

Yep, that's right Cowley too is a swimmer, and Crow pays not the slightest regard to any predicament he might face as he adjusts to a life more ordinary.

When two tribes go to war
A point is all you can score
When two tribes go to war
A point is all you can score

That said, I suspect D'Arcy might find a way to worm himself back into swimming, by pouring on legal heat, and making Swimming Australia fold. If he conducts himself without blemish, fine, but if he gets himself into another altercation, watch the the tabloid fuss unfold, and the finger pointing, and the talk of structural failure ...

I wouldn't be a sports administrator for quids, given the cult of binge drinking that goes with so many professional sports. 

At the same time, why all the fuss over swimming, which thanks to the Devine, we now understand is a mind-numbingly tedious activity designed mainly for aggressive loners. And not therefore deserving of a single cent of taxpayers' dollars. Thanks Miranda, always on the ball ...

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