Like lots of Australians, we like cricket. And we like to listen to the ABC’s radio broadcast, even when we’re watching the telly. We think the ABC broadcasters have a strong sense of the game and understand what is fair and right. And the ABC would boast that it is held to a high standard because it is the national service funded by taxpayers.
So we were struck by a conversation between two commentators late on the first day of the first test (last Wednesday) at Brisbane, just before the end of play. They were discussing the inclusion of Ryan Harris in the Australian side. One commentator mentioned that Ryan had recently said that he drank and gambled his salary away. The other commentator was surprised by this news and said Ryan had gone up in his esteem and sounded like a good bloke given he drank and gambled, and the conversation continued along these lines.
Lots of people have overcome gambling and drinking problems, and like them, Ryan Harris should be congratulated for this achievement.
But the ABC doesn’t need to congratulate him for having had the problems in the first place. Nor for suggesting that drinking and gambling too much is a sign of personal worth.
The ABC is feeding the stereotype of the hard drinkin’ Aussie male, so beloved of beer advertisements, which has helped to create a culture of binge drinking. It has hurt a lot of sports and a lot of athletes.
Sport is changing. As reported by the ABC’s The World Today last week, the Australian Olympic Committee is banning athletes and officials from drinking in Olympic Villages and on flights to and from the Olympic competition. Rower Kim Crowe said, “We do have a responsibility … to perform well and … to inspire the next generation.” It was also reported that in the UK 15 Australian rugby union players were disciplined for drinking and staying out late, and six lost their position in the team for the following game.
Meanwhile the community backlash gains momentum as Tasmanian dad Aaron Schulz continues his campaign for Cricket Australia to give up sponsors with unhealthy products, as reported by Mumbrella last Thursday.
It’s time the ABC caught up with the new game. Time to promote the best of sport, rather than the worst.
Do you think it’s OK for sport commentators to validate drinking and gambling problems? Let us know what you think.
You can also sign Adam Schilz’s petition asking Cricket Australia and Australia’s other major sporting codes to stop the promotion of alcohol, junk food and gambling.