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Athletes Aren’t the Only Role Models in Sport

I’m not from Australia originally, but since arriving I’ve come to embrace this continent’s unique sport of Aussie Rules Football. I enjoyed a Friday night game at a friend’s house recently, and watched Channel 7’s post-game Friday Front Bar for the first time. Filmed in front of a live audience at a Richmond Hotel, it is a lighthearted weekly round-up, brought to you by Carlton Draught, with a three-man commentator panel sipping pints of Carlton amongst sports paraphernalia.

One of the presenters never touched his beer whilst the other two consumed theirs on air. My friends had a few laughs at the expense of the commentator who wasn’t drinking – not as ‘brewery fresh’ as promised, perhaps – and I laughed at the irony of representing a product you don’t seem to care for. Something bothered me about watching the show that night, however, and on my Uber ride home I thought about what exactly it was.

I’m from the Great White North of Canada and no stranger to beer-sponsored sport. It wasn’t just the in-your-face Carlton Draught advertising featured on the show, or that next-step of making your ambassadors drink your product on camera, or the shameless plug for the brand when the cameras start rolling that was troubling me. I realized it was my friend’s 10 year old daughter.

She lives, breathes, and also plays Aussie rules. Watching a game with a child is an amazing reminder of why you first start watching sport, when it’s the most exciting part of your week and is just about the players and the game.

She is already agitating to stay up past her bedtime and watch the post-game show with Dad. Right now, it’s only about the sport for her. But when is it going to be about the booze, too? What would growing up watching Front Bar be showing her about our culture – that we really need that pint to chat about footy with our mates? I tried to think of the last time I had watched a sport – any sport – without a beer in my hand.

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It struck me that my friends and I were mocking the commentator for nursing his beer. Maybe he doesn’t like beer, or maybe he just doesn’t drink, but I had been participating in a culture that will be teaching my friend’s little girl that footy fans not only drink beer, and fast, but that you will single yourself out as a loser if you don’t.

Considering what you’re role-modelling is confronting because you have to honestly reflect on what your own behaviour is teaching. I’m not a parent – it’s a tough gig and I’m not cut out for it. But I have to wonder, with all of the men sitting at bars drinking beer she’s going to witness over her life, does she really need to see it on television?

Unfortunately it is not a one off show, if she really wanted to and was clever, she could easily find what Dad won’t let her stay up for as it is captured on the AFL website.

Although I wish Channel 7 would think about the kind of modelling their program is demonstrating to the next generation of fans, I have taken a valuable lesson away from this experience. I am going to try revisiting sport the way I loved it as a child, with the players and the game as the main event instead of entertaining me while I drink. It is not just the athletes that kids learn from – we are all role models when it comes to alcohol.

Laura Bajurny
Intern at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation