Australia’s winning world cup cricket team has, in the space of 12 hours, enhanced Australia’s reputation as a great sporting nation – and reinforced our unfortunate standing as a bunch of drunks who can’t mark any occasion without getting thoroughly munted.
Along the way they’ve probably set responsible drinking campaigns back a decade or two.
They’ve been aided in this by cricket commentators and, to some extent, the body that oversees the sport in this country, Cricket Australia. Everyone should have known better.
• Are you drinking too much?
It all began within minutes of the team’s comprehensive defeat of New Zealand in Sunday’s final at the MCG and was led by Channel Nine commentator and cricketing legend, Shane Warne.
“Are you feeling thirsty?” Warne asked wicketkeeper Brad Haddin moments after the winning runs were scored.
“Are you going to have a bit of a drink tonight,” he asked the man who hit them, Steven Smith. “Are you going to get thirsty as well? The boys are thirsty they seem.”
Talk about a nagging length. Warne wasn’t going to let go.
Soon he wanted to know from Shane Watson and Josh Hazlewood what the plan was, “besides lots of drink and that”.
Never mind the stupidity of Warne’s questions, the players soon took to their task with great gusto. Within hours there were photos of them mid-MCG celebrating their achievement.
No harm in that, but there were VB bottles everywhere – in their mouths, in their hands, scattered on the turf before them. So much so that I wondered if it had all been orchestrated to give the team’s chief sponsor the right bang for their buck. The picture was helpfully tweeted by CA’s digital news arm from their official Twitter account.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) March 29, 2015
I found myself wondering a couple things: what would Fawad Ahmed think, an Ashes squad member who once told CA he wouldn’t play in a jumper that sported the VB logo; and how many kids would be thinking this is what you do when you win – you drink a lot.
It’s worth pausing here to reflect on a few uncomfortable facts. Alcohol causes the deaths of 15 Australians every day and puts another 430 in hospital, according to latest research.
And cricket, just as it once did with tobacco, largely turns a blind eye to the harm caused by it and other products. This was noted by Rona Macniven of the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney last October when she presented new research to a Sports Medicine conference that showed a “pervasive level of unhealthy sponsorship across our sporting codes”.
“Cricket, both rugby codes, Australian football, basketball and soccer all had sponsorship agreements across all three unhealthy categories – alcohol, fast food and sugary drinks and gambling – with cricket taking the prize for the overall highest proportion of unhealthy sponsors,” she told the conference.
So wouldn’t you expect the game’s administrators and leaders to be a little more mindful of how all this plays out in post-match celebrations?
Apparently not. By Monday morning there were shots of wildly animated team members partying as the sun came up over Melbourne, most of them in the gear they’d worn while winning the World Cup. So much for the dignity of the uniform.
Team coach, Darren Lehman, gleefully tweeted a couple of images, saying in one: “Still going with the Kings and going hard!! Love Australia.” No doubt there are players and team assistants who don’t drink to excess but, suffice to say, everyone in the picture looked relaxed and comfortable.
Then came the interviews. Most notable here was 37-year-old veteran Haddin (who, at that age, most certainly should have known better).
Best described as overly cheerful – although team-mate Smith settled for “the drunkest man in the team” – Haddin went on Triple M breakfast radio and detailed the scene before him.
“I’ve got a coach who’s spooning the World Cup who can’t speak,” Haddin said. “(And) I’ve got James Faulkner who’s got his clothes off but don’t tell everyone. And I’ve got the Marsh boys, and you know I can’t even talk about the Marsh boys because you know what trouble they have.”
Makes your chest swell with pride, doesn’t it?
By the time the players turned out at Federation Square subdued and dishevelled late Monday morning to greet adoring fans, the booze backlash had begun. Talkback radio and social media were abuzz, but no-one was taking a backward step, especially Warne, who tweeted:
Do gooders get stuffed. Straya is the best place in the world, not politically correct, keep it real. Aussies celebrate properly ! #thirsty
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) March 29, 2015
And, you know what, I don’t have a problem if they/we do celebrate properly. And for days at a time, if they/we wish.
But do it privately, do it responsibly, don’t sully the national uniform by spilling beer all over it and for God’s sake don’t send out pictures of yourselves pissed as newts or on the way to it.
And if you do, don’t expect to be heroes in the morning.
Bruce Guthrie is editorial director of The New Daily and a dedicated cricket fan who strives to have two alcohol-free days a week. He doesn’t always succeed.