For more than a week now, Australians (myself included) have been consumed by what one man did to a little red ball.
Cameron Bancroft’s use of sandpaper on a cricket ball during the third Test in South Africa, apparently under the watchful eyes of captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner, was deemed unforgivable by the Australian public and media.
There has been a full-scale investigation, vitriolic airport abuse, monumental media frenzy, a handful of teary press conferences and significant bans for three men at the height of their sporting careers.
And yet only a few weeks prior to the whole shebang, something far worse occurred.
It too received media and public attention, but not to the same scale.
And the men involved were hit with a mere slap on the wrist in comparison to the 12-month bans Smith and Warner have received (Bancroft was suspended for nine months).
During the first Test in Durban, Warner was filmed lashing out at South African Quinton de Kock after the wicketkeeper allegedly made a “vile” comment regarding his wife, Candice, and a sexual encounter she had years ago before she was married.
The incident set the tone for a tremendously ill-tempered series and Warner and his wife have been at the centre of it, so much so that the latter suggested on Sunday that the furore surrounding her sexual past distracted her poor husband to the point of cheating.
“I feel like it’s all my fault and it’s killing me – it’s absolutely killing me,” Candice told News Corp on Sunday.
“I haven’t been much of a support because I’ve been a wreck. I’m really not well.”
Following the Warner-de Kock clash, South African supporters, in an attempt to annoy the Aussie opener, wore masks bearing the face of Sonny Bill Williams – the rugby star his wife had the aforementioned encounter with.
And incredibly, two Cricket South Africa executives were pictured posing for photos with fans wearing the masks.
— nzherald (@nzherald) March 11, 2018
“Seeing them wearing the masks. To have people staring and pointing and laughing at me, to have the signs, to have, you know, the songs made up about me – I would have to sit there and cop that,” Candice, who was in South Africa for much of the series, added.
The South African team alleged de Kock’s comment was in retaliation for comments Warner made about his wife and sister.
A couple of forced public apologies and some fines.
Warner had to sacrifice 75 per cent of his match fee for the first Test, with de Kock giving up a quarter of his.
And those fines were mainly for the unsightly physical confrontation that followed, rather than the humiliation of three innocent women.
Does anyone else see a problem here?
A massive, disgusting, disturbing problem that, to be quite honest, puts a little bit of sandpaper in painfully diminutive perspective?
Are balls really deserving of better treatment than women?
None of these men have a shadow of an excuse for their actions.
If you use sexist, misogynistic slurs, whether in retaliation or not, you are a sexist and a misogynist. You are not a good sportsperson.
You are not a good person, full stop.
‘It’s killing me’
And amidst all this, the person apologising for the ball-tampering scandal is the woman who received the vile slurs in the first place.
The only thing to blame in this whole kerfuffle is a culture of enshrined misconduct that is constantly overlooked by men who should know better.
Newsflash: It is possible to be competitive without stooping to the level of degrading women.
I dread to think of the things that keep Candice Warner awake at night.
I wonder if she fears her two daughters may make a decision that will haunt them for years, irrespective of their ensuing achievements.
I wonder if she knew that by falling in love with a famous sport star she was effectively allowing her sexual past to become public fodder – forever.
Finally, I admire Candice for enduring despite it all.
To use the words of a feminist slogan popularised in US politics: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Cheating and ball tampering is never okay and I’m glad we’re all clearly on the same page about that.
I just wish we’d all get on the same page about disrespecting women.
At the very least, perhaps we should amend the punishment to better fit the crime.
I’ve been told since I was young that cricket was the gentleman’s game.
But if these men are the best examples of gentlemen we have, we’re in big trouble.