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Belated congratulations

January 28th, 2004

To Steve Waugh on being selected as Australian of the Year. Commentary on the award focused on the fact that Waugh was the third Australian cricket captain in a row to get it. The implied critique is that, if the award is thought of as rewarding excellence in some particular sphere, sport in general, and cricket in particular, get much more than their fair share.

My view on this is that, assuming the award is some sort of all-round commendation of a prominent Australian, Waugh is considerably more deserving than his two predecessors. His charitable work in India, and all-round good behavior seems to go well beyond the perfunctory good citizenship expected of sporting role models. I hope that Waugh’s award will set a high benchmark and that the committee (or whoever) will think long and hard before making another award based on nothing more substantial than a good batting average.

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  1. January 29th, 2004 at 00:29 | #1

    No, we don’t hate Steve Waugh, and the nervous adulation of Mark Latham does suggest that the Left, or at least the ALP, loves a hero too. And those of us who disdain such local grandiosity still probably have a heart tug over names like Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknicht.

    We just do wish that quality in Australia was not symbolised by a set of cricket pads and attention to the children of people with leprosy in India. It is a sad statement about the people we identify with as a society.

  2. January 29th, 2004 at 07:07 | #2

    Well, I like Stevo, and cricket … and think all those who go tut tut over a bit of sledging are just precious poos … and also, they should go back and re-read Don Watson‘s article on Stevo … and actually, to be honest, when I think back to my legendary days as a number 6 batsman for the famous, tough-as-teak, widely feared and drunk-as-lords Bondi Pavilion social cricket club, I vaguely recall sledging being the funniest part of the game; I mean, whatareya?

  3. January 29th, 2004 at 11:08 | #3

    Don Watson should be Australian of the Year.

  4. Mork
    January 29th, 2004 at 11:11 | #4

    Dave R – I seem to recall that Chris Cairns had expressly stated that the story was false.

    A Friend – when did Tubby ever walk?

  5. Homer Paxton
    January 28th, 2004 at 09:40 | #5

    With respect JQ the team which Waugh captains set the benchmark for appalling behaviour and ‘comments’ on the field. In fact it got so bad they were forced to publically change.

    Waugh captained the best cricket team of all time however they never realised what sportsmanship is!

  6. John
    January 28th, 2004 at 09:48 | #6

    I thought a bit about this before posting but (as someone who doesn’t follow the issue closely) had the impression that ‘sledging’ etc had reached its peak before Waugh’s captaincy and declined under his leadership. However, my general liking for Waugh may have led me to be err on the side of generosity here.

  7. Mork
    January 28th, 2004 at 09:50 | #7

    I agree with John. Steve Waugh has a stature both here and throughout the cricket-playing world that comfortably eclipses that of his predecessors – captains Grumpy and Bland.

  8. January 28th, 2004 at 10:16 | #8

    THe Australian of the Year Awards began in 1960.

    Since that time sportspersons have won the award 13 times, whilst scientists have won it 5 times. This indicates that Australian culture values sporting achievement at about 2.6 times the rate that it values scientific achievement:

    Sportspersons:

    2004 Steve Waugh

    2002 Patrick Rafter (b. 1972)

    1999 Mark Taylor (b. 1963 )

    1998 Cathy Freeman (b. 1973 )

    1989 Allan Border AO (b. 1955 )

    1988 Kay Cottee AO (b. 1954 )

    1983 Robert de Castella MBE (b. 1957 )

    1972 Shane Gould MBE (b. 1956)

    1971 Evonne Goolagong Cawley AO MBE (b. 1951)

    1968 Lionel Rose MBE (b. 1948 )

    1966 Sir Jack Brabham OBE (b. 1926 )

    1964 Dawn Fraser MBE (b. 1937 )

    1962 Alexander ‘Jock’ Sturrock MBE (b. 1915 )

    Scientists:

    2003 Professor Fiona Stanley AC (b. 1946)

    2000 Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE FAA FRS (b. 1931)

    1997 Professor Peter Doherty (b. 1940 )

    1963 Sir John Eccles AC (1903 – 1997)

    1960 Sir MacFarlane Burnet OM AK KBE (1899 – 1985)

    Sport life is fun, but it probably tends to contract human life, by encouraging vegging out couch potatoeism. Science, by contrast, extends human life. An inversion of priorities is indicated.

  9. stephen
    January 28th, 2004 at 10:32 | #9

    Jack’s mathematics could equally be applied to the proportion of writers (patrick white and manning clark – so 2, thus we value sport at 6.5 times writing), painting (arthur boyd), and so on down the list. There is to my mind a chicken and egg problem at work here. Undoubtedly we have produced more sports people who lead the world in their chosen field and are internationally acknowledged as such, than we have produced world renowned scientists, writers, painters or even (god forbid) economists. Yes, before readers get too indignant, we certainly have some of the latter who are world leaders – but just not as many as in the sporting field. So it should not be a surprise that more sporting people get on the Australian of the Year list. But what’s causing so many Australians to put their effort in to sport rather than other pursuits? In part, because they get the adulation and admiration that ends up with some of them being named Australian of the Year. The cycle is self reinforcing.

  10. January 28th, 2004 at 11:00 | #10

    It is true that Steve Waugh led Australia’s cricket team to the peaks in a way that no comparable leader of any other organisation has done. There’s no university, business, or scientist who dominates their area in the way that Waugh took the Test Team to dominate their rivals. So you could defend this on the grounds that, in pursuit of excellence, Waugh is indeed ahead of any other Australian.

    Even though I’m a sporting pundit myself, though, I have to say that both sport (and literature) are really small things, and to be making awards like this to a sports figure is to diminish the award. The flip side of the coin is that there’s no one in 2003 who really did anything that stood out as a worthy winner that didn’t get it.

    We’re not seeing the papers saying that ‘so and so was robbed’.

    As for sledging, that problem was a real problem three or four years ago. I think credit where credit is due, though, there was no complaints about sledging this summer, and the team does seem to have resolved to stamp it out.

  11. Big Ramifications
    January 28th, 2004 at 13:31 | #11

    Can’t say I agree with the choice, but I can’t fault this bit from John:

    >>>”My view on this is that, assuming the award is some sort of all-round commendation of a prominent Australian, Waugh is considerably more deserving than his two predecessors. His charitable work in India, and all-round good behavior seems to go well beyond the perfunctory good citizenship expected of sporting role models.”

    Border: Hmmmmmm. Maybe. (Was it a “slow year” that year?)

    Taylor: You have to be bloody kidding me.

  12. A Friend
    January 28th, 2004 at 13:42 | #12

    I still recall Waugh’s sheepish look when successfully claiming a catch he knew had grounded. It’s true that his off-field behaviour was better than most cricketers – he took some interest in other cultures – but that’s not saying much.

    His sledging record is appalling. He allegedly used racial epithet. Even Tubby Taylor, who I thought was a shocker, used to set a good example as captain by walking. Waugh hever has.

    I think he’s a poor choice. (Who were his 2 predecessors?)

  13. unAussie
    January 28th, 2004 at 15:19 | #13

    f*ck Steve Waugh. the guy carries that quintessentially “Aussie” sneery face – he looks incapable of love, or kindness, for one. remarkably uninspiring guy – and presided over the *worst* Australian team in history. he’s the embodiment of the *false* Australian identity – one that’s clung to by all and sundry – this ‘fair go’ bullshit, coupled with rigidly conformist tall-poppy don’t get too big for your boots anti-intellectual garbage. anyone who wields that studied (recieved, socialised, normalised) manner in (and for) the face of a nation that has sold its principles (if it really ever had any) up the river – to embrace the uncharitable, uncaring, fearful, racist, xenophobic and individualist society ‘we’ are becoming thoroughly deserves “Australian of the year”.

    the other thing that f*cks me off about him is the way the public *couldn’t* believe he’s just as crooked as “the Indians” and every other match-fixing bastard….

  14. Dave Ricardo
    January 28th, 2004 at 17:23 | #14

    “all-round good behavior”

    A few years ago, the sister of New Zealander cricketer Chris Cairns was killed in a train accident. Soon after, he played a match against Australia. Steve Waugh led the sledgers with a chant of “Choo Choo, Choo Choo”.

    What a role model he is.

  15. Dave Ricardo
    January 28th, 2004 at 17:39 | #15

    Mea Culpa. I checked the story. It was two Australian players who said it, but Waugh wasn’t named as one of them.

  16. Ken Kaniff
    January 28th, 2004 at 18:00 | #16

    Isn’t it nice to see everyone get behind our noble choice for the Australian of the year!

    I’m glad to see that you all have provided solid evidence regarding Steve’s sledging antics and not just relied on hearsay.

    Cricket is a very mental game. Steve not only led from the front in his attitude in tough situations but he has unamous respect from his profession. Sometimes I wonder whether people can distinguish a ‘poker face’ from a ‘joker face’… obviously not!

    What is that they say??? The right likes all individuals but hates everybody. The left likes everyone and hates…. Steve Waugh???

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