Michael Jeh December 27, 2009

Honour as an excuse for sledging

Every country has their own culprits but the theme is universal; refer to national pride, passion, honour, competitiveness etc and that buys you immunity from good manners
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Shane Watson begins his antics against Chris Gayle© Getty Images
 


Pride. Passion (passionate). Competitive (ness). Fierce competitor. Honour (of representing state or country).

Some of the most over-used or inappropriately-used words in modern sport these days. Manufactured by media machines that churn out chillingly cynical, homogenous statements in order to protect their ‘product’ (note: no longer a game but a product/investment/franchise). Voiced by professional athletes (ad nauseaum), who do not realise words like pride, passion and honour actually contradict many of the actions they seek to excuse by invoking such cheap emotional blackmail.

Kevin Pietersen will no doubt be using some of these words when he returns to his hometown, Durban, a place where rejection and bitterness spawned his pride of playing for England. Perhaps some of his ex-countrymen haven’t yet forgiven him for deserting South Africa and their sense of misplaced pride may prompt a hostile response. Let's hope not.

Boxing Day for the Australians is all about such noble sentiments like pride, passion, honour etc. Well, supposedly every international match played by Australia evokes this nationalistic fervour. Hence, cussing, swearing and undignified conduct of any description can be attributed to such emotions coursing through the veins. It’s an easy excuse - “I’m so proud/passionate/honoured to play for my country/state/franchise/club/sponsor/paymaster that I got carried away and behaved like a complete idiot but I’m sure you’ll understand that my motives were entirely due to my fierce competitiveness and it comes from the heart blah blah blah”.

Rugby league players in Australia have this nonsense down to a fine art. Engaging in acts of violence that would see them charged with assault if it happened outside a rectangular patch of grass with goalposts at either end, they then elevate it to an almost holy plane by referring to the pride and emotional highs that they were experiencing from representing whatever (highly paid) jersey they were wearing on that particular day. Like cricket, behaviour that would not be tolerated at a lower level is almost eulogised at the highest representative levels, presumably because it shows off a player's commitment and passion for the cause. The greater the honour, the more we are expected to condone.

Lately, cricketers around the world have trotted out poor excuses for any behaviour that would normally be classified as childish or just plain rude. The Australians used it last week to try to defend themselves from their behaviour lapses this summer, Sulieman Benn is apparently a “fierce competitor” which is meant to excuse his abrasiveness. Going back a few years, players like Andre Nel and Sreesanth have used similar pathetic and patriotic appeals to hide behind when embarrassing self and country. Every country has its own culprits but the theme is universal; refer to national pride, passion, honour, competitiveness etc and that buys you immunity from good manners.

It’s particularly amusing to hear that rubbish in Australian cricket circles this week, coinciding with a survey by the Australian Cricketers’ Association that highlighted this ‘national pride’ thing for the woeful charade that it is. 67% of respondents claimed they would seriously consider playing Twenty20 cricket as freelancers. Of the CA contracted players (those very same individuals who waffle on about pride, passion etc), 22% of them would consider turning their backs on national contracts now and a further 39% of them were unsure of what they would do. Clearly, those heart-wrenching excuses about getting carried away in the heat of the moment because they were playing for their country don’t get in the way of becoming a hired gun for the next gunfight in the East.

It’s not a problem isolated to Australians mind you. Many “passionate and proud” countrymen have chosen to miss national tours because of more pressing mercenary commitments. After all, pride doesn’t buy BMW’s, bling or beach houses.

Not that I have a problem with players taking the money and running. It is their talent, their livelihoods and their decision to make. So long as they don’t pretend that passion, pride or honour plays such a significant role in their lives when they seek to justify their idiocy.

There was a time not so long ago when exactly the opposite was true. A time when representing your country/state/province/school was a time when you felt under even more pressure to behave in exemplary fashion, such was the pride you felt in representing that cause with honour. Bringing shame to that famous cap was deemed the ultimate betrayal and teachers or parents the world over exhorted schoolboys to learn this lesson at a very young age. One wonders if contemporary Watsonian excuses would have carried much weight in the headmaster’s office as he wielded his cane like a scythe.

“Honestly sir, I only called the opposition captain a **** and asked the umpire if he needed a f-ing guide dog because I was so proud to represent this great school and my fierce competitive spirit refused to allow me to sacrifice my honour by accepting defeat gracefully. Surely I’m a candidate for the captaincy next year sir. Or at least give me just 15% of the caning I deserve. And what’s more sir, he baited me!”

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Subramanian on February 22, 2010, 6:57 GMT

    Very nicely written, and nowadays its getting more and more common to see such idiotic behaviour all in the name of pride and passion. The epidemic which started with the Aussies is catching / spreading out very fast. Everyone will say as an excuse that all the others do it then why not me? The decision maker have to stamp their authority and poot their foot down and penalise such kind of behaviour which puts the game into disrepute.

    The last paragraph of the article was an absolute beauty.

  • shaen johnston on February 17, 2010, 7:06 GMT

    boring, unoriginal...acually done to death. Hundreds of words blagging Australians followed by about a dozen.."It’s not a problem isolated to Australians mind you"...some of my best friends etc..... You getting paid for this ?

  • выиграть рулетк& on January 30, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    Damn, that sound's so easy if you think about it.

  • trucos para ganar on January 29, 2010, 12:43 GMT

    This brings me to an idea:...

  • Bayman on December 30, 2009, 5:43 GMT

    As a proud Aussie supporter I can only endorse the views of Michael Jeh. Watching Watson send off Gayle was arguably the most childish, excruciatingly embarrassing thing I've seen on a cricket field. Various Aussie players of bygone days have done things best left undone but none have shown themselves to be so immature as "our Shane". I haven't seen stuff like that since I left the eight year olds playground. I'm glad Watson was not embarrassed by his actions but he was in a minority of one. A week later I still find it hard to believe a grown man could be so..so..pathetic! Professionalism has brought many changes to the game. Unfortunately, behaviour like Watson's is one of those changes. One assumes the likes of Bradman, Hassett, Benaud, Davidson, Harvey et al had no passion for their country or their cricket. They could not have really been trying given they didn't behave like prats every few minutes. Or, maybe, such rubbish is just not really necessary. There's a thought!

  • Cameron on December 29, 2009, 13:32 GMT

    Completely subjective, biased sensationalism appealing to all Australia haters. Nice work Michael if that was in your "brief" too. Shame you weren't brave enough to post my initial response. I even chose my words carefully enough not offend the sensibilities of those you are so obviously trying to win over. Going on your reply to Robbie it seems like even you need to convince yourself that you are objective. Your blog doesn't actually read like the balanced report you seem to think it does. However, you have won lots of praise from your numerous & ardent supporters. I for one though, feel that it is little more than the usual tripe we all too often read from those prepared to take the long handle to Australia. I am Australian & I readily accept not all the things our national team does always shows it in the best light. This is not an issue isolated to Australia or Australians. Something I think you fail to clarify. I wonder if this one will make through Big Brother?

  • Geoff Plumridge on December 29, 2009, 2:02 GMT

    Michael, excellent article as per usual. Do the players realise the effect that they have on youngsters learning the game? As a long term childrens coach I have seen behaviour from 10 year olds' that you wouldn't believe. And the excuse is that they see it on the television from the people that they idolise. Surely Punter and Watto should realise that there are young people out there copying their batting style, their gear and their woeful on field behaviour as well. All well and good smiling and patting children on the head for television advertisements, but the real influence is felt at grass roots level when lots of boys are turned off the game by aggression and verbals learnt from the Australian (read Australian) cricket team. Sad that we've given the game so much in way of entertainment and excellence in batting & bowling/fielding, then taken so much away from the game in disrespect for the game, the umpire and opposition all the cause of "national pride". Very sad.

  • Michael Jeh on December 28, 2009, 22:11 GMT

    Thanks for the comments thus far. It seems like people from around the world agree broadly with the theme, not necessarily excusing any particular country from that criticism. Robbie, to answer your question: NO, I haven't played international cricket. I wasn't good enough to get to that level I'm afraid. I have had to come back from injury and represent whatever team I was playing for so I know what it's like to be emotional but unlike your assertion, the bigger the stage, the more compelled I felt to behave properly. That just goes back to some fairly simple home truths really - "don't bring shame on yourself and family and school etc by making a goose of yourself". I didn't think that I'd get away with pathetic excuses, citing all of the reasons I referred to in the article. As for being one-sided, I named 1 Aussie, 1 Brit, 1 South African and 1 Indian. They were merely convenient examples but is that really one-sided? And my brief is to write from a local perspective.

  • Khan on December 28, 2009, 10:02 GMT

    more Aussie bashing from Michael Jeh what a surprise

  • karam on December 28, 2009, 1:22 GMT

    excllent commentary....that last paragraph is priceless

  • Subramanian on February 22, 2010, 6:57 GMT

    Very nicely written, and nowadays its getting more and more common to see such idiotic behaviour all in the name of pride and passion. The epidemic which started with the Aussies is catching / spreading out very fast. Everyone will say as an excuse that all the others do it then why not me? The decision maker have to stamp their authority and poot their foot down and penalise such kind of behaviour which puts the game into disrepute.

    The last paragraph of the article was an absolute beauty.

  • shaen johnston on February 17, 2010, 7:06 GMT

    boring, unoriginal...acually done to death. Hundreds of words blagging Australians followed by about a dozen.."It’s not a problem isolated to Australians mind you"...some of my best friends etc..... You getting paid for this ?

  • выиграть рулетк& on January 30, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    Damn, that sound's so easy if you think about it.

  • trucos para ganar on January 29, 2010, 12:43 GMT

    This brings me to an idea:...

  • Bayman on December 30, 2009, 5:43 GMT

    As a proud Aussie supporter I can only endorse the views of Michael Jeh. Watching Watson send off Gayle was arguably the most childish, excruciatingly embarrassing thing I've seen on a cricket field. Various Aussie players of bygone days have done things best left undone but none have shown themselves to be so immature as "our Shane". I haven't seen stuff like that since I left the eight year olds playground. I'm glad Watson was not embarrassed by his actions but he was in a minority of one. A week later I still find it hard to believe a grown man could be so..so..pathetic! Professionalism has brought many changes to the game. Unfortunately, behaviour like Watson's is one of those changes. One assumes the likes of Bradman, Hassett, Benaud, Davidson, Harvey et al had no passion for their country or their cricket. They could not have really been trying given they didn't behave like prats every few minutes. Or, maybe, such rubbish is just not really necessary. There's a thought!

  • Cameron on December 29, 2009, 13:32 GMT

    Completely subjective, biased sensationalism appealing to all Australia haters. Nice work Michael if that was in your "brief" too. Shame you weren't brave enough to post my initial response. I even chose my words carefully enough not offend the sensibilities of those you are so obviously trying to win over. Going on your reply to Robbie it seems like even you need to convince yourself that you are objective. Your blog doesn't actually read like the balanced report you seem to think it does. However, you have won lots of praise from your numerous & ardent supporters. I for one though, feel that it is little more than the usual tripe we all too often read from those prepared to take the long handle to Australia. I am Australian & I readily accept not all the things our national team does always shows it in the best light. This is not an issue isolated to Australia or Australians. Something I think you fail to clarify. I wonder if this one will make through Big Brother?

  • Geoff Plumridge on December 29, 2009, 2:02 GMT

    Michael, excellent article as per usual. Do the players realise the effect that they have on youngsters learning the game? As a long term childrens coach I have seen behaviour from 10 year olds' that you wouldn't believe. And the excuse is that they see it on the television from the people that they idolise. Surely Punter and Watto should realise that there are young people out there copying their batting style, their gear and their woeful on field behaviour as well. All well and good smiling and patting children on the head for television advertisements, but the real influence is felt at grass roots level when lots of boys are turned off the game by aggression and verbals learnt from the Australian (read Australian) cricket team. Sad that we've given the game so much in way of entertainment and excellence in batting & bowling/fielding, then taken so much away from the game in disrespect for the game, the umpire and opposition all the cause of "national pride". Very sad.

  • Michael Jeh on December 28, 2009, 22:11 GMT

    Thanks for the comments thus far. It seems like people from around the world agree broadly with the theme, not necessarily excusing any particular country from that criticism. Robbie, to answer your question: NO, I haven't played international cricket. I wasn't good enough to get to that level I'm afraid. I have had to come back from injury and represent whatever team I was playing for so I know what it's like to be emotional but unlike your assertion, the bigger the stage, the more compelled I felt to behave properly. That just goes back to some fairly simple home truths really - "don't bring shame on yourself and family and school etc by making a goose of yourself". I didn't think that I'd get away with pathetic excuses, citing all of the reasons I referred to in the article. As for being one-sided, I named 1 Aussie, 1 Brit, 1 South African and 1 Indian. They were merely convenient examples but is that really one-sided? And my brief is to write from a local perspective.

  • Khan on December 28, 2009, 10:02 GMT

    more Aussie bashing from Michael Jeh what a surprise

  • karam on December 28, 2009, 1:22 GMT

    excllent commentary....that last paragraph is priceless

  • Damien on December 28, 2009, 0:04 GMT

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

  • balasubramanian.g on December 27, 2009, 23:47 GMT

    Negative histrionics, acrobatics, passionate playing to the galleries are indicators of total commercialism the game has turned into. Distorted values, wrong interpretation of basic instincts and qualities go under the garb of gamesmanship. Honour is professionally and systematically dishonoured.

  • Robbie on December 27, 2009, 21:57 GMT

    The question must be asked of Michael Jeh. Has he ever played any game of sport at the highest level and if he has is there any chance he let his emotions get the better of him. Has he had to endure many operations and injuries just to get a look at playing for australia again and if he did, did his emotions get the better of him on the big stage? Its all well and good to sit back on your laptop and criticise but until you put yourself in other peoples shoes then its just pointless drivel looking to spark a response. It was well said but a little one-sided.

  • Abrar on December 27, 2009, 21:35 GMT

    I wonder why was only Watson picked at in the Gayle send off. Why was Ponting overlooked, it is pretty evident even in the photo above.

  • Fazeel Javaid on December 27, 2009, 20:04 GMT

    I cannot agree more with u

  • Jon allcock on December 27, 2009, 19:26 GMT

    Absolutely spot on, sir! I am so appreciative that somebody has put into it's correct context the rubbish we see in international cricket today. Watson's behaviour was infantile at best. And there are many great examples of passionate proud cricketers whose conduct is exemplary, like Jonty Rhodes. You don't have to be "trailer trash" to be considered competitive...

  • Ashok Sridharan on December 27, 2009, 15:44 GMT

    Superb article Mr. Jeh. Its about time the cricketing community took note of the embarrassing behaviour of players whose 'pride' and 'competitiveness' impels them to behave with opponents in a manner no self-respecting person would ever condone.

  • Geith on December 27, 2009, 13:48 GMT

    Excellent! LOL

  • Kim on December 27, 2009, 13:20 GMT

    Here here Michael! Everyone should copy this and forward it to the ACB or something...

  • Marcus on December 27, 2009, 10:16 GMT

    It seems that all this modern competitiveness has come at the price of the players' self-respect. No adult should carry on the way so many of these players do. Maybe if the media would stop treating them (and their spouses) like superstars they'd act more proffessionally.

    As for Watson, he's just a softy who's really full of himself and can't handle criticism. Being "baited" is part of the game, and any adult should just be able to shrug it off.

  • Paul Dawson on December 27, 2009, 8:35 GMT

    Splendid article. Right on the nail and very well written. Lovely ending, too. A credit to the website.

  • Allan Pinchen on December 27, 2009, 8:07 GMT

    It is not just Australia [I`m a bit sick of sub continent Aussie bashers],did you forget Singh rolling on the ground when he dismissed Ponting[no penalty].Not to say I agree with Watson`s outburst but why is it always Australia being blamed for these things.Most test playing Nations are guilty of this.Haddin and Johnstone pleaded guilty,Benn pleaded not guilty....Read code of conduct...SAY NO MORE!

  • Pankaj Joshi on December 27, 2009, 6:38 GMT

    So succinctly put. Why does the world need to tolerate boors who were put in place in their school but never grew up afterwards? High time the code of conduct has to be enforced. Earlier it used to be internal, now that does not work.

  • Daniel on December 27, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    I've always thought that 'good manners' and the concept of sport, particulary male sport, were mutually exclusive. There is ample evidence to support that view. Therefore I fundamentally disagree with your entire argument. Also, being a Brisbanite and very familiar with Michael Jeh's work, I think there's ample evidence to suggest that your opinion isn't worth a great deal. If you ask me, Michael is typical of someone who has spent too much time in university and not enough time in the 'real world'. The real world and your dissatisfaction with it has been the topic of many of your opinion pieces. Well I'm sorry Michael but we all have to live in it, whether we like it or not.

  • BG on December 27, 2009, 4:39 GMT

    Well said, sir! I couldn't agree with you more!

  • shel on December 27, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    what a shallow little puff-piece! In all the pontification there is one actually-spoken quote: "fierce competitor". The rest is simply fabrication and inuendo and vaguely refered-to examples designed to prop up the author's soapbox. In an earlier article, this author quotes tv commentators to make his point, then over time the innuendo is that the Australian players say the same thing! Perhaps the classic statement from this silly little piece is "was a time not so long ago when exactly the opposite was true"!!! No examples given of course. Well, I've got one: I see one of the contributors to this blog co-wrote Javed Minadad's autobiography . . . hint hint. The whole article is a lazy, cheap shot, one of the worst examples of an idea being presented, in the total absence of even cursory research. It's a shame, because there _is_ an issue here, but it deserves to be given better than over-the-backyard-fence-gossip-type treatment. Research can be hard work . . . maybe that's the problem

  • Cam on December 27, 2009, 3:58 GMT

    Why is it that only Australia & Australians are subjected to this bloggers review? Surely the behaviour of certain other major test playing nations has not gone unnoticed by this sage blogger? He does mention late in his blog that these events are not isolated solely to Australians, but then goes on to reference the Australian outcomes of the previous Australia v WI test match. Does this blogger, like so many of the PC cricket world, not want offend the sensibilities of any potential or prospective employment opportunities with the largest cricket market & players in the game? It's the easiest, softest & most subjective call to make to simply highlight Australia's transgressions. There are numerous current instances of poor behaviour of teams other than Australia, why not mention them also, Mr Jeh?

  • Terry Jones on December 27, 2009, 3:50 GMT

    Michael Jen obviously doesnt live in the real world, and most likely doesnt watch the matches that he reports on. I watched the last 2 tests for Australia and can tell you that cricket political correctness HAS GONE TOO FAR! Cricket has turned into a fund raising exercise for people that want to be rich. IPL is the prime directive of this, and has in my opinion ruined the game. Yes, administraters, games officials, not players are at fault for the "poor behaviour" that people accuse players of. Lets review the 5 players: 1. Benn (WI) - Ran into another player. Interrupted batsmen speaking in the middle. Swore near stumps. Threatened to throw ball at batsmen. 2-3. Haddin & Johnson (Aust) - Ran into another player. Pointed bat at bowler. Pushed bowler away when in batting discussion. 4. Bollinger (Aust) - Kicked ground when dismissal was turned down. 5. Watson (Aust) - Laughed & got excited when batsmen got out. This is no difference then Warne, Lillee, Ambrose & others have done.

  • Anonymous on December 27, 2009, 3:37 GMT

    nicely done...beautifully put....

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Anonymous on December 27, 2009, 3:37 GMT

    nicely done...beautifully put....

  • Terry Jones on December 27, 2009, 3:50 GMT

    Michael Jen obviously doesnt live in the real world, and most likely doesnt watch the matches that he reports on. I watched the last 2 tests for Australia and can tell you that cricket political correctness HAS GONE TOO FAR! Cricket has turned into a fund raising exercise for people that want to be rich. IPL is the prime directive of this, and has in my opinion ruined the game. Yes, administraters, games officials, not players are at fault for the "poor behaviour" that people accuse players of. Lets review the 5 players: 1. Benn (WI) - Ran into another player. Interrupted batsmen speaking in the middle. Swore near stumps. Threatened to throw ball at batsmen. 2-3. Haddin & Johnson (Aust) - Ran into another player. Pointed bat at bowler. Pushed bowler away when in batting discussion. 4. Bollinger (Aust) - Kicked ground when dismissal was turned down. 5. Watson (Aust) - Laughed & got excited when batsmen got out. This is no difference then Warne, Lillee, Ambrose & others have done.

  • Cam on December 27, 2009, 3:58 GMT

    Why is it that only Australia & Australians are subjected to this bloggers review? Surely the behaviour of certain other major test playing nations has not gone unnoticed by this sage blogger? He does mention late in his blog that these events are not isolated solely to Australians, but then goes on to reference the Australian outcomes of the previous Australia v WI test match. Does this blogger, like so many of the PC cricket world, not want offend the sensibilities of any potential or prospective employment opportunities with the largest cricket market & players in the game? It's the easiest, softest & most subjective call to make to simply highlight Australia's transgressions. There are numerous current instances of poor behaviour of teams other than Australia, why not mention them also, Mr Jeh?

  • shel on December 27, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    what a shallow little puff-piece! In all the pontification there is one actually-spoken quote: "fierce competitor". The rest is simply fabrication and inuendo and vaguely refered-to examples designed to prop up the author's soapbox. In an earlier article, this author quotes tv commentators to make his point, then over time the innuendo is that the Australian players say the same thing! Perhaps the classic statement from this silly little piece is "was a time not so long ago when exactly the opposite was true"!!! No examples given of course. Well, I've got one: I see one of the contributors to this blog co-wrote Javed Minadad's autobiography . . . hint hint. The whole article is a lazy, cheap shot, one of the worst examples of an idea being presented, in the total absence of even cursory research. It's a shame, because there _is_ an issue here, but it deserves to be given better than over-the-backyard-fence-gossip-type treatment. Research can be hard work . . . maybe that's the problem

  • BG on December 27, 2009, 4:39 GMT

    Well said, sir! I couldn't agree with you more!

  • Daniel on December 27, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    I've always thought that 'good manners' and the concept of sport, particulary male sport, were mutually exclusive. There is ample evidence to support that view. Therefore I fundamentally disagree with your entire argument. Also, being a Brisbanite and very familiar with Michael Jeh's work, I think there's ample evidence to suggest that your opinion isn't worth a great deal. If you ask me, Michael is typical of someone who has spent too much time in university and not enough time in the 'real world'. The real world and your dissatisfaction with it has been the topic of many of your opinion pieces. Well I'm sorry Michael but we all have to live in it, whether we like it or not.

  • Pankaj Joshi on December 27, 2009, 6:38 GMT

    So succinctly put. Why does the world need to tolerate boors who were put in place in their school but never grew up afterwards? High time the code of conduct has to be enforced. Earlier it used to be internal, now that does not work.

  • Allan Pinchen on December 27, 2009, 8:07 GMT

    It is not just Australia [I`m a bit sick of sub continent Aussie bashers],did you forget Singh rolling on the ground when he dismissed Ponting[no penalty].Not to say I agree with Watson`s outburst but why is it always Australia being blamed for these things.Most test playing Nations are guilty of this.Haddin and Johnstone pleaded guilty,Benn pleaded not guilty....Read code of conduct...SAY NO MORE!

  • Paul Dawson on December 27, 2009, 8:35 GMT

    Splendid article. Right on the nail and very well written. Lovely ending, too. A credit to the website.

  • Marcus on December 27, 2009, 10:16 GMT

    It seems that all this modern competitiveness has come at the price of the players' self-respect. No adult should carry on the way so many of these players do. Maybe if the media would stop treating them (and their spouses) like superstars they'd act more proffessionally.

    As for Watson, he's just a softy who's really full of himself and can't handle criticism. Being "baited" is part of the game, and any adult should just be able to shrug it off.