STEVE WAUGH CONFIRMS THE SPORTING OBSESSION

Here we go again, yet another sporting Australian of the Year. Can you
believe that Steve Waugh is the fourth sporting recipient in the past
seven years?

Would there be another country in the world with such an unhealthy obsession?

These are the lucky four:

1998 – Cathy Freeman
1999 – Mark Taylor
2002 – Pat Rafter
2004 – Steve Waugh

An interesting comparison goes back to Time Magazine’s “Man of the
Year” which has been awarded since 1927. No sports “person” has ever
won. Although how’s this for an interesting sequence.

1938 – Hitler
1939 – Stalin
1940 – Churchill
1941 – Roosevelt
1942 – Stalin (again)

You can see the rather non-descript Hitler cover here: Time, Jan 1939

Steve Waugh and other glorified sports stars

Isn’t everyone absolutely sick of the adulation being heaped on Steve
Waugh? The media has already gone massively over the top with his
farewell and now this.

If the hyperbole in today’s papers gets you down, go back and read Dan
McNutt’s equally over-the-top rant about the media hype surrounding Waugh’s farewell Test match.  (And isn’t it nice to see a picture of Steve Waugh in the banner ad atop the McNutt article?)

We’re going to work up a list of major award recipients which haven’t
stood the test of time. This can cover dodgy gongs (ie Alan Bond and
Brian Quinn) or national awards to crooks (again, Alan Bond as
Australian of the Year). Send your suggestions to [email protected]

Staying with the sporting obsessions, prejudicial reporting is clearly
not a worry for the Sydney Morning Herald. Phil Cornford produced this
very detailed read on Saturday about what happened at the Beaconsfield
Hotel last Sunday night which is still available online in
Victoria: 

SMH – A split second in St Kilda

Howard plays down sports star awards

On Monday John Howard parried questions about the number of
sportspeople as Australians of the year by saying “look at the
statistics over the last 20 years instead of the last 10”.

So we visited the Australian of the Year website with all the key stats:

And this is what we discovered:

1995 – 2004: 4 sports people
1985 – 1994: 2 sports people
1975 – 1984: 1 sports person (if you don’t count Alan Bond)
1965 – 1974: 4 sports people
1960 – 1964: 2 sports people

The categories are a bit arbitrary, but the split of all Australians of the Year is:

Sport = 13
Arts/Music/Academia = 10
Medicine/Science = 8
Volunteer/Social or environmental activism = 5
Politics = 4
Military = 3
Business = 2
Clergy = 2
Law = 1

The obvious under-representation is business with a pathetic two gongs
out of the 48 awarded and you could argue that Alan Bond and Dick Smith
wouldn’t have been selected without their non-business activities.
Rupert Murdoch would have deserved one had he not renounced his
Australian citizenship and the other two most likely business figures
would be Frank Lowy and Dick Pratt.

It is interesting to note is that Lisa Curry-Kenny is the current
chairman of the Board of the Australia Day Council. It would be
interesting to know how many sportspeople have been on the board over
the last 45 years.

The spiel for Patrick White’s 1973 Australian of the Year is most
entertaining and almost reflects the chaos of those early Whitlam years.

“He had a deeply ambivalent attitude to his country, loathing what he
saw as a culture of mediocrity and spiritual emptiness. He described
the Australia Day ceremony as ‘one of the most awful experiences: the
Australia Day Committee… [have] been through all the tennis players
and swimmers…the Lunch was not at all attractive and the speeches
were endlessly boring’. In accepting his award, White offended many
when he said that ‘Australia Day is for me a day of self-searching
rather than trumpet blowing’ and talked about Aboriginal dispossession,
the destruction of the built heritage and our nineteenth century-style
penal system. He refused to undertake a tour of honour.”

Read Patrick White’s full CV here: http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/recipient.asp?pID=14

Alan Bond’s CV is certainly the shortest as it says just one word:
“Entrepreneur”. See for yourself here:
http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/recipient.asp?pID=87

And poor Neville Bonner has to put up with this literal in his citation:

“When asked in 1992 what his greatest achievement was while in the
senate seat, he said, “I think the fact that I was there. Than an
Aboriginal was there.”

Some of the recipients got the award too early. For instance, Paul
Hogan was the winner in 1985 – a year before his record-breaking movie
Crocodile Dundee – because he brought thousands of Americans to
Australia with those government-funded “shrimp on the barbie” ads.

Check out his citation here: http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/recipient.asp?pID=26

Another example is Dick Smith who won the award in 1986 – the year he
stated National Geographic, and only four years after he sold Dick
Smith Electronics and embarked on all those other paths.
Check out Dick’s citation here: http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/recipient.asp?pID=27

Peter Hollingworth, the 1991 winner, is one who fits the category of
history not agreeing with the decision. Check out the citation here:
http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/recipient.asp?pID=32

Boxer Lionel Rose is another after he got on the grog and was even locked up for his crimes.
 
There was also the irony that the Fraser government made the GG’s
longer serving official secretary Australian of the Year in 1977:
http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/recipient.asp?pID=85

Reader response:

Finally, here is a good response from someone who doesn’t believe we’re
overdoing the sports obsession and parodies our coverage as follows:

Professor Fiona Stanley AC confirms the science obsession

Here we got again, yet another science Australian of the Year. Can you
believe that Professor Fiona Stanley AC is the fourth science recipient
in the past eight years.

Would there be another country in the world with such an unhealthy obsession?

These are the lucky four:

1996 – Dr John Yu AM
1997 – Professor Peter Doherty
2000 – Sir Gustav Nossal
2003 – Professor Fiona Stanley AC

Peter Fray

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