It would be nice to say that the degrading, sexist kerfuffle that has rubbed the AFL community’s face in Sam Newman over the past week should simply be ignored. It hasn’t been.
Here are Media Monitors’ figures for Melbourne alone: Newman has had 42 press mentions, 713 on radio, 136 on television (including last night’s intellectually void exercise in limply asserted ego on The AFL Footy Show) and 136 spots on the internet for a total of 1061 mentions. Not quite in the Crikey/MM Top 20, but getting there.
This is, of course, playing the game of self-promotion entirely on Newman’s terms. Even The Age devoted the top half of its allegedly “quality” front page to the man this morning. But then big issues are at stake: a footballing culture – one that crosses the major codes – that winks at misogynist violence. A culture that produced the likes of Wayne Carey, a culture that gave licence to the violent excess of the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Undereducated, overpaid young men in all the codes are encouraged by the culture of the locker-room – and by the under-educated, star-struck young women who hang around them – to treat women as sh-t. The result has been assaults on women that become public and the many more that are hushed up by clubs. That is the problem with Sam Newman’s “prank”, manhandling a s-xualized image of football journalist Caroline Wilson, a sequence that began with him heaving the dummy Wilson into the studio by the crotch and one that reached its climax when he shot the effigy in the head. An elder statesman of the game says “go for it son”.
Maybe Newman is right when he says, as he did last night, that football is no place for women. His presence, and presence of men like him, certainly make it hostile and unwelcoming. Maybe it’s time the rest of us had no place for Sam Newman or for the network, producers, directors and co-hosts who give him oxygen. That would be good for football.