You may have spent the past 24 hours under a rock, so I’ll explain: before the Richmond Fremantle AFL match on Saturday night, Richmond mid-fielder Ben Cousins went over to a fixed “fly-on-the-wall” camera in the Richmond change rooms and “flipped the bird” to it.

Oh my gawd … oh my gawd! Hanging is too good for this man isn’t it? I mean we in the AFL media were good enough to let him have a second chance in life and he goes and does this to us? How can we believe that he’s rehabilitated himself when he’ll react like this? This really proves that he is a ratbag … and then he doesn’t even have the decency to apologize when fronted by only 30 or so media reps at Perth airport!


It used to be that the sporting media was able to pick holes in the on and off-field actions of sporting heroes by saying that “they lived in a bubble” without any grip of “the real world”.

The shock, horror response to the Cousins gesture shows that these days the bubble is on the other foot.

In fact with players socialising with their younger fans through footy clinics, older fans through post-match functions and corporate supporter groups, as well as professional sporting organizations like AFL clubs and the AFL Players Association insisting their members spend their day away from their club either studying or working part-time through an AFLSportsReady initiative, a very strong argument can be made that those covering the sport live a far more cloistered life than the players.

When Channel 10’s consistently uninteresting Saturday evening post-game show The Fifth Quarter got their hands on the Cousins vision, it was like they had in their hot little hands the AFL’s version of the Paris Hilton video.

They first showed it at half time of the game and the conservative, white bread reactions of hosts Andrew Maher and Michael Christian were continued later in the evening when they were joined by Herald Sun journalist Jon Ralph, for more chest besting over the issue, which of course gave them a chance to show the footage another half a dozen times.

They and others don’t get that just because you come back from an AFL commission sanctioned significant suspension, placed on you due to having a serious illicit drug dependency problem to again play professional sport at the highest level; you don’t then have to also be a model citizen and a good bloke. You don’t take the drugs, but being a model citizen and/or good bloke is optional whether others like it or not.

Not for the first time, those within the media tent misjudged the public mood as for the majority, it was a “non-issue-issue.”

The Herald Sun’s poll “Did you find Ben Cousins middle finger gesture offensive?” was running at 68% saying no, and this punter would take short odds that had the question been “Could you give a fat rats’ clacker?” the vote would have been even stronger in the negative.

In addition the readers comments associated to the story were passionately sympathetic towards Cousins, and not in the usual footy-god-can-do-no-wrong manner. In this case the fans criticized the intrusion of a camera in the player’s personal pre-game work space, the decision to air what wasn’t live footage, the sympathy towards a person who is constantly harassed by the media and mainly, who-cares-less-it-was-only-an-up-yours-middle-finger-so-get-over-it!

Of course he’ll cop a fine, and deserves one too given that previously Matthew Richardson, Nathan Brown and “Spider” Everitt also got hit in the pocket for publicly flipping the bird.

Bet let’s see how much this can be kept in perspective.

Earlier this year Adelaide Crows star Nathan Bock was fined $5000 (and suspended for a week) after being charged by police with assaulting his girlfriend. He will face court later this year.

Let’s test some relativities here. Lining up a five second “up yours” to a fixed non-live camera in your personal work space while pre-game adrenaline is surging through you, with the above mentioned five grand fine should see Cousins about 35 cents out of pocket.

And I’ll defend Gary Ablett tomorrow while I’m on a roll!

“Racetrack” Ralphy Horowitz is a former producer at The Footy Show, Sunday Footy Show, SEN & 3AW.