On hurt feelings and vilification (a last word on the Adam Goodes booing controversy)


This correspondent has had a fair bit to say on the Adam Goodes booing controversy, most of it self confessed satirical tosh designed to mock the do-gooders who would tell a stadium full of Australians how to behave, and would do well to take a crash course in Crowd Psychology 101 (Boethius recommends the AFL commission acquaint themselves with the classic 1896 work of Gustave le Bon on the psychology and sociology of crowds if for no other purpose, than to appreciate their own clientele and grasp why lecturing crowds on social niceties is not a clever move).

I acknowledge the very real risk that the punters have had about enough of this subject… However, on this occasion I want to make a very serious and sober contribution to the debate, and point to the reason why Adam Goodes is being vilified by football crowds around the nation. I am sure there are some minor elements who are jeering Goodes because he is a notorious stager for free kicks; some because he is a champion footballer (the opposition crowd often boos the other team’s better players); some because he is perceived to be a whinger; some of those booing Goodes probably are racists, and many are just the sheep adding their baa to the baa of the flock. These are minor reasons, reflecting minority motivations.

Over the last few days I have read just about every column inch written on this, and most of the comments contributed by ordinary readers in the various online forums also. I have listened to talkback radio at every opportunity, and heard caller after caller ringing in to have their say. The vast majority have a strong view on why Goodes is being booed and it is for none of the reasons above, and the media class and other assorted hand wringers (with a few honourable exceptions) just don’t get it, or don’t want to. An example is today’s Australian and the article by Chip le Grand, which is strongly supportive of Goodes, and which is then followed by a long comments section contributed by readers, almost every one of which is entirely negative, and almost all for the same reason… The way Adam Goodes treated a 13 year old girl two years ago. This tells us two things – one) how great is the disjunct between the ordinary football fan and the media class and other assorted hand wringers adding their pious voices in defence of Goodes, and two) the actual reason why the vast majority of fans are booing Adam Goodes.

imageLet me reacquaint you with the facts of the case. The 13 year old was in the crowd. She said something stupid. It was not racially motivated, but a reference to facial hair. Adam Goodes, a large, fully grown man, pointed out the girl from the field, resulting in her being escorted by security guards and police to an interview room, where she was grilled for two hours. Two hours! Goodes later claimed “racism had a face… and it’s a 13 year old girl.” It emerged the 13 year old was from a disadvantaged background and had written to Goodes saying she did not know or understand that her taunt was a racist slur.

This is what crowds are reacting to. That a highly paid, elite sportsman, a fully grown man, could so shamelessly and intentionally vilify a 13 year old girl, over something she said in ignorance from the crowd, resulting in her being taken from her seat and interrogated, and then very publicly disgraced in the media. Adam Goodes made this a racist issue by drawing such overblown attention to a single comment from a misguided child, barely a teenager. With the AFL, media types, and a succession of others, subsequently falling over themselves in eagerness to condemn her racism, and then to reward Goodes for later cutting the hapless teenager some slack and saying it wasn’t actually her fault, it was society’s apparently.

Apparently Adam Goodes is now so distressed by the public verdict on his actions, and his feelings so badly hurt, he is needing a few days off training to come to recompose himself. I expect he knows how that 13 year old girl and her family felt now.