|Warnie - not the role model we paid for|
|Written by Bridie O'Donnell|
|Wednesday, 18 January 2012 08:24|
But what has been more disappointing in the days preceding this event is the example of yet another overpaid, overexposed professional male athlete failing to demonstrate any sense of social responsibility.
Warne’s recent escalating series of ‘anti-cycling’ and ‘anti-cyclist’ statements on Twitter generated a lot of support from many of his 630000 followers.
Initially, it allowed him to receive validation for his ill-informed and harmless comments, which in turn, reinforced his opinion as ‘right.’
Of course, if over half a million people follow you on Twitter, it’s because they like you, admire you, or are enthralled to hear what whimsical and acerbic sound-bytes emanate from your intriguing mind…..
He was quickly corrected (repeatedly so, by many high profile professional road cyclists and triathletes) over his statement that it was a legal requirement for cyclists to ride single file on the road.
His other general remarks about arrogant lycra-clad cyclists, blocking café entrances and behaving selfishly, were received with the predictable backlash from all of those that bother to engage in any sort of dialogue with Warne.
Perhaps this demonstrated just how thin skinned we cyclists often are, but is it any surprise we’re defensive? A generalised lack of respect in ‘harmless’ tweets can often be a superficial marker of a more deep seated (and dangerously common) loathing and intolerance for the rapidly growing cycling community.
It’s important to remember that while Warne made a career out of being a spin bowler, he was far more famous for his sledging, his hair, his recidivist womanising, and poor nutritional choices. He can be proud of his contribution to cricket’s image as a sport of overweight, overpaid blokes who drink a lot.
Still, the Australian sporting fan base has shown a great capacity to forgive Warne’s transgressions, and like it or not, he is a still a very high profile ‘athlete’ in this country.
I consider it a privilege to be an elite athlete in a country where sport is such an integral part of our lives. We can make a living from it, contribute to a more active and healthy population and we can affect change.
It’s with this in mind that Warne should consider it his social responsibility to behave accordingly.
Unless one believes in pre-ordained sporting prowess, Warne is fortunate his physical ‘talent’ didn’t direct him towards archery, squash or badminton. He would have a much smaller social profile, thinner hair and likely a house far from the cycling haven of Beach Road if it was.
Young men making a very generous living from their sporting talent are very quick to renounce their fame when things go awry. “I never asked to be a role model” is the quote of choice from any lad that finds himself involved in cases of drink driving, drug use, sexual assault or racist remarks.
But guess what? You don’t get it both ways.
If you’re lucky enough to excel at a sport that gets most of the sporting section of the paper or the air time on every news channel; if hundreds of thousands of people care what you say, what you eat and who your girlfriend is; if millions of young men and women look up to you, buy your jersey or watch throw/kick/bowl/bat then it’s too late. By definition, you ARE a role model.
The very important concept that non cyclists often ignore, is that we are ALL road users. ‘Cyclists’ are labelled as such, as though this then determines their behaviour.
But one can’t generalise about cyclists: they can be commuters, old men trying to keep fit, young men trying to beat their mates, women socialising, and teens emulating their heroes.
They are someone’s husband, wife, father, child and friend.
They are also doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, students, professional athletes and most importantly, most of them are also motorists. They pay registration, understand road rules and consequently, can have all the same flaws as every other human.
People can be selfish and make poor decisions. They can be arrogant. Idiotic. Dangerous.
I ride nearly 600km a week on roads in Melbourne and I see motorists breaking the law every day. They text and use their phones, run red lights, ignore road rules and drive dangerously.
I also see a consistent improvement in the consideration they show for cyclists. Every year, there is a noticeable improvement in courtesy, patience and a general awareness of riders as valid road users, and for this I am very grateful.
I think cyclists need to be beyond reproach in our use of the road to maintain the respect of motorists. But I would also love for every registered driver in Melbourne to have to ride a bike to and from work every day for a week.
I think it would change the way they see cyclists, how they would drive and who knows, they may even love it as much as the rest of us!
The education of Warnie? Well, that’s a much trickier prospect.