I've devoted many recent paragraphs to sinking the boot into badly behaved rugby players, and now I unexpectedly fine myself feeling (slightly) sorry for Jimmy Cowan. With three charges of disorderly conduct against him, following three drunken incidents in
None of these punishments seem too harsh to me, given how objectionable Cowan has made himself. It's refreshing to hear the NZRU treat alcohol-related misbehaviour seriously, and an improvement on its woeful response to the rape of an 18 year old woman by English players. The fine given Cowan is, of course, punitive, but the other conditions recognise the fact that the guy appears to have a drinking problem and needs some support.
Sadly, the NZRU's attempts to treat alcohol-related misbehaviour seriously have been undermined by Murray Mexted. TV3 interviewed Mexted, in his capacity as an idiot, the day before Cowan's NZRU hearing. Mexted was irritated about Cowan's recent, third arrest in Invercargill: he asked, do we really want to suppress 'the free spirit of young men'?
It's hard to know where to begin exploring the sheer wrongness of Mexted's comment. Apparently, making the streets feel unsafe and unpleasant for others is some sort of natural right for young men – or at least for young men who play rugby at high levels. I have a feeling that if I, as a thirty-two year old mother, got drunk and caused trouble outside a bar, it wouldn't be looked on as harmless hi-jinks, by Murray Mexted or anyone else. It seems that some people still have cultural permission to binge drink and misbehave; or, if we don't exactly give permission, we're prepared to cut certain young men a lot of slack for their 'harmless' antics. It's much easier for ALAC to produce an ad suggesting Lisa is raped because of her drinking than it would be for them to oppose the likes of Murray Mexted. Would ALAC dare to take on a cultural icon, or will it continue to choose easier targets – people like drunk young women whom NZ society is more comfortable being critical of?
Almost immediately after screening Mexted's drivel, TV3 ran an item about a group of nine year old boys smoking cannabis at school. According to this item, alcohol and drug education is now required for primary school age children. Following on from Mexted's making light of a celebrated All Black's drunken misbehaviour as 'the free spirit of young men', the irony was almost too painful. There was no commentator on hand to suggest that alcohol and drug use are part of the carefree joys of childhood.
By exempting Cowan from the behavioural standards that apply to everyone else, Mexted was ultimately harming the young All Black. If Cowan does have a drinking problem – if he's risking his career, health and friendships, as those with alcohol dependencies do – then, despite his recent poor behaviour, he deserves some measure of compassion and support. Having what may be a serious problem downplayed as hi-jinks is surely the last thing Jimmy Cowan needs.