Behaving Badly with Amanda Smith - 16th June 2000
Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
athletes learn bullying, anti-social behaviour
though sport? And how might sportspeople manage
the contradiction that's inherent in their lives
- where the kind of aggressive behaviour that
they're rewarded for on the field can get them
into trouble off the field? This is the starting
point for a study which sociologist MITCHELL DEAN
is doing into reforming the behaviour of professional
rugby league players.
manager and PR man MAX MARKSON is a master at
turning negative publicity into positive publicity,
and making money out of it. So what spin would
he be putting on this week's allegations of sexual
harassment against cricketer Shane Warne, if he
were Warne's manager?
JOHN CLARKE, creator, writer and star of the TV
series "The Games" - the second series
of which begins on Monday night - talks about
sport as a subject for satire, and making a farce
of the Olympic Games.
Smith: On The Sports Factor this week, spinning
the image of sports-men who behave badly.
do athletes learn bullying, anti-social behaviour
through sport? And does sport perpetuate violence
in our society? Or does it, rather, civilise violence?
Those are some questions I'll be raising shortly
with sociologist Mitchell Dean.
coming up, John Clarke, creator, writer and star
of the TV show "The Games", on taking
sport as a subject for satire. And a question
I've long wanted to put to him:
Smith: Has anyone ever told you you look rather
like Kevan Gosper?
Clarke: Yes, it's funny you should say that. Mrs
Gosper has often made that remark.
Smith: And more with John Clarke on making a farce
of the Olympic Games, later in the program.
the off-field behaviour of some of our high profile
footballers and cricketers continues to attract
newspaper headlines. It's a kind of ongoing theme
about exposing the out-of-hours misdemeanours,
or alleged misdemeanours, of those sportspeople
whose actions we admire so much on the field.
In his years as a manager of athletes and celebrities,
Max Markson has had to massage the image of a
few errant individuals, in addition to drumming
up new ways of turning his athletes into household
names. It's something that Max Markson learnt
at a young age from his father, who ran "the
Leon Markson Aquashow" in England, and who
always said that "It's stunts wot make a
Markson: I think to get attention for anybody
or anything, you have to make them laugh, and
make them sit up and notice you. And I think one
of the big examples, when I look back at my career
and some of the things I've done, I mean The Golden
Girls Calendar, which we did with Jane Flemming,
at that time it was a whole new things for athletes
to show their bodies, as it were.
Smith: And look what you've started!
Markson: (laughs) Yes, now everybody takes their
clothes off; any excuse for a calendar or book!
Smith: Well over the years you've managed and
promoted a raft of sportspeople, from Dawn Fraser
in her post-swimming career, as you mentioned,
Jane Flemming and her Golden Girls Calendar, through
to organising a new head of hair for cricketers
Greg Matthews and for Graham Gooch. How though,
and why, did you get into the personal management
Markson: The first time I got involved was 1986,
when one of our clients was sponsoring the then
Mean Machine, Neil Brooks, Matthew Renshaw, Mark
Stockwell and Greg Fasala and it's prior to the
Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. They won gold
medals; I told them they've got to shave their
heads, and so they brought the hair back and we
auctioned the hair off for charity. And they asked
me if I'd manage them, we were doing the PR for
them, so I said, "Sure; and so there's four
of you, one of me, we'll split it all 20% each."
And so that's how I started taking 20% when I
managed people. The first thing we do, we've got
a TV commercial for them, white and brown bread
("I'm a white and brown fan, that's what
I am") and they had to shave their heads
again, which Brooksey didn't want to do at all.
Said, "No, no, no, I'm growing my hair back".
I said, "Look, for ten grand," (you
know, because we're getting 50 grand for the commercials)
I said, "shave your head". And all the
other guys wanted to do it. And I even offered
to shave my head; my wife didn't want to know
about it. And that's how it came about. And then
Greg Matthews approached me and asked me if I'd
represent him. Once I was looking after Greg,
I rang up Jeff Fenech who I was mates with, and
said, "Do you want me to manage you?"
he said, "Yes, sure." And he hung up.
And then I was doing work for Reebok, and they
recommended Wally Masur, the tennis player to
come to me; I started looking after him, and I
picked up Andrew Lloyd after the Commonwealth
Games in 1990, then Jane Flemming, Duncan Armstrong,
it's just grown.
Smith: Well aside from organising endorsements
and appearances and publicity with the athletes
you manage, how much do you need to get involved
in their private lives and in managing dysfunctions
in their private lives?
Markson: Look I think that's very important from
just being part of their circle of friends and
advisers to help them when their private life
suddenly becomes public, you have to handle the
public image of it, and it's not always bad. I
mean sometimes someone's getting married or having
a baby, and I obviously see a commercial avenue
there and I'll try and sell the story to a magazine
or to a TV show so at least they're earning some
money from this, and also when there's something
bad happens, you can always have an exclusive
deal. I mean you talk about the current situation
with Shane Warne for instance, something's happened
in England, this woman sold her story to a newspaper,
he said there's two sides to the story and he
hasn't said a word yet. Now if I was managing
him, which I'm not, but if I was, I'd be going
and trying to get a quarter of a million dollars
for him to do his side of the story and make him
come out smelling like roses.
Smith: Well it seems to me that you've almost
always been able to turn a bad news story about
one of your athletes into an opportunity for publicity
and/or moneymaking. For example a few years ago
the cricketer Greg Matthews got caught up in rumours
in the UK that he was having a fling with Sophie
Rhys-Jones, at that time she was Prince Edward's
new girlfriend. Tell us what you did with that.
Markson: Well he didn't have an affair with Sophie
Rhys-Jones, had never even met her, and on the
tour that it was supposed to have happened, he
wasn't even in England. So I sold the story the
other way: I said, "I didn't have an affair
with Sophie Rhys-Jones", and we got $20,000
from Woman's Day for not doing the story.
Smith: Well you certainly had to media manage
the odd swimmer and cricketer who has got themselves
involved in things like bar-room brawls and so
forth; how do you do the damage control? What
are your priorities and strategies when, say,
one of your sportspeople gets up to no good?
Markson: Talk to them first of all to find out
what's actually happened; and if there's something
which is negative, then obviously try and make
them look good out of it, either you come out
and do a straightforward apology, or you come
out and defend yourself vigorously, or you lie
low and don't say a word, go into hiding. But
normally you come out and you handle the media,
because if you don't come out and talk to the
media, it just grows and grows, and the media
keep hounding you and the story keeps running
and running. If you can nip it in the bud straight
away, the story goes away. And then you just get
the athlete back on the field, doing what they
do best. And I've just said about Shane Warne,
but I mean all Shane's got to do is go back and
take wickets, and we'll all forget about what's
happened in the last week or two, we'll just be
saying, "Gee, what a great cricketer he is".
Smith: Unless of course it comes out that those
allegations are indeed true, surely?
Markson: It wouldn't matter.
Smith: Why not?
Markson: Because we forget about it. We've forgotten
about the bribery scandal, we've forgotten about
him walking out when the Madame Tussaud situation
when they said he was too fat and all that. We
forget about this. You know, he's Australia's
greatest ever test wicket taker. That's all we
care about. And as soon as somebody does something
... all the fuss over the Olympics at the moment;
as soon as that opening ceremony and somebody
lights the flame, and Cathy Freeman wins the 400
metres or Kieran Perkins wins the 1500 metres,
or Suzie O'Neill, Ian Thorpe win medals, we'll
forget about all the hassle we had with getting
the tickets, we'll love it.
Smith: Is there a line over which you wouldn't
walk though, Max? I'm wondering what your kind
of, I guess, ethical boundaries are when it comes
to spinning the image of someone you're representing.
Markson: Look, it's got to be within the law.
I mean if someone's done a criminal action I don't
really want to try and defend them, or be involved
in terms of doing something illegal; I'd never
do anything illegal. But as far as protecting
my athletes, supporting my athletes and being
there for them, yes, that's what a manager's about.
Smith: I was interested to find out recently that
Gustavo Kuerten, the Brazilian tennis player who
won the French Open Men's Singles title last weekend,
he has a dedicated, permanent public relations
person in his entourage, I think he's the only
player on the circuit to have his own personal
PR manager. Is that the way things are going,
that athletes of that calibre these days need
full-time image management?
Markson: But of course. If Pat Cash would have
had that, he'd probably be worth a lot more money
now, because think of some of the instances where
he had bad media management, or where he lost
his temper over something. If he would have had
a PR person there, that wouldn't have happened.
You've got to look at some of the superstar athletes,
are superstars, and they're the same as the superstars
of film. I mean Tom Cruise doesn't go anywhere
without his personal publicist, it's just part
of the game, it's where we're going. In this country,
no, we haven't got athletes of that nature unless
you look at, say, Greg Norman, or Pat Rafter perhaps.
But I mean definitely, if you've got an athlete
who is generating millions of dollars, and I'm
talking five, ten, fifteen, twenty million dollars
a year in endorsements, then you've got to protect;
and they're doing them for companies that are
worth billions of dollars. I mean, if I'm Nike
and I'm giving Tiger Woods $50-million a year,
hey, it's worth it to me to spend 50-grand a year
having one person dedicated to looking after Tiger
Woods full time PR-wise, just to handle the media,
to make sure that he doesn't step out of line
or do something wrong. Why wouldn't you? It's
Smith: If an athlete of yours, Max, gets involved
in some sort of scandal or allegations of the
nature of what's going on with Shane Warne at
the moment, how much are you kind of meat-in-the-sandwich
between the athlete, the media and also their
sponsors, who want a clean image in their athlete?
Markson: I don't think it's meat-in-the-sandwich,
you just fix it; if there's a problem, you fix
it. You go and talk to the athlete, you talk to
the sponsors, you talk to the media, and you make
the whole exercise clean, if you like, or you
give the answers. Now if you're a sponsor who's
sponsoring an athlete who's continue getting into
trouble, or continually controversial, then you'd
be looking at your contract and saying, "Can
I get out of this contract?" or you're saying,
"Is that the sort of image we want?"
and if it is, then you keep going with it. If
you don't, then you pull the pin on the athlete.
And I've had that happen to me before, with athletes.
I mean, never for bad reasons, I've had it for
injury but never for somebody who's done something
wrong. A lot of the athletes I look after, I'm
very fortunate, are very clean skinned. And I
look after Michael Bevan the cricketer, Jane Flemming,
track and field athlete, and now commentator,
Hayley Lewis back in the Olympic team, all of
them fantastic images, never had an iota of problems
around them. It's not always every high profile
athlete gets into trouble.
Smith: No, of course not. But often controversy
is good in terms of image-making?
Markson: Depends on the product. If you're a Pepsi
Max or Coca Cola and you want to have a bit of
an edge, or street cred or mambo, then maybe you
want to have a personality who's a bit on the
edge. Or if you're a snack food, like a McDonald's
or KFC, you probably want to have a really clean
image, you don't want to go anywhere near controversy.
You might be a product like a packet of crisps,
and you want to have again, that sort of edge
image, so sure, you might like to have a Leyton
Hewitt who might be a little bit controversial.
Smith: And you, I imagine Max, would subscribe
to Oscar Wilde's line about there being only one
thing worse than people talking about you?
Markson: Yes, not talking about you, absolutely.
And Groucho Marx, any publicity's good publicity,
Smith: Max Markson, athlete and celebrity manager,
PR and promotions man. And Max has a book coming
out next month, about his life and times in this
business, called "Show Me the Money",
a most appropriate title for the bloke they call
"Mr Twenty Percent".
is sport a breeding ground for anti-social behaviour?
Mitchell Dean is a sociologist who's embarking
on a study into reforming the behaviour of professional
Rugby League players. And a major issue, as he
sees it, is the contradiction between the kind
of behaviour that's expected of sportpeople on
the field, and the behaviour that's expected of
them off the field. As Mitchell Dean put it, on
the football or cricket ground, players are required
to be battle-soldiers, off it, they're supposed
to be in the diplomatic corps.
Dean: Yes, it seems to me that the modern professional
sportsman has to develop two rather different
sets of capacities, as you say. Firstly, aggression
and fierce competitiveness within the framework
of the rules on the field, not a slavish following
of the rules, because you won't win if you slavishly
follow the rules, but you need to stretch the
rules to their limit, without being penalised.
And there's that kind of aggression, fierce competition
on the field. Off the field, the professional
sportsmen, and sportswomen increasingly, are expected
to be exemplary individuals, their public conduct
is scrutinised, their statements are scrutinised,
they're seen to me, in a sense, ambassadors for
the game, or for their sponsors, there's an enormous
amount of money, multinational capital invested
in them, and so on. And it's that contradiction
that I started from.
Smith: So how might individual sportspeople best
understand and manage the contradictions that
are inherent in their lives then, as athletes,
as celebrities, and as citizens?
Dean: I think that as with most social things,
most things in society, that we're not necessarily
born with the skills to cope with these situations.
So it's very difficult for an individual to, you
know, you have to be an extraordinary individual
to cope with these rather different sets of demands
upon you. And I think that in this period of transition
of Australian sport, we haven't seen the sort
of requisite development of an infrastructure
that places the individual within a wider context.
So the clubs, sporting administrators and so on,
are trying to find ways of developing a structure,
but I don't think it's quite there yet. So I suppose
my overall sense, and this is really pre-judging
my own research, is that we need to look at the
professional and personal development, the life
skills outside of sport, of the sportsmen. We
need to look at systems of mentorship as well.
Smith: But what about the argument that men in
particular, learn a bullying, aggressive kind
of behaviour through sport, that then impacts
on their behaviour beyond sport. I mean you could
see the allegations of sexual harassment that
have been made against Shane Warne in England
as a potential example of this.
Dean: Yes. I think that there is a sense in which
you could say sport perpetuates a kind of aggressive
behaviour off the field, but we all have to, in
our social lives, we all have to engage in rather
different roles: in the workplace, as a parent,
and so on. And there are different capacities
that are required. I don't think it's beyond human
beings to be able to juggle those capacities under
the right circumstances, and if you like, with
the right training in life skills and so on. To
me, that relates to, if you like, the broader
question of whether sport is a civilising of aggression,
masculine aggression, masculinity, or whether
it perpetuates some of its worst forms.
Smith: And what do you think?
Dean: I think that compared to, say, pre-modern
societies, and the forms of sport that were associated
with them, that we live in a very civilised, regulated
society, in which most of us live fairly mundane,
peaceful, but somewhat routine lives, and in which
sport has become a professional activity that's
restricted to a few specialists; it's played under
certain conditions, so that aggression is being,
if you like, regulated there.
Smith: And you believe that sport has actually
played a part in enabling the development of liberal
democracies, Mitchell? How so?
Dean: Well I think if you compare the types of,
say, football we have, to medieval folk forms
of football, which were practised on a Shrove
Tuesday or another festival day, involved unlimited
players, some of which were on horseback, using
all sorts of branches and so on to beat each other
with, which were not played on a field, which
involved the death of people, and bystanders,
compare that to modern professional games of football,
and you see that over the long term, you can't
help but think that professional sports is a part
of a kind of civilising process, and the majority
of us are spectators. And we get our kicks, if
you like, we get our quest for excitement, our
desire to participate in risky behaviours in this
kind of vicarious way.
Smith: And yet that kind of civilising aspect
that you talk about with folk football, that has
sort of fallen apart over the last ten years or
so, you'd have to say around British soccer for
example, with the hooliganism that surrounds the
game, which in a way harks back to the earlier
forms of folk football that did involve those
large numbers of people out in the streets often
behaving in a pretty aggro way.
Dean: It does, and there's an old sort of idea
about soccer, that because of the deferral of
excitement on the field, that it's open to that
type of football hooliganism. And I do think soccer
has a particular kind of development, that it's
obviously aristocratic in origin, in the sense
that it requires a lot of self denial, that what
you have with the restriction on the use of the
hands, you have these very limited moments of
ecstasy in an otherwise rather mundane and dull
kind of game, which gives plenty of opportunities,
particularly when it's connected to I suppose
working class groups of spectators, for that semi-Fascist
kind of behaviour on the terraces, and in the
streets, which we see with the English football,
almost professional football hooligans, aren't
Smith: Indeed. Mitchell Dean, who's head of the
Department of Sociology at Macquarie University.
a professional hooligan of another, altogether
more charming kind, is John Clarke, co-writer
and co-star of the ABC-TV show "The Games".
In its first series, this spoof on the organisation
behind the Olympic Games, produced some memorable,
farcical, yet strangely believable moments.
Clarke: Now, Mr Wilson, have you measured the
100 metres track?
Wilson: Yes, of course.
Clarke: Well let me ask you: how long is it?
Wilson: How long is the 100 metres track?
Wilson: It's a 100 metres track.
Clarke: Yes, I know what it is, Mr Wilson, I'm
asking you how long it is.
Wilson: It's about 100 metres.
Clarke: It's about 100 metres long?
Clarke: How long should it be, Mr Wilson?
Wilson: That's about the length it should be.
Clarke: Yes, about 100 metres long.
Wilson: Look, what's the point?
Clarke: The point, Mr Wilson, is that in 739 days
we're going to have the Olympic 100 metres final
on that track. This is an event that will be watched
by about 600-million of the world's most dedicated,
rugged individualists. You and I both know it's
going to be run on a track that's not 100 metres
Smith: The second series of "The Games"
begins on ABC-TV on Monday night. Now, it seems
to me that the best sources for satire are subjects
that take themselves utterly seriously. For that
reason I think, John Clarke has been knocking
the stuffing out of politicians for years. But
are sports, and more particularly, the Olympic
Games, ripe for satire for that same reason?
Clarke: Well, yes, anything that takes itself
seriously, you know, requires some naughty boys
at the back of the class or whatever it is. I
think that the more is at stake, and the more
human stupidity and the greater the opportunity
cost, in all sorts of terms, and so on, the more
important it is that somebody does say something
about it. Certainly I think sport is a pretty
rich field. I mean I've always found sport very
funny for example.
Clarke: I think sport tells a story fairly quickly.
If you go to a day of the footy, you get a kind
of Icelandic saga in four hours, and a lot of
life is a soap, you know, it just trickles on
and on and on. So I think you get a beginning,
a middle and an end, or you get an event you can
relate or something or other, coupled with the
fact that it has represented graphically, it has
very high peaks and very low troughs, that's pretty
dynamic, and it's this kind of Saudi Arabia of
over-seriousness. I mean if you listen to the
radio and watch television there are people talking
about football games for example, as if they matter
at all. Which is intrinsically ludicrous.
Smith: And that though, is carried to extreme
degree with the Olympic Games, yes?
Clarke: Yes it is. And it's also full of statistics,
full of its own sort of terminology, full of unique
injuries, and all these things which we take for
granted, are all often pretty funny. I mean a
couple of times I've actually tried to do something
specifically about sport, and found it to be really
a very rich field. I like sport, and I've always
been involved in sport in one way or another,
so these are things that I also do out of a kind
of affection for all of this. But there's no denying
that it's not the most important thing on the
Smith: Well certainly, apart from your political
satire, you were of course this country's chief
exponent of the sport of fanarkling, weren't you?
Clarke: Yes, well farnarkling's a very good example,
where I was actually doing a television series
on which I did something about sport each week,
and that was OK in Australia when we were in the
summer, but it got to be a problem when we were
in the winter, because there was a different code
in a lot of the different places to which the
program went. So I decided to standardise it by
the invention of a completely different sort of
sport, no less bogus than any of the other ones,
(have a look at the Colonial Stadium) but full
of its own things, it's own terminology and its
own kind of heroes, many unsung, and a hero has
to be unsung to a certain extent, sung heroes
are you know, Shane Warne and so on, you're in
trouble there. So yes, and I really did enjoy
doing it. And I grew up in New Zealand of course,
where Rugby is a religious matter, and these people
were regarded as being geniuses, people who frankly
weren't geniuses, but were wearing the right clothing.
It's all a bit silly.
Smith: Now of course the wickedly delicious thing
about the first series of The Games was how prescient
many of the story lines turned out to be. Did
you expect to get that close to the bone?
Clarke: Well let me say that the second series
for example, Ross Stephenson and I are writing,
very often we'll think of an idea which is funny
or which has got a kind of reality to it, and
we'll just extrapolate for a while the possibilities
we think might exist there, and it's very noticeable
that Ross, who's got a very strong legal background,
he often sees a reality, a genuine reality, in
the fantasy. He often sees that closeness you're
talking about, and so it's terrific for me to
work with him, because we got a bit lucky in the
first series with a few things. For example, we
wrote something about the length of the 100 metres
track. Now that was obviously a kind of joke.
But I remember Ross said at the time, "Things
like this are bound to happen", and he listed
about 20 possibilities just straight off the bat
that weren't to do with the 100 metres tracks,
but were examples of either miscalculations or
things that don't fit other things. So everything's
a metaphor for everything else, and he saw that
very quickly, and he saw how that bolted on to
reality. So as time went by, I increasingly thought
that a lot of the metaphors that we were constructing
were likely to be part of the grand folly. Because
of course, the Olympics is so big that it can't
be organised properly anyway, it's not humanly
possible, I'm happy to say.
Smith: Do you think John, that The Games has contributed
to the level of public cynicism around the real
Games and the real games organisers?
Clarke: Well to the extent that the program is
about The Games, and it's not all about The Games
since obviously part of it is about the media
and world, more broadly. No, I would think that
there's a good deal of scepticism about, and I
think that a lot of people who like the program
will like the real Olympics, for example; I'm
not suggesting they're mutually exclusive, but
that is simply to say that a lot of people who
really like cricket are extremely disappointed
about what's happening in cricket, and a lot of
people who like football are extremely disappointed
about the complete stupidity and poor decision
making that they see happening in football. It's
not as if these views are held by people who hate
the game, or who are not in the audience, I think
it's possibly only people who are in the audience
who are frustrated, infuriated and disappointed
by the expropriation of entire segments of the
human experience by people who are doing it for
the wrong reasons, or are not in the right job,
or not doing it very well, or whatever they perceive
those failures to be. So no, I don't think cynicism,
I really think it's just the democracy of the
population expressing itself in light conversational
Smith: Well this is a 13-week series, beginning
this Monday night, which means the final episode
will go to air just four days I think, before
the actual opening ceremony. Does the series occur
in real time, so that the final episode will be
about the Sydney Olympic Games just about to start?
Clarke: Well I don't know quite what the final
episode will be about, since it's not written,
and I'd point out that you're presupposing in
there that the opening ceremony will happen on
the date that it's currently listed to happen
on. But the short answer to the sort of methodological
question is that we're about a fortnight ahead,
or ten days ahead of the on-air date, with making
programs. So if an event happens, we have a capacity
to respond to it; we have a slightly fail-safe
position in the sense that we've got an episode
kind of there, half ready for the next week anyway.
It's a little bit hairy, there's not much margin
Smith: It's a bit like sport.
Clarke: Well yes, exactly. But we should have
a capacity to respond to real events; we don't
want it to be "Here's one we prepared earlier".
So we don't know what the last program is going
to contain. I mean there'll be enormous speculation
by that stage about the opening ceremony and who's
going to light the flame and other vital issues,
but I don't know whether there might be some other
kind of thing that will overtake that, who knows?
Smith: John Clarke, whose role as the Head of
Administration and Logistics for "The Games",
we can again relish when the new series starts
on ABC-TV next Monday.
that's The Sports Factor for another week. Michael
Shirrefs produces The Sports Factor, and I'm Amanda
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