This week I’ve succumbed to temptation and picked up the latest edition of New Idea in order to find out all about football legend Wayne "the King" Carey’s personal demons.
New Idea does a very good line in personal demons. They’re also dab hands at baby joy, secret heartache and marriage hell. And marriage joy, baby heartache and secret hell — there are a lot of interchangeable headlines in the New Idea-verse. In this case, the particular personal demons are those that have got inside Carey and caused him to do silly things like get drunk and take cocaine and hit his girlfriend and all those wacky shenanigans that fit, healthy young men like to get up to. Thankfully, New Idea informs us that Carey is "ready to face his personal demons", which is the best news I’ve heard since discovering Nicole Kidman was ready to love again.
After being arrested in Miami for assaulting girlfriend Kate Neilson, and then again in Melbourne for assaulting police, Carey, in his own words, "hit rock bottom", and I suppose it’s that old, old story — you have to hit rock bottom before you can find the strength to accept $180,000 to appear in a tabloid magazine.
Not, you understand, that Carey is a bad person, and New Idea makes it quite clear just how difficult it’s been for the poor fellow being subjected to all these "hurtful stories". In fact, Ms Neilson specifically says her boyfriend is "not at all" violent, and I for one am grateful for the clarification, since all the hitting women and kicking police and psychotically butting his head bison-style against police car partitions could easily have given one the wrong impression. In fact, he didn’t even deliberately hit her with that glass in Miami — he just threw his wine over her in a public restaurant, and I bet all those women who thought he was an abusive bastard feel pretty silly now. Young Kate doesn’t want Wayne to take all the blame for their "volatile" relationship, which according to New Idea has pretty been much a non-stop stream of heavy drinking, cocaine binges, violent arguments and of course, true love.
Now, I am not questioning Ms Neilson’s sincerity, nor her judgment — she clearly has all the sophistication and discernment we normally associate with Grand Prix grid girls. And I’m not doubting for the teeniest, tiniest second that Wayne Carey, contrary to scurrilous media muckraking, is, in reality, a charming and loveable chap. After all, it’s only a special kind of person who can win the heart not only of his own wife, but of his close friend and teammate’s wife as well; his personal magnetism borne out by the mid-90s incident when, in that winning way he has, he lunged at a complete stranger and latched on to her breast. "Why don’t you get a bigger set of tits?" he slurred, with a roguish twinkle in his eye, and it’s that kind of tender yet seductive gallantry that has set women’s pulses racing everywhere.
Clearly, here is a man whose winning ways are not restricted to premierships, a man whose ability to take a contested mark is matched only by his enormous love for humanity (and big tits), a man who could not only kick a goal from outside fifty, but who will, if we only let him, kick down the door to our hearts — and just occasionally when on a coke binge, his girlfriend’s teeth.
No, I take no issue with the assertion that Carey is in fact a misunderstood saint, more sinned against than sinning, who is entirely worthy of the flurry of letters that will now no doubt descend on New Idea, filled with clucking sympathy for the poor mite, admiration for his sheer courage in posing for those cosy at-home photos, and best wishes for his attempts to overcome the terrible addiction that befell him through no fault of his own.
This sort of reaction to confessional magazine articles is a sort of law of nature, just like the golden rule that when a sportsman is caught staggering about relieving himself on shopfronts in the middle of the night, a battalion of colleagues will immediately tell everyone prepared to listen that the miscreant in question is "a really good bloke when he’s off the grog", although it is doubtful whether Brendan Fevola has ever been in a position to decide this one way or another.
But without for one minute casting aspersions on Carey’s non-violent ways, I really do have to question the idea of a magazine paying big money for such a story, effectively rewarding a famous footballer for being a violent drug addict. It just doesn’t seem fair, when there are so many other violent drug addicts out there, quietly doing their bit without monetary reward. Think of all those other coke fiends, working away, selflessly destroying their septums. Where’s their photo spread? Think of all the unknown alcoholics and junkies, drinking just as heavily, consuming just as many illicit substances as Carey, but without the ability to take a contested mark. No big magazine money for them, just cold nights sleeping rough on the streets, their only warmth coming from the occasional stream of urine from a passing full-forward.
Consider, just for a moment, all those hard-working men who at this moment are laying into their significant others, not out of any desire for material gain, but out of a pure and sincere desire to prove they’re big men. I’m sure they’d love to be splashed in glossy colour before the whole nation for a handsome fee, but no, they never crashed a pack or laid a bump, so they toil on, unknown and unappreciated.
So let your heart bleed for poor Wayne, battling away at those demons, sandwiched between the editor’s letter and Princess Mary’s palace imprisonment. After all he’s been through, he deserves every scrap of your sympathy and more. But at the same time, spare a thought for the forgotten heroes — the crackheads, the drunks, the beaters, the gropers. They’re fighting demons too. We can only hope Carey’s plight will help boost awareness of the struggles of anti-social thugs everywhere; with any luck, someday they’ll all get what they deserve.
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