Australian cricket coach Justin Langer has hit out at the rise and rise of vitriolic abuse of sportspeople, at venues and on social media.
Revisiting Australia’s long and eventful World Cup/Ashes sojourn in England last year when interviewed this week by Charlie Webster for a podcast called The Sporting Mind, Langer said: “Some of the things we got exposed to, I still can’t believe it. It was from parents who had their little kids next to them. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Australia coach Justin Langer says the fact players are public figures should not open them to abuse from strangers.Credit:PA
He heard the justifications: “You get paid a lot of money, so harden up. You’ve got to have a sense of humour.”
“Are you kidding me?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s what we choose to go into, and I get that. But there’s still common courtesy, still common decency, and it’s really lacking in our community.”
As for social media, where extremists have ruffled feathers in the AFL this season, Langer – a West Coast board member – said he would advise anyone in public life to turn their back on it.
“I don’t need strangers telling me how good I am,” he said. “More importantly, I don’t need strangers telling me how bad I am. I know if I’m playing well, I know if I’m playing poorly. What I do need is the people I respect, the people who keep me grounded. They’ll let me know.”
Langer remembered an early instance of summary media management in his career. Under pressure before a Test against Pakistan in Hobart in 1998, captain Steve Waugh reassured him at breakfast that he was wanted and needed.
In the nets later that day, he overheard a journalist ask Waugh if he had any advice for Langer. “Yes, Malcolm, I’ve got some advice for him: stop reading your shit,” replied Waugh. In the way of these things, that journalist now works with Langer as media manager for Cricket Australia.
As is well known, Langer is a magpie when it comes to collecting useful pearls of wisdom. He recalled a dinner he shared with Waugh, Matthew Hayden, broadcaster Alan Jones and media magnate Kerry Packer not long before Packer died in 2005.
Near night’s end, Packer said to him: “In this life, as long as you know who you are, and your friends know who you are, the rest can go and get f…ed.”
“That is one of the great lessons of life,” Langer said.
Earlier this year, as the bushfire crisis grew in south-east Australia and Prime Minister Scott Morrison was besieged, Langer texted him to offer solidarity. “I would hate to be in your shoes because you can’t win,” he wrote.
He quoted a famous excerpt from a speech given by US president Ted Roosevelt in 1910 which begins: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …”
Replied Morrison: “Funny you should say that: I’ve got that in my office.”