When Peter Roebuck took his own life “he took his demons and deadlines with him,” says contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.
When deified cricket writer and Englishman Peter Roebuck took a 70-foot suicide dive from the sixth floor of the Southern Sun Hotel, in the South African suburb of Claremont on November 12, he took his demons and deadlines with him.
The Guardian later reported that police were about to arrest Roebuck on a sexual assault charge, when he jumped to his death.
What would the ghosts of the indigenous Khoisan tribespeople and their British colonisers have made of all of this?
Some believe that upon the moment of death, our demons take up residence in the bodies of others; demonic asylum seekers. As well we might all be.
It was very moving to read the ensuing poetic epithets dedicated to Peter Roebuck by well-known and gifted sportswriters, at times expressing something that came close to love, but which, to this outsider, seemed to stop just short of that — perhaps lest affection was misinterpreted for something else.
After all, Australians put the ‘ale’ in ‘male’. If our blokes were any tougher, they’d rust — to misquote my favourite ad. And all of that.
Was Roebuck a pederast? A paedophile? A rapist?
Colleagues and friends of many years standing said they were unsure of his sexuality. Did the oppressive dictums and foggy homoerotica that so often is the shy underlay of butch ocker locker-room banter discourage him from confiding in anyone or being more open about his sexual preferences?
Does it matter? Is it anybody else’s business? Maybe, in Roebuck’s case.
ROEBUCK SAVAGED LARA BINGLE
In March last year, I was dismayed by Peter Roebuck’s column in Fairfax’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, where he mercilessly savaged a hapless Lara Bingle, then under siege from all directions.
There was something in Peter Roebuck’s ‘voice’ in that column that disturbed me. I can’t entirely explain it, but I was moved to not be a bystander and to do the unforgiveable: to cross swords with him for what he had written about the girl Bingle. Do you get my drift?
This is what I thought at the time. Here is a man who is afraid of women; who holds them in contempt. Who thinks they are less worthy than men — and, certainly, the Bingle woman was less worthy of the cricketer who is now Australian Captain, the boyish, open-faced Michael “Pup” Clarke.
I thought then – and I still think it – this man has the repressed hots for Clarkie, the poor sad sod.
Clues lay (I thought) in the fact that he demeaned Clarke’s relationship with his beautiful fiancée as a ‘schoolboy crush’. It was an extraordinarily telling and offensive comment. Clarke and Bingle were engaged at the time.
ROEBUCK: A SENSE HE’D NEVER LAIN WITH A WOMAN
I sensed then that this was a man who had probably never lain with a woman, nor was ever likelyor wanted to. So. You win some. You lose some. To each their own or none at all. But there was an unpleasant whiff of something else.
Rarely in tributes of the kind reserved for Roebuck is reference made of the departed’s personal hygiene, or lack of it, and I was intrigued that in Roebuck’s case there were several mentions of this apparent idiosyncrasy.
Presumably, whatever odour he imparted exceeded that of a day’s honest sweat, otherwise his colleagues and friends would not have mentioned it.
Writing in The Guardian on November 16, Mike Selvey wrote a comprehensive and beautifully crafted article about Roebuck. Selvey’s closing sentences were particularly poignant.
“I’m sure he suspected an undercurrent of innuendo directed at whether he might be gay, something which actually he had never spoken about. The truth was that, beyond a bigoted few, people cared rather more about a lack of personal hygiene than his sexuality. The shame is he could never see that.”
Okay, he doesn’t believe in deodorant. So what? But then it got me thinking. Deodorant is a preposterous notion in most of starving and impoverished Africa, or China, et al. And, equally, it remains a preposterous notion to millions of non-starving and non-impoverished people who have no issue with human beings smelling like homo sapiens.
At least by not using (particular) deodorants, they are not infecting their brains and bodies with neurotoxins or smearing aluminium chlorohydrate under their armpits.
I learned from research that suicide bombers sometimes didn’t use deodorants, or such artifice, so as not to intrude upon the animalist perfume of manhood or accede to Western frippery.
I read too, that a male unafraid of his natural scent could be transmitting codex to fellow males, more so than to potential female mates; part of the leaving of spore and piss to incense and frighten off an enemy or competitor.
In life, as in death, Roebuck is rightly entitled to the presumption of innocence. And his suicide ensured the sexual assault charges would forever remain arguable and enigmatic allegations.
After I read Roebuck’s column that day on March 10, 2010, I wrote an article in response and we publish it here today. Please note the legitimate reference to Roebuck’s caning on the buttocks of the three South African boys. I’ve heard some people argue they weren’t ‘boys’ because they were in their teens. Please.
What I neglected to say in the article, but should have, was that Roebuck made these young men sign a contract allowing him to cane them. Bear in mind, he ‘imported’ these beholden young men from South Africa into England.
I invite you to read on:
NO FURY GREATER THAN A WOMAN BEING SCORNED
by Tess Lawrence
Hot on the killer heels of International Women’s Day comes yet more vituperative bile about Lara Bingle. Now, we’ve got a phalanx of sportswriters putting the boot in.
In today’s The Age, Peter Roebuck has an unmanly fret at the decision by Bingle’s fiancée, Australian Vice-Captain Michael Clarke, to leave New Zealand and return to Oz. Depending on what loud rumour you subscribe to, Mikey’s come back to defend his fiancée — or to turf her out of the home they share.
We all know that Pete’s a right hander – and a Wisden laureate – cricket’s equivalent to the Nobel. But his trashing of Lara Bingle in his column – like the jealous scribblings of his journalist siblings elsewhere – worries me greatly. What’s with all the bitch ditching boys?
There’s more buck than roe in Peter’s column. It is true that to cherchez Lara femme is easy roadkill for the media. Roebuck not only trashes her but presumes to get into her head as well as her knickers, moralising about her conduct and the company she keeps. Who the hell do you think you are, Peter?
And who the hell do the rest of you think you are? You all talk about Clarke having to choose between his career and Lara and, cop this, from Roebuck as he struggles to find the attraction Clarke has for Bingle “ …the romance has all the traits of a schoolboy crush….” You sad, sad, man, Roebuck. You’ve never felt it, have you?
Besides, you speak as if Clarke’s IQ is lower than his shoe size.
There is misogny, hard and cruel, in all of this. And I can no longer stand by and continue to watch you all stone this young woman in a public market place. This is not her fault. She is the victim. Not the perpetrator. She is not to blame on this one, regardless of her sexual history. Or the failure of tourist campaigns.
I’m going to take the hits for Lara Bingle on this one. Just as I’ve watched how deftly, whether by design or anthropological instinct, you blokes seem to have closed ranks to protect one of your own at the expense of wounding, even further, the reputation of a young woman.
NOT SINCE PSYCHO HAS A SHOWER SCENE PROVOKED SUCH…
Not since ‘Psycho’ has a shower scene provoked such public discussion.
This is how I assess things. A creep called Brendan Fevola – an over-rated footballer and human being – does the dirty to a girl he’s bonking and takes an illicit photo of her naked in the shower. She’s a stunner, a trophy bonk; he’s cheating on his wife and kids, but hey, his silly willy gets an outing and he’s got something for show and tell for the boys. And boy, does Brendan show. And does Brendan tell. Hey, mate…cop an eyeful….This type of puerile conduct is without doubt connected to the pack rape mentality. It’s a photographic gang bang.
We have to consider the disheartening fact that of all the people that initially knew of the mobile phone photo, none saw fit to act against it.
The photo of the clearly distressed girl then continues to be transmitted until hundreds of people know about it, including certain journalists. Now it’s been on the front and back pages of mainstream media — and now Lara travels the worldwide web in her birthday lawsuit.
I’m especially surprised at Roebuck, given that he studied Law at Cambridge, for holding such a singular and misogynistic attitude. Considering that some years ago Mr Roebuck received a suspended sentence for caning on the buttocks three 19 year-old South African males living with him (co-incidentally the same age as Ms Bingle was when Fevola the Cad took the shower photo), I can’t help wondering how he might feel if the corporal punishment had been captured on a mobile phone and published in a gay magazine without his consent.
Roebuck goes on about the code of silence about sportsmen’s antics off the field and quotes the ‘great Bill O’Reilly’ and his belief that ‘players are fair game on the park and otherwise off limits’.
Pete, let me tell you something about Bill. He may well have told you that, but he certainly said something quite different to me after I wrote an article about the off-field antics of cricketers on tour — including a hotel cleaner complaining about finding a used tampon in a teacup. He told me he was saddened at such conduct and the collusion of journalists through the code of silence — including the treatment of prostitutes and groupies.
Upon analysis, it may be that through this (now dismantled) code of silence were sown the first seeds that contributed to some contemporary sportsmen thinking they are above the law and society when it comes to matters below the belt. There is no doubt that such men share the intellectual DNA of the Taliban, that women are mere sexual chattels.
We need to address the issue of these societal and sexual psychopaths, since it is true that the sports arena is a crucible that merely reflects the wider community.
As a communications ethicist and consultant who specialises in communications forensics, I suggest that Ms Bingle’s media consultant and legal team investigate application to the Court to seek Orders for the forensic tracking of the mobile phone
‘thread ‘ from Fevola, so that all mobile phones, emails, computers, etc., that not only received the illicit photo of Ms Bingle, but also transmitted them to others, be cited in any legal action and also be liable to pay their share of any damages that may be awarded by the Court. Too harsh? I don’t think so.
This story ain’t done yet. What happened to Lara is date rape drug stuff. It could and does happen to any girl, woman, any boy, man, or child. This is about us and modern technology.
If anyone’s got a photo of Fevola wanking in the shower, would you post it on the net right now?
(A version of this article appeared the same day on Fairfax’s online site The National Times. The reference to Roebuck’s caning of the three boys was removed, as was other material.)