Many parts prone to the occasional slip
and done a shift on breakfast radio before fronting up for your several day jobs? McGuire has been, at one time or another, and where possible simultaneously, a football caller, omnipresent TV host, delegate to the republican convention, founder of his own production company, chief executive of the Nine Network and president of the Collingwood Football Club.
Bodey, a media and film writer on The Australian, has the unenviable task of keeping all this information in front of you. Sometimes the strain shows: hacking a path through the jungle of McGuire’s intertwined commitments, he leaves the occasional rough edge and trip-hazard behind. But perhaps you’d need to be Eddie himself to cruise through the thicket without breaking a sweat.
As for the bad stuff, two things have lastingly diminished the squeakiness of McGuire’s reputation. One is the famous allegation, made by a disgruntled former employee, that McGuire, when CEO of Nine, used the term “bone” in connection with the proposed sacking of Today show host Jessica Rowe. As a sexual verb, “bone” is a relative newcomer. Who, before the McGuire incident, had ever heard it used as a synonym for firing? Was this odd sub-usage already current among business types, or is McGuire supposed to have pioneered it on the spot, at the risk of making his interlocutors wonder what the hell he was talking about?
Even if that disputed incident occurred, it looks trivial next to the nuclear brain explosion McGuire dropped on Adam Goodes after the indigenous footballer, playing for the Swans against Collingwood, asked that a Collingwood supporter, who proved to be a 13-year-old girl, be removed from the stands for calling him an “ape”. Later that week, on breakfast radio, McGuire quipped that Goodes might be used to publicise a Melbourne production of the musical King Kong.
For several reasons one hates to revisit this episode. For one thing, Goodes, who has since retired from the game under circumstances that should make any thinking observer feel a bit queasy, always deserved far better than to have his name constantly invoked in connection with other people’s foolish remarks about his heritage. Moreover, the utterance was radically untypical of McGuire. Before that crass moment, he had built a solid reputation for his work with indigenous players.
But the attempted joke was instructive — and depressing — precisely because McGuire didn’t believe himself to be belittling Goodes. He was ham-handedly trying to make light of the situation, not the man. That just proved, though, that he had failed to listen when Goodes had patiently explained why he’d made his stand in the first place. He’d done it to show that loose language can cause serious pain. Bravely, without aggression, he’d tried to use the episode to educate people: to make us see that a tough man could indeed be hurt by the taunt of a young girl, because it had pressed on a wound that people had been pressing on all his life. McGuire, by casually pressing on it again, suggested that Goodes’s point had been utterly missed. Even nice-guy Eddie didn’t get it.
Should blunders of this kind be allowed to put the kybosh on the political career of which McGuire has sometimes whispered? Surely not, especially if they’ve added to his education. In recent years his political ambitions have seemed to be on the wane, though. Pressed to be specific about making a run, he has made reference to the discouraging fate of Malcolm Turnbull, his fellow republican. Now that Turnbull’s story is suddenly no longer a cautionary one, McGuire might be glad he never quite locked in that answer.
is a writer and critic.
Eddie McGuire’s achievements outweigh his gaffes