Many parts prone to the oc­ca­sional slip

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - David Free

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

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