Taken from case study for the UTAS Associate Degree in Applied Business (Intro to Sport Recreation, and Leisure ZAA108)
Sit down, think back. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Was is a policeman, fireman, soldier, rock star, actor or sportsman?
I wanted to be a batsman for Australia, bashing the Poms all around Lords on my way to a chanceless ton.
I wanted to be just like David Boon. A proud Tasmanian representing my country on the biggest stage. I’d possess a flawless cut shot, rock solid defence and would be a close in fielder taking one handed catches to give blonde spin bowlers a hat-trick.
So, who did you want to emulate? Was is your father who was a policeman, your mum who was a lawyer, your uncle the plumber or a celebrity like Kurt Cobain or Mick Jagger or a famous actor, maybe one from the golden age of cinema, like Vivien Leigh or Errol Flynn.
With that in mind, who are the “rock star” umpires in any sport people would like to emulate and be just like, even pursue a pathway follow?
Here’s a challenge, can you name five of the members of the International Cricket Council Elite Umpire Panel? How about test rugby referees, five AFL umpires or one test hockey umpire?
This is exactly the problem.
As a cricket administrator, I have a role to play in terms of recruiting umpires. I’d wager that 10 years ago, using elite umpires as role models would have been a lot easier because this group were well known, respected and you could easily say to a new umpire, “who is your favourite umpire?”
I recently surveyed a random group of sports fans who came back with the finding that legendary 74 test English umpire Harold “Dickie” Bird was the most recognisable umpires, past or present, living or dead.
Others in the top five were Darrell Hair (Aus, 78 tests), Steve Bucknor (WI, 128 tests), Brent “Billy” Bowden (NZ, 84 tests) and Simon Taufel (Aus, 74 tests).
We can easily identify what these guys have in common in terms of umpiring but what they all had that isn’t measurable was appeal.
The average punter and mug umpire in the country could relate to Bird and Bucknor and their laid-back approach, Hair and Taufel for their decision making and knowledge of the game and Bowden for his, well…Bowdenness.
The point I’m trying to make is, at the moment, the most recognisable current Elite Panel umpire is former Australian fast bowler Paul Reiffel.
As celebrities get bigger and bigger and more people try to keep up with the Kardashians (that name is actually in my MSWord dictionary, says it all), is it time for a “rock star” umpire?
Not someone who will completely break the mould but if you look at the five umpires mentioned, they all had their own personality and people, whether it’s liked or not, will gravitate to the charismatic, funny or eccentric and pay attention to them.
Much like sport in general where players toe the line of the club they play for and not let too much of their personality shine. Is this why there are more tattoos on AFL players now as they feel like they have no other outlet for their personality. Has this contributed to Western Bulldogs power forward Travis Cloke and Collingwood forward Alex Fasolo having mental health issues?
Is the homogenising of sport and pop culture causing less people to want to emulate their heroes because nobody knows about their heroes or do we see more people wanting to be like Jagger, Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus and Rhianna because of the stories surrounding them?
I think it’s time to lift the veil on our heroes, tell their story and get people once again gravitating to the big, positive personalities, maybe we will find the 84-test umpire with a crooked finger.
Have your say on this. Comment, like and share this post if you think it was worth the read, I’d love to hear from you.