Patrick Smith is a heavyweight of football journalism. He has built his name around robust argumentation, and exhibits an intelligent sense of humour his detractors fail to appreciate or even notice.
However, the Essendon supplements saga – and Essendon in general, for that matter – has recently seen him drop the ball.
He has been reduced to constantly repeating a fatally flawed argument like a mantra in the hopes that it will be unthinkingly accepted by the masses.
On the eve of the ‘blackest day’ before Essendon self-reported to ASADA there were a couple of phone calls between AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou and former Essendon chairman, David Evans. The exact content of this exchange is hotly disputed, but for the sake of Smith’s error, it is of no concern.
What is known is that the topic of performance enhancing drugs was discussed, and subsequently the Essendon Football Club publicly came forward to ASADA and the AFL.
Smith’s defence of Demetriou unquestioningly echoes the league’s CEO, when he regurgitates, ‘Demetriou was not privy to any sensitive information from the Australian Crime Commission, and therefore could not have been guilty of breaching trust. He has been cleared by the ACC.’
The charge of leaking information is a serious accusation, which if true, could have seen Demetriou facing hefty fines or imprisonment.
However, this accusation was never alleged. At least not outside of the over-exuberance of a few junior journalists who briefly thought they had broken a case which could have seen the highest profile administrator in Australian sport incarcerated.
Speaking candidly in one of literally hundreds of door-stops James Hird has had to endure throughout this endless media circus, even Hird didn’t believe Demetriou had broken any laws, ‘I’m not sure, I wouldn’t have thought he has’.
Yet, the fact that Demetriou didn’t reveal confidential information remains the official rebuttal, given an air of credibility by the ACC’s decision not to pursue the matter. (NB. Demetriou wasn’t ‘cleared’ as he wasn’t investigated.)
Unfortunately for Demetriou and his cheerleaders the answer has nothing to do with the question. A tip off remains a tip off regardless of whether or not it divulged privileged intelligence.
It is an elementary error, the old bait-and-switch, a strawman, a general non-sequitur, by any name it is fallacious. One of Smith’s intellect and experience should be well aware of the mistake, it is the type of error he routinely identifies in his opponents arguments. As such, I’m inclined to believe it is a deliberate, dishonest tactic.
The damning part of this episode in the saga, is that Demetriou was discussing the topic of potential performance enhancing drugs, without the aid of confidential information.
Far from exonerating Demetriou, this only implicates him further. It indicates he knew of or suspected the problem independently and in advance, yet chose not to act until forced by external agencies.
Demetriou’s administration had presided over a relaxing of the medical code, which – as one would expect – saw at least a dozen clubs enter into experimental supplements programs. He was concerned enough to publicly voice his disapproval of the direction clubs were heading, yet officially did nothing. He was hoping the potentially shady period in AFL history could be dealt with behind the scenes – as is customary within the AFL – and would fade away as though it had never occurred. Clearly it didn’t.
The question that remains is whether Smith’s repeated use of fallacious reasoning is deliberate deceit or simply sloppy thinking as the manifestation of his inherent bias against the Essendon Football Club.
Smith has waged a personal vendetta against the club in recent years, despite once being a proud member. His journalistic pride was damaged when he failed to secure a story from the club, and the small, small, petty, little man, has yet to recover.