Self proclaimed journalist, Jon Ralph, believes Essendon supporters should blame their club, or individuals within the club, for their current predicament.
There are two minor quibbles with this notion, namely; ‘who’ and ‘why’.
Ralph offers a suggestion as to whom, ‘even if it’s just Stephen Dank.’
On the surface, this stance would be worthless symbolism as he is no longer contracted by the club, but the problems run much deeper than superficialities. The greatest of which is that ‘why’ question. Why must Bomber fans, or the general football public, blame Essendon?
The accusation levelled at Essendon and it’s staff is elusive and often overlooked in most commentary on the saga.
Beyond all the hyperbole, hypotheticals and resultant hysteria, the actual claim is this:
‘Stephen Dank could have administered a banned substance to the players.’
No critics claim personnel within the club planned for this to happen, or were even aware that it did. It is the ‘rogue elements’ theory. At its strongest, the claim is that Essendon and their players were willfully deceived by their specialist consultant.
Thus the problem becomes one of recruitment. Why recruit such a character? Why trust him? Where was the club’s due diligence? It is an obvious failure of governance.
Of course, this strains against the facts more than a little. Dank was a respected and experienced industry professional whose intellectual property was much sought after within the AFL and other sports. Background checks were a mere formality. To all, he appeared to be eminently qualified.
At this stage, Essendon stand accused of hiring a qualified specialist and not owning a reliable lie detector.
When pressed the already ailing accusation weakens. Critics then concede Dank may have accidentally administered the wrong version of a permitted substance, citing a much publicised interview which has only been presented in an edited form.
Dank transitions from villain to fool, further diminishing the claim. If the guru himself was unaware of any error, how could other lay people reasonably be expected to detect and prevent his mistake? They couldn’t. If this is the case, no amount of ‘governance’ or ‘duty of care’ could have prevented the current situation.
Of course, readers will notice the ‘could’ in the original accusation. It is not a forthright assertion, it is the vague postulation of a mere possibility. A possibility denied by all involved and for which supporting evidence is yet to be produced.
Consequently, critics must moderate their claim with a plethora of qualifiers.
The argument against Essendon is advanced with all the conviction and attention to detail as a John Edward communique with the departed, and a fraction of the ethics.
In lieu of facts supporting a strong position, critics substitute uncertainty, emotion and tone with a dash of misdirection – known falsehoods, illogical/incoherent arguments, personal attacks, ‘what ifs’, and the odd lie of omission – to create and perpetuate an unsupported narrative. The feedback loop of prejudiced public opinion does the rest.
If the evidence supported their position, their claims wouldn’t be so frail and obscured behind morally and professionally questionable rhetorical tactics. They would lead with bold statements of incriminating facts. They would know who to blame, and most importantly, why.
All observers still await direct and detailed answers.
Despite the absence of a ‘why’, conventional wisdom within the media anoints James Hird as the ‘who’. How, precisely, they leap from ‘we cannot prove if someone made a mistake’ to ‘a lay person in another department is responsible’ is a gaping chasm left unbridged.