Friday, 29 March 2013

Tom Waterhouse is the future, and it stinks

It's hilarious watching otherwise intelligent people complain that their beloved rugby league is being inundated on TV with ads for online gambling companies eager to entice the punters to even bigger thrills. The tweets have been coming thick and fast tonight and the name that keeps coming up is that of Tom Waterhouse, who has recently been targeted from many quarters because the way he is used in football game coverage blurs the distinction between the role of compere and that of sponsor.

Waterhouse is some sort of "iconic" Australian, part of a "dynasty" because his mother is a famous horse trainer. "It's in the blood," is the sort of moronic treatment you can imagine half-soaked punters slurring as they exit the TAB on a Saturday evening. The Chaser did a hilarious skit treatment of Waterhouse last year that seems to have had exactly zero impact on how mainstream Australia thinks of him, which is hardly surprising. And the same people who are tweeting their consternation at his omnipresence on TV football coverage are the ones who watch The Chaser. They can't win. Middle Australia gives not a hoot whether clever ABC comedians think Waterhouse is a walking joke. They watch commercial free-to-air TV and those stations have one thing in their sights - and one thing only - which is income.

Football started going commercial in the 80s when the money moved in. Teams no longer had to represent their native turf, but could be made up of players sourced from anywhere - if the club had the money to pay for them. And it's just getting worse and worse. The Cronulla Sharks episode won't be the last. And as Australia integrates more closely with Asia over the coming decades the gambling infection will worsen. James Packer can't be that wrong. Waterhouse will look like a mild infestation of crabs in the future, when gangrene will have set in and the sport will be completely dominated by monied interests all looking - like Facebook - to make a buck out of peoples' keen attention. Of course the sport will suffer. The question is: when will it get so bad that smart people simply turn off.

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