Chivalry and character hit for six

Chris Gayle’s behaviour highlights the urgent need to readopt a cultural revolution of good character…

Below the Surface 

By Brianna Thomas

IN case you missed it (which just means you’re not Facebook obsessed), West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle managed to set Australia ablaze in debate last month.

Playing in Australia’s ‘Big Bash League’, the 36-year-old joined Channel 10 reporter Mel McLaughlin for an interview, immediately after hitting a quickfire 41 runs from 15 balls (I had to ask what that meant). He was confident and overly friendly, flirting with the journo on live TV, mid-interview. She deflected Gayle’s advances well, but clearly looked uncomfortable, to which he responded with: “Don’t blush baby”.

The public’s reaction came like a furious tornado, with judgement emerging from not only every corner of the sporting world, but right across the nation. The polarised response was intriguing, stretching across a spectrum from ‘intolerable and sexist’ to ‘get over it’. In my opinion, one side defends slightly better than the other.

In the whirlwind of fuss surrounding the incident, broadcaster Piers Morgan backed Gayle, saying he was just being “a bit cheeky”. Many (generally blokes) supported this notion, arguing that Gayle was allowed to flirt; that McLaughlin doesn’t know how to take a compliment; or that it’s quite common in sport and we all need to get over it. This type of thing does happen in sports and media, but Gayle’s incident wins the prize for most intrusive and humiliating.

A large number stand on the ground that Gayle’s actions were inappropriate and even sexist. Many who took this view were women fighting for women’s rights, but not all. Some close to the West Indian came out and dobbed on his character. His former captain and opening batting partner at Sydney Thunder, Chris Rogers, said Gayle was a terrible influence on young sportsmen: “This is a pattern of behaviour. If you know the guy, you see it over and over… and to defend it is not right at all”. Others made similar comments, honing in on the fact that the cricket field just so happens to be McLaughlin’s workplace. Feels like the ‘let him do what he wants’ argument is outweighed by the basic need for respect.

West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons last month. PHOTO: ONLINE

West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons last month. PHOTO: ONLINE

So what was the real problem here, and why did Australia kick up a storm about it?

Partly I think it’s because we like to whinge and are overly opinionated, but I think it goes deeper than that. Something about this scenario really sparked controversy. I’d put my money on Gayle’s poor choice of words, tone and timing being the fruit of a deeper, more widespread problem.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing”. What we know of Chris Gayle is just a snapshot into his character, much like Lincoln’s shadow. Something gives the impression it’s not a very healthy tree.

I used to roll my eyes at ‘chivalry’, because to me it meant the awkwardness of waiting for a door to be opened, or fighting someone to let me pay for my own ice cream. These are leftover fragments of what chivalry once was. In the Middle Ages when knights were real (I’m jealous of those times), chivalry was more like a code of conduct. The knights pledged to fight for the weak, show respect and honour to women, have courage and be willing to lay down their rights. It wasn’t all about opening doors and external behaviours, but a deep character transformation. It was a cultural revolution of good character, one that we need to readopt – and not just the men. Could someone let Chris Gayle know?

As Christians (and good humans) this is vital for us. The Bible reminds us that “A good name will shine forever,” (Proverbs 9:43). No one really named it, but the root cause of this incident was a complacent character revolving around selfishness and gratification. Penalising Gayle won’t help with that! We need to stop and check ourselves – have we decayed a bit too? In amongst a cultural character disaster, be someone who takes up the code of conduct to display goodness and respect, and the other things you deem important. Fight against the norm and choose the knight over Chris Gayle.