In recent weeks, Ben Simmons has been accused of a number of trumped-up charges. And – if you listen to the shock jocks – he is more than guilty. What with choosing not to play for the Boomers in the FIBA World Cup, storming out of an interview with Channel Seven’s Campell Brown and (apparently) sneaking out early from an expensive basketball camp he had organised, our home-grown athlete appears to be turning into a precious American superstar.
What the saga really proves though, is Australia’s hypocrisy towards rich athletes. While this might not sound scheme-of-things important, its consequences are far-reaching: with both The Economist and The Sydney Morning Herald warning that Australia’s tall poppy syndrome has curtailed progress in business as well as sport.
“Among Australia’s 2.6m registered businesses, the survival rate compares well with America’s and Canada’s, and is better than New Zealand’s. But a study published last month by the government’s Productivity Commission found that few young Australians start their own firms; that only about 0.5% of newly formed businesses are startups as commonly understood (innovative, ambitious and with high growth potential); and that only 1-2% of existing businesses can be described as innovating,” (The Economist).
As Patrick Kidd – owner of the luxury hair product company Patricks (and an Australian entrepreneur with first-hand experience of this phenomenon) – told us, tall poppy syndrome is alive and cutting in Australia.
“If you drive a Lamborghini down the street in Sydney people think you are a wanker, whereas in the US people clap and cheer – and seem to be pleased for people that have achieved success.”
How does this relate to Ben Simmons? Well, much like other internationally successful Australian athletes (think Nick Kyrgios, Wendall Sailor, Lleyton Hewitt etc.) we are quick to claim them when it is convenient for us (or when they live up to an arbitrary stereotype of the ‘ideal’ Australian) and disown them as soon as they do something self-indulgent or immature.
View this post on Instagram
Even worse, in Simmons’ case, his so-called selfish decisions (like not playing for the Boomers) reflects an uncompromising desire to achieve bigger and better goals (like becoming an even bigger deal in the NBA) which – if and when he achieves them – will have his critics conveniently forgetting the last few weeks’ scathing remarks and singing his praises again as one of Australia’s most important athletes.
Not to mention: his decision not to play has been backed by his Aussie team-mates.
Fortunately for Simmons fans, the superstar doesn’t appear to be too fazed by the backlash, this morning posting an Instagram photo which breezily takes his critics for an ankle-breaker.
View this post on Instagram
“Hate it or love it. Born n raised Australian.”
Single-mindedness is a key component of success. Not the only one – but a very real one. And it’s time Australia accepted it (as well as the fact that no-one cares about the basketball World Cup as much as the NBA).