It was almost an inevitability that tensions would spill over between Australia and England in this Ashes series. The psychological battle of an unusually sudden rematch is perhaps the most compelling element of this already enthralling encounter.
But at what point does competitive banter become unsavoury? Where do we draw the line to protect one of world sport's most time-honoured rivalries?
That we've already reached this point of the discussion after just one Test highlights the extent of the lingering unease that is inherent when teams aren't afforded the calming effects of 18 months apart.
Yet the storm that has engulfed Australia's hostility towards England in Brisbane—most notably David Warner's comments on Jonathan Trott, as reported by BBC Sport—points towards a growing and worrying trend.
That trend, however, is not the rise of unpleasantries thrown about on the field of play. In fact, that worrying trend is our ever-growing penchant for "faux outrage," as described by Rob Smyth of ESPN Cricinfo.
Of course, Warner's comments on Trott have become wildly more controversial amidst the news of the English batsman's departure from the Ashes tour due to a stress-related condition, per BBC Sport.
England coach Andy Flower is the latest to line up to give Australia's combative opener a whack, joining Alastair Cook and David Lloyd in criticising Warner's comments after Day 3 at the Gabba.
According to BBC Sport, Flower said:
I would also say players commenting to fellow professionals in the media is disrespectful and I think on this occasion he [Warner] has got that horribly wrong.
Certainly, Warner went to lengths that most sportsmen would remain well short of, but is our inclination to react hyperbolically to every spoken word a poor reflection on us, rather than the player himself? Must we insist on criticising those that verbally convey what the bulk of us already believe?
Those who watched Trott's dismissals against Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane will have undoubtedly taken the same view as Australia's controversial batsman. Previously regarded as his team's most unflappable character, Trott's trepidation against the left-armer was obvious for all to see; the frantic manner of both his innings a troublesome reflection of his state of mind.
Warner, however, was completely unaware of the No. 3's lingering condition upon making his comments. Undoubtedly, his words have embodied a nastier edge since the news of Trott's sending home has broken, but it's rather unjust to pin that development on the punchy left-hander.
While Warner is unquestionably a character who divides opinion, isn't it refreshing to hear a sportsman honestly express his own thoughts? Don't we relentlessly crave for men such as Warner to speak unrestrained from the public relations teams that attempt to make the sporting world a tedious monologue of pre-scripted dribble?
More pertinently, have we reached a point where we are so incapable of independent thought that dramatised conclusions must be drawn for us?
Trott played a succession of poor shots and was dismissed meekly on both occasions, which Warner reacted to by expressing the exact thoughts that were harboured by the millions watching.
Is he really the villain for doing so?
Weren't thousands of English fans—watching on from the comfort of their living rooms in the early hours of Saturday morning—shouting exactly the same thing at the TV when Trott tamely chipped Johnson's short delivery to Nathan Lyon in the deep?
Nasser Hussain certainly hasn't been slammed for his critical remarks on Trott's wicket during his commentary. Nor for similar comments made about Matt Prior's almost identical dismissals.
Yet somehow, Warner's identity as a competitor in the series places him in the position of receiving immediate condemnation for remarks of a similar nature.
Those who view the comments as unsavoury and disrespectful should not be derided for their opinion, but they must question whether their disapproval for Warner's words is based purely on the remarks themselves or the person behind them. If the far more gentle Chris Rogers had uttered the same sentence, would the facade of outrage be the same?
These are important questions, given the ever-increasing detachment between sportsmen and their observers.
We lament the influence of public relations teams that render sportsmen as insanely dull creatures, yet it's our sensationalist reactions to anything out of the ordinary that are the reason for their existence.
This contradictory false front that we quickly hide behind only creates further distance between ourselves and men like Warner. We poke and prod, craving for him to bark something of interest, only to deride him for doing so.
The outrage that follows—founded upon the same level of conviction of Trott's displays against Johnson—only serves to highlight our frivolous overreactions.
Warner, of course, will be reprimanded. He'll likely read out an empty apology to quell the empty outrage belonging to all those who need to be publicly seen stomping their moral and ethical feet. Michael Clarke may even be forced to say that he enjoyed a lovely cup of tea and a biscuit with Alastair Cook to save face and satisfy the demands of the public relations people.
Meanwhile, sportsmen will continue to pull away from us; next time offering up a serving of "the boys played well" and "credit to our opponent" cliches that plague the sporting world.
Again, we'll poke and prod for more, and the charade will go on. If we're lucky, the cricket might even continue, too.
Until then, it's time to start looking for a public relations job. Our inane ways have ensured there are plenty of positions available.
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