Stamp out this selfie menace

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We’re starting off with two completely unrelated piece of information (as if). In classical Greek mythology, there was this cool dude called Narcissus. He was one of the first real celebrities. As one of the best hunters, he was not only a dead-shot with the bow, he was also drop-down gorgeous. It was said women would faint away on catching sight of him. Needless to say, this made him rather proud of his appearance. As was his nature, Nemesis decided to test him so lured Narcissus to a pool of still water. When Narcissus caught sight of his own reflection, he was transfixed and was unable to take his eyes of himself. A week or so later he died of starvation or fell into the lake and drowned. As you will realize, this is the source of the current medical disorder we call narcissism. The second fact comes from the world of Australian Football which has nothing to do with the game we play or that rather odd game the rest of the world calls soccer to avoid infringing our trademark registration on “football”.

Anyway, there’s this good-looking young footballer called Billie Smedts who recently uploaded the picture you see at the top of this page. His local police force has begun an investigation to decide whether driving with a camera at the end of a long pole is dangerous or reckless driving. We can all remember the habit of the Knight of the Round Table to ride full tilt towards each other with a lance. This is a modern version of that with cameras at the ready to take a picture of the resulting crash. His football club has rushed out a statement claiming the picture was staged. Everyone is now saying the car was stationary when the picture was taken. So here comes the pitch.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Authority is leading the public charge to control distracted driving before too many people are killed or injured. The Australian response to their sporting celebrity’s upload to Instagram has been swift and aggressive. The policy-makers believe it’s irresponsible of people in the public eye to send the wrong message to their fans. Here at home, our own NFL has introduced a code of conduct for players, coaches and others involved in the league. The plan is to penalize all who bring the sport into disrepute by sending the wrong message to the fans. Well, that needs a slight qualification because there’s actually a new code of behavior for the fans even though it’s somewhat hypocritical. The players high-five each other when they down one of the opposition with a heavy hit. The fans at the 49ers match against the Saints in January 2012 cheered when Donte Whitner hit Pierre Thomas and knocked him out.

No one thinks it dangerous for players to try to maim each other on the field. When a fan fell off a walkway at Candlestick during a match against the Packers and died on impact, no one suggested the game should stop. A man died. So what!

And that sums up the problem with distracted driving. People are injured and die because we’re busy taking pictures of ourselves and talking to our friends. So long as we’re not the ones dying, we just don’t care. Unless Nemesis is waiting for us, of course.

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