It's difficult to know which was worse for poor Adam Ashley-Cooper last week. Being dropped for yesterday's Test match against Scotland after his presence at a late-night drinking session four days before Australia's decisive 32-15 victory over Ireland eight days ago or the likely mortification of his "mammy" complaining to a Brisbane radio station that her son had received the thin edge of the wedge, so to speak.
For our money, though, Karen Ashley-Cooper was bang on the money when she slammed the punishment meted out to her son and, by extension, the 14 other players handed either suspensions or warnings. It's the Australian manager's business to impose whatever behavioural standards he desires, of course, but when they appear so authoritarian and po-faced as in this instance, it's only natural to wonder what kind of moral maze modern sport finds itself trapped in.
When this story initially broke, which of us didn't immediately turn to the most gossipy websites to gorge on the juicy details, fully anticipating a sordid litany of riotous and anarchic behaviour, an orgy of drinking games, a procession of scandalised local girls or, at the very least, a line of cars outside the nightclub missing their wing-door mirrors?
Instead, this is what we got. "They were well behaved," one onlooker reported. They chatted to fans and signed autographs and had departed by 3.0am, walking not tottering out the door. The fact they consumed an estimated €1,500 worth of free alcohol seemed sobering until, as one wag pointed out, that probably meant they had a couple of coronas and a vodka and red bull each.
This wasn't a non-story. But the story lay in the over-the-top reaction, not in the supposed crime itself. We accept the standards of yesteryear don't apply anymore, but surely there are limits. We impose such high moral standards on today's generation, expect them to be whiter-than-white role models, and then are stumped when it comes to wondering why the gap between them and the public keeps growing ever wider.