There's A Few Billion Worth Of Boofhead Out There That Still Needs To Be At Least As Sorry As It Is Sore

James Packer’s shiner. Picture: Tom Steinfort/@tomsteinfort/Twitter

“The severe sound of one of the men’s heads hitting a brick fence appeared to bring the fight to a halt and the two friends parted. The duo later searched for something in the grass, believed to be a tooth.”
The Australian, describing the fight between David Gyngell and James Packer.

I hope both David Gyngell, whose wife Leila is expecting their second child, and James Packer realise just how much worse this could have been.

As funny as it seems when two rich, privileged blokes, mates since schooldays, go the biff in public, there’s a dark, disturbing side to this incident and the schadenfreude ordinary mortals are enjoying today as they look at the photos.

This could have so easily been a different story.

The severe sound of one of the men’s heads hitting a brick fence…

It could have been one of the tragedies Nine so often reports.

On Sunday, as Gyngell waited outside Packer’s Bondi apartment, Nine News reported on a 21-year-old man in a critical condition in Westmead hospital after a ‘one-punch’ assault outside a house in Minchinbury. The man died. Another faces charges.

Of course, Gyngell can’t have missed the public debate in NSW in recent months, covered extensively on his own TV station, no doubt on occasion by his wife, about the 90 people who have died from one-punch assaults in the last 14 years.

Yet two childhood besties, who in a joint media statement yesterday said they had been “friends for 35 years and still are”, Cranbrook-educated, having made their fortunes in media, where articulating a point of view is stock-in-trade, could find no other way to express their viewpoints than to assault each other.

Less than 24-hours later, they offered no remorse or regret for their actions beyond saying they’d had their “fair share of ups and downs” – how much of a share does a billionaire and a multi-millionaire get? – and still “respect each other”.

This is crap. Show us some respect too, please.

Who threw the first punch and why doesn’t matter. They fact that two men, lifelong friends, so successful, in their mid-40s, with small children, sober, in the middle of the day, felt a brawl was the solution to their differences is shocking.

And it’s sickening.

It also sends a signal to every other man, with less money, less power, less privilege, less education and less history than these two, that if you have a problem with someone, then the solution is to punch your way out of it.

The fact that Nine Entertainment chairman David Haslingden offered “the full support of the board” in a statement on Monday, without a word of disapproval or censure for the CEOs is a massive failure of leadership on the board’s part too.

At least when the sportspeople who are Nine Entertainment’s bread-and-butter find themselves incidents like this – sometimes unprovoked – they have the courage to face the media and apologise, saying they’ve let their team, the sponsors and the fans down.

Gyngell and Packer let their companies down, they let their friendship down, they let their families down and they let other blokes down.

Yesterday morning, Gyngell returned to Packer’s house with a smile and a shrug for the waiting cameras, like this was nothing more than two boys rumbling.

But it wasn’t. Sunday’s brawl was ugly, unedifying and appalling – and so potentially deadly.

Gyngell and Packer ended their three-line joint statement with “neither of us will be commenting further”.

But they both need to comment further. And apologise.

They need to explain to the public, and men in particular, that they understand how wrong their behaviour was and its potential consequences; that they need to work harder to control their anger; that violence is never the answer to a problem or dispute; and they need to pledge to repair their damage they’ve done to decades of campaigns against violence.

They need to become anti-violence champions, speaking from personal experience, because right now a bunch of blokes are weighing up their chances and thinking that if it’s good enough for these two…

At this stage it looks like police will not investigate the incident. Nor should they and for that both men can count their blessings.

At least they escaped the fight with their lives. Not everyone is that lucky.

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