opinion

Mia Freedman: "I need the news cycle to slow down."

Why am I crying about Shane Warne?

I don’t watch cricket. I’ve never met him. To be honest, I always thought he was a bit of a d*ck, albeit a loveable rogue kind of one. But when I turned on my phone early on Saturday morning, having decided to avoid news sites because I needed a break from the relentless despair and anxiety of the news cycle, I learned from various group chats and text messages that he had died. 

And I was overcome by a rush of sorrow and despair.

It just felt like too much.

The most shocking part about the way Shane Warne died suddenly of a heart attack while on holidays with mates, aged just 52, is how unexpected it was. To those who knew him and to those who didn’t. 

To those around his age it was particularly chilling, I know many men who nervously reassured themselves that Warnie lived a very large life and crammed more into it than most people twice his age.

What also came as a shock was how upset so many people were about it. I don’t mean people who love cricket. Or people who knew and loved Shane Warne.

I mean people like me who don’t love cricket, or watch it or have given any real thought to Shane Warne over the years except maybe when he was engaged to Liz Hurley and had a massive glow up. 

My WhatsApp groups were popping off all day with women expressing shock and sadness. And astonishment at how devastated they felt about the death of a man they didn’t know or even particularly admire.

Women were weeping. I was weeping. 

“The war and the floods and now this,” I sobbed quietly to my husband. “Two news stories in five days have bumped a war, an actual war, off the top of the news cycle. I just want everything to slow down.”

Let me please pause for a moment to acknowledge that I am not directly affected by the war in the Ukraine. Or the floods. Or the death of Shane Warne. None of the chaos and trauma of those epic events have disrupted my life in the devastating way they have impacted so many others to whom my heart goes out.

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And yet.

There’s something about the world that feels unsafe right now and it crystallised on Saturday for many of us when we heard about Warnie. How can Warnie just… be gone?

This feeling of instability is not new. We’ve all had to learn to metabolise enormous uncertainty since the pandemic began. We’ve all had to grow comfortable with the intense discomfort of unprecedented times.

Lockdown. Online learning. No toilet paper. Masks. Out of lockdown. Working from home. A vaccine. Masks off. A new variant. Masks on. A second vaccine. Another lockdown. Masks back. Everything cancelled. New restrictions. Some things back on but no dancing. Updated restrictions. Everything cancelled again. Fewer restrictions. Another variant. Most things cancelled. A booster. Restrictions again. Masks off.

There have been so many wry jokes about bingo cards and what wasn’t on them in 2020 and then 2021 and now 2022 but on Saturday, everyone’s bingo card just burst into flames.

It’s just. Too. Much.

Media organisations pre-prepare obituaries for very famous people who are old or unwell or expected to pass away at any time.

Nobody had Shane Warne’s obit prepared.

Nobody saw this coming. Just like the floods. Just like the war. Just like covid and Delta and Omicron for Christmas.

The thing most people have said about Warnie is that he was always himself. He was never ashamed. He had so many scandals and dramas alongside his sporting success but they never seemed to dent his confidence, his stature or his reputation as a loveable larrikin.

He gave the impression of being impervious to any lasting consequence of his actions.

Except of course he wasn’t because none of us are, and now he’s gone.

Once again we find ourselves reeling at the random, unpredictable loss and suffering that just seems to keep coming in big ways and small.

And just so fast. What a privilege it is to feel overwhelmed by the relentless pace of tragedy from afar. How must it feel to be in the middle of that tragedy as the news cycle moves so quickly past you. No wonder people in Ukraine and flood ravaged towns feel like they've been left behind already when their crises have only just begun.

In a week where we’ve already felt the ground shake beneath our feet with talk of nuclear weapons and rain bombs and once-in-a-thousand-year weather events; with images of big strong men, carrying frail, frightened elderly people in their arms through floodwaters, and of families clutching babies and pets above their heads as they scrambled to safety after having lost everything but their lives.

And now in an instant, an incorrigible, irreplaceable legend is gone. And just like that, we are reminded of the fragility of life. We think about all those in the midst of war and floods. And we long for precedented times.

For all the ways you can help victims of the floods in NSW and QLD please go here.


Feature Image: Getty.

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