celebrity

Nick Cummins just broke all the rules about what to do when Australia hates you. It worked.

There’s a look people get.

Defeated. Exhausted. But more than anything, stunned.

Stunned that this ever happened to them.

“But I’m a good person,” they told themselves, at least at the beginning. “How could this happen to me?”

You can see the puffiness of their eyes that have cried more tears than they thought they were capable of. The dark circles that indicate they haven’t slept a full night in weeks. The deepening of their cheeks, suggesting they’ve probably lost their appetite.

Their voice is breaking. They’re not crying but it feels like at any moment they’re about to.

Tonight, that person was Nick Cummins.

He’s one of Australia’s most beloved sporting heroes, but the pile on that ensued after his decision to choose no one on the finale of The Bachelor, has left him broken.

Cummins – the quintessential Aussie bloke, who never takes anything too seriously – has “never been in a state like this”.

Not when he’s been confined to a wheelchair after a rugby injury. Not when he’s been in so much pain he’s had to crawl to the fridge to get some food.

Video via Ten

This experience, he says, “was a whole other beast,” and a beast we probably, as a culture, don’t have the words for just yet.

Cummins’ voice wasn’t as loud. He struggled to laugh. In a word, he seemed terrified.

And rightfully so.

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The 30-year-old former Wallaby player knew he was breaking the number one rule when it comes to being at the centre of a pile on.

You don’t get to have the last word. 

The rules are as follows:

  • You’ve had your say. Now shut up.
  • Let them kick you. And kick you. And kick you.
  • Apologise once, and then stay quiet while they reject it.
  • Hide away, even if deep down you think it’s all just a horrible misunderstanding.

The pile on, you see, isn’t about you anymore. And if you make it about you then The People will get very upset about why you’re not focussing on the real victims.

Them. 

The pile on is about everyone’s impression of what you did and why you did it.

As Jon Ronson suggests, you’re no longer a person. You’re an ideology.

And after The Bachelor, Nick Cummins was every man who had ever not been ready to commit. He was every celebrity who manipulated us when all he wanted was to plug his new book (on sale now). He had made a mockery of not only all the women on the show, but all women everywhere, by stringing them along only to leave them alone, confused and without explanation.

Cummins has likely spent the week since his now infamous original interview with The Sunday Project aired, thinking to himself: “If only The People could understand what I meant…”

But those at the bottom of a pile on, trapped, with their arms desperately emerging from the rubble are told emphatically: The People don’t care. There’s no point. Don’t argue back. Don’t justify yourself. It will only make it worse.

That’s why the people at the centre of a pile on often go silent. They’re told to wait for it to pass, their last thread of hope being that people will eventually forget.

You definitely don’t defend yourself for a second time.

But tonight, Nick Cummins did.

And most surprisingly, it worked.

The People saw what they had done to him. How the words and the stories and the accusations ultimately came back to a human being who is far more than a decision he once made on reality television.

The story itself has begun to pass. But tonight Nick Cummins changed the narrative.

If only we gave other public figures the same opportunity.

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