Rugby: Guildford running out of chances on two fronts

Last week, I was inspired by Jody Foster's plea during her Golden Globe acceptance speech for us to realise how precious a thing is privacy.

The reaction to Zac Guildford's behaviour at a private party recently demonstrates not only how precious it is, but also how difficult it is to differentiate the ''public'' from the ''private'' these days, especially if you're a high-profile person.

Smartphones plus social media equals no privacy, and someone at the party decided Guildford's scuffle with another partygoer was something the public should know about.

Running around naked on a small island and being abusive to all and sundry is way higher up the scale of inappropriate behaviour for a public figure than fisticuffs with an individual at a private party (that didn't lead to an arrest or serious injury), but Guildford must realise that he is not only skating on thin ice when it comes to second chances with the NZRU but also with this game of Russian roulette he insists on playing with alcohol.

After abstaining from alcohol for a year and undertaking some counselling, he believed he was a responsible drinker who could ''enjoy a quiet beer every now and then''.

Famous last words of any individual who suffers from their very sociable 20s, lives in a binge-drinking culture, or suffers from alcoholism.

After his drunken Rarotongan rampage at the end of 2011, Guildford promised never to return to his troublesome ways. The word ''never'' will always come back and bite you, and someone should have advised Guildford against using absolutist language.

We all make black and white statements about what we believe we can and can't control about our behaviour (just think about all the failed new year resolutions), yet very few of us have to do this in the public arena.

Does Guildford's scuffle with another partygoer deserve the media attention, public disapproval and NZRU disciplinary hearing it has received?

Guildford understands that he should expect scrutiny for his behaviour when under the influence of alcohol. In his own words, back in mid-December, ''people are always going to have the eye on me waiting for me to slip up again''.

Is he going to slip up in a public space, like at the Ellerslie races on Melbourne Cup day, or at the Fight for Life event with Israel Dagg, or at a private space where some ''third party'' loves to take photos and tweet?Reality TV and social media accounts have invited us into the lives of celebrities as they happen, so we no longer have to wait for the autobiography to come out to pass judgement on their lives.

It takes a very private and/or powerful individual to avoid being outed in the blurred private and public space. As Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong discovered, the thirst for any ''dirt'' on athletes is so strong that indiscretions (big and small) will eventually be flushed out. It may not happen overnight but it will happen.

In Guildford's defence, he seems to have learned some valuable lessons from Rarotonga and quickly apologised to the person on the receiving end of his drunken fist, and fessed up to the Crusaders management promptly (rather than skulk on to a plane).

Todd Blackadder is under the pump in terms of delivering a Super rugby trophy to a franchise that hasn't seen it since 2008, so his strong stance regarding Guildford is understandable.

First and foremost, Guildford's indiscretions should matter to him, his partner, his friends and family, and his employers. If the individuals involved have resolved their differences, and conversations with the necessary parties have occurred, then we shouldn't care. But we do, because he is a public figure.

Luckily, for most of us, we made mistakes and learned from them in private. Unfortunately, for Guildford and other high-profile athletes, they must endure the public's interest in their triumphs and tribulations.

For now, Guildford is the wayward son some of us want to discipline and some of us want to smother with love and understanding. Like all of us who have survived our 20s, it is a combination of good advice, great friends and support structures, and a pinch of good luck that sees us through.

Let's hope Guildford has plenty of this to see him through to the much more sensible 30s.

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