Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Streaker finds new audience on social media

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BRISBANE -- Streaking made a (hopefully) brief reappearance in Australia on Wednesday night when a nude man invaded the grounds in the last crucial moments of one of the nation's most popular football clashes.

In the age of social media, the public reaction was not as uniform as you might expect.

Wati Holmwood, 33, "nuded up'' and sprinted 100 metres across Sydney's ANZ Stadium in front of a global audience of potentially hundreds of millions.

He ended face down on the turf after his exhausting effort while the final moments of the "State of Origin'' clash between New South Wales and Queensland played itself out around him.

NSW players, who narrowly lost the game, were furious. Back-rower Ryan Hoffman told Wati via News Limited newspapers: "You're an idiot. That's about all there is to say."

Chief superintendent Peter Gillam, who was in charge of police operations at the grounds, was also in no mood to tolerate adolescent hijinks.

"No one wants to see a grown man running around naked at a footy match, and this man can expect to not only feel the wrath of the crowd but also a magistrate,'' he thundered.

And that might have been that were we still in the age of mainstream media, where views and opinions are predictable and everyone knows their lines.

In the alternative world of social media, there was some celebration about an event which many social media users may not realize is a little pass©.

Streaking has always been with us but goes through sudden, sharp increases in popularity -- much like the yo-yo and the Rolling Stones.

Like cholera outbreaks, it also appears to quickly retreat into obscurity after traumatizing a generation.

For Australians, it was the 1970s that hosted our most serious streaker outbreak along with a possibly related decline in fashion standards, allowing burnt orange to emerge as the colour of choice for the sophisticated male.

Curiously enough, many streakers insisted on making England the venue for their crimes, possibly channelling the spirit of our convicts who felt comfortable challenging authority back in the Old Dart.

The most famous Aussie streakers took to the field at the Wallabies-England rugby match at Twickenham. Erica Roe appeared to more delight than infuriate the English when she removed her top at the game and was subsequently offered a modelling contract.

Wati's plump, almost asexual body wobbling across the field Wednesday night somehow didn't appear as confronting as the regular streaker, and many on social media appeared to not only welcome the diversion, but encourage it as harmless fun.

Far from being an "idiot," he is to many "a legend" who "deserves a medal."

At last count Wednesday night there were eight Facebook pages dedicated to his performance, including one page with more than 18,000 followers encouraged to donate cash to pay for Wati's expected $5,000 fine.

As for the man himself, he has what horse race followers in this nation call "good form.'' He apparently did the same thing at a game back in 2011.

In an act that may go some way towards inspiring forgiveness, he had a few contrite words for media early yesterday morning as he attempted to leave the hospital he had been taken to for observation.

A journalist from the Sydney tabloid The Telegraph who had attempted to interview him ended up giving him $10 for a train ride home.

"I'm sorry, I apologize about what happened, am I in trouble now?" he asked.


Michael Madigan is the Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 A11

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