SYDNEY, Australia – Tell me if you’ve heard this one.

A blond swimsuit model gets involved with a sports superstar. They are photographed everywhere – two stunning, physically fit young specimens. In time, they announce their engagement.

Then a photograph appears of the model. She is nude in a shower. Someone else’s shower. A football player’s shower. A married football player’s shower.

Her fiancé races to her side. In doing so, he abandons his team in the middle of a major contest. His country goes wild. Some demand that he be removed from the team altogether. Others insist that love must conquer all.

After days of breathless controversy, the couple release a statement saying their engagement is off. They ask that the news media “respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

OK. Tell me who this is. A story that’s so big …

If you said Tiger Woods – close, but wrong controversy. If you said David Beckham, close, but wrong sport.

And if you said “I have no idea. I haven’t heard anything about a story like that”- well, you are about to prove my point.

Here in Australia, the above story is beyond big. It is everywhere. It is Brad and Angelina meet Tiger and Elin with a dash of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. It is across the front of every newspaper. It is the lead story on the TV news.

The star-crossed couple is Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle. She appears on magazine covers, in bikinis, and on a TV ice-skating competition. And he is a major star on the Australian cricket team.

Yep. Cricket.

Now, to most Americans, the best-known name in cricket is Jiminy. So you may laugh at the very idea that anything involving men, wickets and tea sandwiches could be a controversy.

And that is my point. They say the world is shrinking. They say everything is global.

But they also say “all news is local.” And when it comes to making an absolute, nonsensical, lose-your-mind fuss over nothing – that, apparently, is the truest statement of all. A really messy affair

So this cricket controversy has been THE water cooler conversation here. Clarke was accused of letting his country down by racing off before an ever-important test against … New Zealand! And Bingle was derided as the hussy who couldn’t keep her clothes on and who then sold her story for big bucks to a magazine.

(Of course, the football player who took her photo with his cell phone and later released it to the world is not exactly Prince Charming in this story, but then, football here isn’t the same as football back home, and who wants to get into all that detail?)

In the end, after several days of lovers’ torture, Clarke and Bingle released their statement, and he presumably asked for the keys back to his $6-million apartment. (I know it is $6 million because they never stop telling you, although that is $6 million Australian, not American, and who wants to get into all that detail?)

Clarke has returned to his mates for their important match against New Zealand, while Bingle was last seen laughing at a shopping mall.

And it all means nothing in the U.S.

Which makes me wonder about things like Kobe Bryant’s private life, Brett Favre’s retirement, Derek Jeter’s dating habits or the brief-but-oft-photographed Sergei Fedorov and Anna Kornikova.

Or, for that matter, the sexual proclivities of a New York congressman.

Doesn’t it give you pause that for all the newsprint, radio talk, TV footage and heated barbershop conversation, whatever celebrity controversy seems like the biggest story on the planet, someplace, halfway around the world, nobody gives a hoot?

Cricket? Swimsuit model? Honestly. I mean. It’s not like they’re A-Rod and Kate.

Wait a minute …

Someone down here just said, “Who?”

Contact MITCH ALBOM: malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This