Channel 7 racing commentator Francesca Cumani.

Channel 7 racing commentator Francesca Cumani. Photo: Penny Stephens

Hey, psst, want to know a secret? Paul Sheehan really wants to get with Francesca Cumani. Pass it on!

Sorry, I was overcome with the spirit of Year 9 just then, since yesterday I bore witness to the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen since Troy and Katie declared their love for each other in the hallway through the power of interpretive second base: Paul Sheehan’s article about Seven’s horse racing journalist, Francesca Cumani.

I mean, “article” is one word for it. Some others I considered at the time of writing this piece included “fawning love letter”, “mortifying dribble”, and “spent tissue in text form”. 

Poise and grace ... Francesca Cumani.

Poise and grace ... Francesca Cumani. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

If you’ve not read it yet, I recommend accompanying it with Judy Garland’s performance of You Made Me Love You, to set the appropriately teenaged tone. Imagine Sheehan at his desk, pencil in hand, looking skyward as he composes his love note. Aw, I’ll never forget it, Ms. Cumani, honest injun: you’re my favourite horse racing expert.

“Melbourne Cup day is not a cerebral day. Even so, this year reaffirmed my belief that women, at their best, are superior to men at their best,” Sheehan waxes. “The trigger was Channel Seven's coverage of Cup Week, anchored by three roughies and a thoroughbred. The thoroughbred was the only woman on the anchor panel, an English import, Francesca Cumani, who floated elegantly above the fray, intimately involved and yet apart.”

First of all I’d like to congratulate Sheehan on his recovery from the coma that he has apparently slipped into each Spring Racing Carnival, since Cumani has been offering expert commentary alongside Bruce & Co for some years now. Sheehan goes on to list Cumani’s various virtues, in a sort of acrostic poem of excruciating earnestness, beginning each paragraph with one such winning attribute: “Beauty” … “Intelligence” … “Lucidity” … “Loyalty” … Dignity, Paul, always dignity.

In discussing Cumani’s courage (she’s an “excellent jockey”, you see), Sheehan waxes so lyrical - perhaps leaning back in his chair and putting on a particular Kylie Minogue track - that the ossified corpse of Sigmund Freud lept from its grave in celebration to dance, Gangnam Style: “I still vividly recall the few times I've been on a horse at full gallop, and they were only pluggers. I can only imagine the force of being on a frothing stallion with its ears back.”

But, frothing aside, for all her virtues it’s Cumani’s uterus that has really cast a spell on Sheehan. Yes, she’d make a damn good dam: “She wants to have children. Here we reach the point of divergence, the point of discrimination, where the apex of the pyramid of admirable qualities is occupied by women, not men. A man can be beautiful, intelligent, lucid, courageous and loyal, but he can never take on the greatest of all responsibilities, procreation.”

I don’t know about that, Paul! Didn’t you see that movie with Arnold Schwarzenneger, Junior

At this point I was starting to get Car City eyes, but I forged on, because surely Sheehan had something of merit to say, right? I mean, he’s a columnist in a fine newspaper, that’s his job! So what else did Sheehan come up with in his ode to Cumani?

“Women have greater physical capacity for pleasure than men. This is nature's scheme. Because in nature, procreation is paramount. So women have to take greater risks than men for passion.”

Mmm, passion. Frothing stallions. Full gallops. Giant, bouncing knockers, barely restrained by brassieres... er, sorry, moving on:

“Women live in a more dangerous world than men. Men usually have much greater physical strength than women. In domestic disorder, or crime or social conflict, when push comes to shove, women are usually at a disadvantage. They have to rely on their wits more than men, and relying on wits trumps relying on strength.”

Wait, Paul, really, what on earth are you talking about?

And then it struck me: it’s fan fiction! Paul Sheehan is the first political commentator to write his own tribute to E.L. James’ 50 Shades Of Grey, and this is its opening gambit! The cover art will feature a frothing stallion - a grey, of course - and no doubt the eBook will be available as soon as Sheehan has recovered from his spell. The book is about a mild-mannered columnist and the beauteous younger horse racing commentator who whips him silly with her riding crop. That’s the only explanation I can find for the existence of this article.

In which case, I feel it’s appropriate to borrow from 50 Shades’ protagonist, Ana, and sum up my response to Sheehan’s full-page personals ad thusly: “Holy crap!”