What happens on tour, stays on tour

hangover

guy code

What happens on tour stays on tour is a notorious phrase or saying agreed to by men who get together and travel either interstate or overseas for sporting tours. In essence, the phrase means that all exploits during the tour must be kept strictly confidential, never to be discussed with anyone outside the group. In more recent years, the phrase has also been applied to men attending music gigs, going on business trips, and fishing holidays. The expression is also used in the US military when speaking of temporary duty assignment (‘what happens TDY stays TDY’)

The phrase has been described by Samantha Brett, a writer for the ‘Age,’ as an ‘unspoken male pact that for centuries can never be broken.’ In essence, if you were there you may discuss the events, but if you were not there, you get nothing. In contrast, ‘Rugby for Dummies’ describes the phrase as, particularly funny, embarrassing or debauched moments are for consumption only by the tourists themselves and not casual listeners back home.

It is believed that the phrase originated in 1970 during an overseas rugby union trip, and quickly cascaded into many other sporting codes such as cricket and football. It has subsequently evolved into a semi-serious ‘code of honor’ that mainly relates to sexual conquests and binge drinking. However, the phrase can also relate to other forms of unacceptable behavior and etiquette.

It has been stated that there are two rules embedded in the code. Firstly, it must be a group of males in team environment, travelling away from home, where they are unconstrained from the usual forms of acceptable behavior. The second rule is that all exploits must be kept strictly confidential, never to be discussed with anyone outside the group, particularly wives and girlfriends (also known as WAGs). Research showed that the men in sporting teams spent most of their time either thinking about, or engaging in recreational activities.

The phrase however, is not restricted to males. When asked what her most memorable thing to ever happen while away on tour, Australian field hockey player Sarah Taylor responded, ‘What goes on tour stays on tour.’ Anna Coogan, a writer for the ‘Evening Herald’ in Ireland stated that the code of honor also applied to women as much as men.

In the US, the term has close connotations among touring musicians and their road crews and is expressed as ‘what happens on the road stays on the road.’ American singer Mike Doughty listed the concept as number four of his ‘Rules of the Road,’ and the reason he wasn’t going to tell stories of debauchery, drug abuse and sexual exploits. Author Trev Wilkins wrote in his gigging and touring guide that the concept ‘is a kind of unwritten rule,’ and that the professional gigger should never ‘destroy the trust’ of coworkers by telling tales of their ‘crazy and out-of-character’ activities. Wilkins emphasized that it was easy to ruin not only another’s career but one’s own, when the trust of gigging companions disappears.

American heavy-metal musician Tommy Lee wrote in 2005 that the phrase ‘what happens on the road stays on the road’ was ‘an old saying that’s been said many ways,’ and he expressed his view that its origin lay in rock concert touring by writing ‘Las Vegas stole that shit from us…’ Lee was referring to the catch phrase ‘What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas’ which was in common circulation before Billy Crystal used it to close the 76th Academy Awards show in 2004 and was spoken variously by people such as Laura Bush and Ben Affleck on television broadcasts.

In 2002, Australian rugby star Matthew Johns and 11 other unnamed members of the Cronulla Sharks were accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old in a hotel room while on tour. The ensuing scandal was described as a case of ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’ and ‘boys will be boys.’ Police investigated the incident both in New Zealand and Australia but did not press charges. Despite a plea by the team captain for players who were involved to out themselves so Johns wasn’t the only scapegoat, most players have said nothing and distanced themselves from the scandal.

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