Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Just what I needed. Tripe in the papers to kick me off on one. Yes, I do get the English newspapers here, a bit late they may be but they can usually be relied upon to provide some kind of grist to my mill. Lately however, they have been rather devoid of any content that may, even in the slightest way, be termed contentious and it is this, alongside the fact that I have had a hair-tearingly boring and uneventful few days, that is responsible for my recent limited output.

Today though, The Independent has provided me with a couple of gems. The fact that the first was written by James Lawton, a journalist I admire enormously for his erudition, passion and common sense regarding the subject of sport, did cause me a little concern. That the second should have come from the mouth of Richard Caborn, our soi-disant Minister for Sport, should come as no surprise to anybody.

They both concern the recent Rugby Union World Cup in Australia. Lawton bestows his praise upon the team and recognises their accomplishment with genuine enjoyment. Caborn, I suspect, doesn't give a flying one either way but can spot an opportunity for reflected glory and making political capital from a great distance, even were he to be blindfolded in a dark cellar and outside the best part of half a bottle of Scotland's finest. It's a knack. All successful politicians have it. The others share the fate of Mr. Thing. Or that of William (14 pints, my arse) Hague although I must admit that he was at least successful enough to have left us his name behind.

Anyway, to the nub, grist or kernel of this little bloglet. Lawton also stated in his piece that the rugby players provided an example to their football counterparts regarding behaviour and accepting the decisions of the referee in good spirit and saw no reason why football players should not follow this. He talked about pressures being equal...blah...blah...blah.

Well, James. Sorry old chap but that is pure unadulterated bollocks. It's a class thing you see. While all those rugby wallahs were learning respect and bonding with their fellows at single sex public schools...which can roughly be translated as being thrashed by sadistic, latent homosexual masters and tossing each other off in the showers after games, most working class kids were already graduates of the 'twat him one' school of thought which pertains to this day wherever working class kids of a certain age (from two and a half upwards) congregate and socialise.

Now, rugby union was an amateur code until recently which meant that most players were university educated and members of the professions. In other words, middle class through and through. Arguing with the ref or otherwise making an exhibition of oneself had been drilled out of these guys by the time they left short trousers. It is just not part of their culture. It is alien to them. They ARE the establishment. Rugby was a hobby and an excuse for a bit of a jolly up from time to time. Hardly life or death.

And even now that higher echelon rugby has embraced the professional ethic, I would hazard a guess that, up until the World Cup victory, the earnings potential of those at the very top would possibly equate with that of a career in the, solicitor etc. Add to this the facts that they are largely left alone by the press and play in front of crowds of a few thousand week in week out for their clubs and we can see that the so called pressure doesn't add up to squat.

Now football, in Britain anyway, is a working class sport. Most professional footballers share the intellectual capacity of say, Ian Rush who, when asked for his observations on life in Italy after his transfer to Juventus, replied "It's just like being in a foreign country." Yes, quite. These lads had their backs to the wall from an early age and were more used to fighting the establishment than interested in becoming a part of it. Most left school at 16 with few, if any, qualifications. The only options for attaining the good life were crime, football or rock music. Really well prepared in fact, for earning over a million a year by their eighteenth birthday, wouldn't you say? Okay, so not all footballers have the talent or the application to reach such dizzying heights, but they all aspire to it and there is the key. To them, it's a whole lot more important than just a game or a hobby. Know any well balanced rock stars? Anyway, stick these uneducated, impressionable and mostly not very worldly wise guys in the first team on say, 10,000 quid a week, let them perform in front of crowds of up to 68,000, have their every move both professional and private followed by the press and then we can talk about pressure, James.

Caborn went even further to include the behaviour of the fans in his paean to the rugby code in that there were thousands of pissed Englishmen in Australia and nary a glass was broken. He has written to the Football Association pointing this out and he expects them to act on it. Just what the hell does he expect them to do? Fuckwit.

I guess if he were a director of SUFC he could simply re-open G and H blocks and wire their turnstiles to the National Grid. Job's a good 'un.

Oh well, yours as ever. If you have been, give him one from me.

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