If July 2009 had a dialectical sporting theme it was that of sporting decency battling against the baser instincts of man; cheating, lying and grubby double dealing. 

On the one hand there was Bobby Robson who was universally acclaimed by all sections of the media as an all round decent guy who combined a huge dollop of sporting success with the demeanour of a working class gentleman. On the other hand there was John Terry, bent horse racing, nastiness between Tour de France champions and ex champions, dodgy swim suits, claims of time wasting in the Ashes, failed dope tests in the Caribbean and less than courteous mind games flying around Manchester. 

But first to Bobby Robson.  In a different world, Bobby should be remembered as no more than an honest man doing an honest job and doing it damn well for most of his life. Why he stands out as a shining beacon and is eulogized as such, speaks volumes about the state of professional football and for that matter, professional sport generally.  When surrounded by corruption, greed and loyalty only to self, any professional who takes a more measured approach is sure to stand out. Patrick Collins, chief sports writer for The Mail writes, ‘In truth, those who saw Bobby play for Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and England, recognised a man who embodied all the civilized values. Straight of back and high of head….’ Richard Williams continues the same theme in the Guardian when he notes, ‘Most remarkably, throughout his career, Robson said or did nothing that could be considered mean. His enthusiasm, fundamental kindness and decency, underlying humility and indomitable good humour marked him out as a product of those generations that grew up in the shadow of war and poverty.’ I like that. A fitting tribute, but one that is placed in a real social and historical context. Even The Sun is forced to acknowledge that Robson, ‘rose from a poor mining background’.

In contrast to Robson we have John Terry. That might seem unfair because to some, Terry is also a working class hero. Working class lad who came through the Chelsea academy to captain both club and country with undoubted commitment. Ok, he held out for the maximum income possible pay deal last week but who, in his position wouldn’t have done exactly the same. Possibly Bobby Robson. But what really got up the noses of both Patrick Collins of The Mail 2/8/09 and Matthew Syed of The Times 29/7/09 was the sheer hypocrisy of the man and his PR machine. When Terry pleads, ‘Leaving Chelsea was never a possibility’ or ‘it’s never been about a new deal for me’, is there anybody in the country that believes him. I think not. For Patrick Collins, ‘ It is all the most extraordinary gibberish made worse by the fact that the author of this public relations garbage was too idle to confront even the most glaring contradictions.’ Syed is even more damning. Starting with the heading, ‘Mr Chelsea takes supporters for sucker’, Syed proceeds to lambaste Terry without mercy. ‘The silence of the past few weeks has exposed that image (JT the lionheart etc) as the hollow sham we always knew it to be; has demonstrated that his first loyalty is to himself and his own narrow self interest; has shown that he is prepared to squeeze his club for as much cash as he can, just like the vast majority of the nation’s footballers, who claim loyalty of the kind displayed by fans before shoving it back in their faces.’ Well said Mr Syed.

That’s greed taken care of for the month of July. Let’s move on to cheating. Where do we start?  Ricky Ponting accuses the Poms of time wasting in the first Test at Cardiff. The English refute the claim. Jonathan Powell in The Mail reports that, ‘Investigators from the British Horseracing Authority are probing a second positive dope test involving the banned tranexamic acid.’ Business as usual then for international horse racing.  Anna Kessel reports in the Guardian 25/07/09 that five Jamaican athletes have tested positive for illegal substances throwing suspicion on all Jamaican athletes and their recent successes. And most distressing of all, Peter Nichols in The Guardian 20/07/09  reports that, British double Olympic Champion Rebecca Adlington is refusing to wear a controversial new performance-enhancing swimsuit, claiming it is a form of technological doping’. Adlington is not alone in her outrage. The Mail reports 31/07/09 that, ‘Mark Foster, whose international swimming career spanned 20 years, has called for the blizzard of world records in high-tech swimsuits to be struck from the record books.’   If Adlington and Foster are right, where does that leave so much of modern sport. Are high tech rackets, be they tennis, squash, badminton or table tennis, to be outlawed? Are the new generation of golf clubs a form of cheating? And what about the endless technology that goes into football boots, not to mention the footballs themselves? If we squeal every time technology enhances performance are we in danger of being branded Luddites? For me the key principle is a level playing field. So long as the new technology is open and available to all, there seems to be little point in trying to hold back the tide. It’s a bit like complaining that the enemy has got new weapons. Get used to it! This is Homo Sapiens we’re talking about. Winning/killing is built into our gene pool. 

That leaves us with the basest of human frailties; that of plain old nastiness, and who gets the top award for the month of July? Alex Ferguson of course. He just can’t help himself. He’s at those morale sapping, mind snapping mind games again and this time its neighbourly Manchester City who is in his sights. Confronted by a little light-hearted teasing by City who had the temerity to put up a giant bill-board showing Carlos Tevez with a sky blue background and an accompanying slogan, ‘Welcome to Manchester’, Sir Alex got mean and nasty. ‘It’s City isn’t it? They are a small club with a small mentality. All they can talk about is Manchester United; they can’t get away from it. That arrogance will be rewarded. It is a go at us, that’s the one thing it is. They think taking Carlos Tavez away from Manchester United is a triumph. It is poor stuff.’ (The Observer 26/08/09) A tad over reactive I would suggest. Somehow I feel that Bobby Robson might just have been a little more measured. As to who owns the top marks for arrogance, that is a little too close to call.   

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 18 September 2009 11:09 )