If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 12 November 2010

Football and Compo

I hate football. Actually, that's not strictly true. I hate professional football.

I much prefer to watch Rugby, although I will concede that football is a far more attractive game per se. Where football can be graceful and even artistic, Rugby is brutal and slow. It's the difference between hitting a tennis ball and pushing a concrete block across a ploughed field, between riding a lightweight bike down a twisty road and driving a concrete mixer.

As a game to watch, football ought to win hands down. And yet I can't stand it - at least the big-money, televised version. I have stood in the cold and watched children's matches and village derbies and had a thoroughly good time. So what is it about the professional game that puts me off?

"Whut I do, ref?"

For me, it's the cry-baby whinging and the foot-stamping and the theatricals. Any mildly physical challenge in the penalty area, and the player will dive dramatically to the ground, roll over fourteen times clutching his ankle, and come to rest with a look of a crucified Christ on his face. From the visual evidence, the man is close to death, or at least a potential amputation and a long stay in hospital, and the opponent who so cruelly slashed him down is guilty of attempted murder at the very least. Once the penalty is awarded, the dead man is back on his feet, a token limp for the first three steps, and then he is back in the game, job done.

Some grand examples here. Some of them even twitch after the injury, as if they had damaged their central nervous system and were in the last throes of brain death:

When I learned the rules of football back in the Victorian era, the idea was that you played the ball, not the man, but as long as you were playing the ball, there was no foul, even if the guy fell over. Whatever happened to that bit of common sense?

When I see football, all I see is a bunch of massively-overpaid pansies (with names like Fibreglass and Cnxwgt and Alfonsiño) who can't play a simple physical game without bending the rules, playing for sympathy and gaming the referee. Why would I waste my time watching that? For some reason, this kind of thing is incredibly rare in Rugby. Players get smashed into like they have walked in front of a train, they get up, grin and carry on. If there is serious physical damage, a man comes on with a staple gun and MIG welder, and patches them up. I'm tempted to say that Rugby is a game for proper men, and footbal is for vain, over-rewarded poofs [1], so I will say it.

Over at Julia's place, she has a post on a similar theme, which made me think that this attitude is not confined to professional sport, but has worked its way into the whole of society. From the Mail, the story of a teacher who was 'forced' (always that word) to raise her voice in the classroom because of the noise of a nearby playground, developed problems with her throat and was 'forced' to resign. She sued her employers, and has been awarded £156,000 compensation.
The 50-year-old says she now struggles to speak on the phone and suffers a sore throat and hoarseness when she raises her voice in noisy bars.

Mrs Walters, who taught for 12 years, won a total of £156,000 in out-of-court settlements from her council after claiming she could never teach again.
As an ex-teacher with 18 years' classroom experience, I have a couple of observations:
  1. If the background noise was so great (both in volume and duration) as to make her damage her vocal cords, then surely her pupils would have suffered similar damage to their hearing. And if this went on over 12 years, why was this serious health risk not brought to the attention of the authorities much sooner?
  2. Any experienced teacher will tell you that a loud teacher is a bad teacher. We've all heard the screeching from a nearby classroom as Miss Binks tries to get control of 3Z. The occasional use of a loud voice is often necessary, but if it goes on over a whole lesson, you have to ask why. Was this never picked up in inspections and assessments?
But the killer quote is from her solicitor:
Joanne Jefferies, a specialist in workplace injuries at law firm Irwin Mitchell who represented Mrs Walters, added: ‘Despite attempts to raise her concerns with her employer, she was ignored and it has resulted in this terrible, life-altering injury.

As Julia points out, a "terrible, life-altering injury" is the loss of a limb, or permanent disablement, or brain injury - not a sore throat. But the news is full of people who stub their toe, and then claim that they will never work again because of the pain and the disability. We are invited to feel sorry - ££££-worth of sorry - for people who have suffered things that most people shrug off as a minor inconvenience. The lawyers plead, the judges nod, and the claimant gets more cash than they know what to do with - paid for by the rest of us, in one way or another.

I despise this attitude, and it's why I hate football too. Stub your toe, cry to mummy about how it's so unfair, get a sweetie, and run off to play in the sunshine. Why can't we just grow up?

It's a attitude skewered very well by Michael Bywater in his excellent book Big Babies, which I recommend to you.

[1] Poofs, as in lily-livered Fotherington-Thomases, not as in people of a homosexualist persuasion. I couldn't care less what they get up to in the changing room. Just so you know.


  1. Oscars seem wasted on Hollywood workers.

    wv (well it was the 1st time) hystr

  2. Never mind Oscars for acting - some of these guys deserve the Booker prize for fiction.

    Collapsing as if poleaxed when the other man was three feet away and the event is being televised is not wise.

  3. Footbore is just another ball game I rightly ignore then. I've managed to get to nearly 50 and can't recall ever seeing a whole one.

  4. Neatly swerved, that man. I had a season ticket to Leeds United back in the Don Revie days for one whole year. I think that put me off for life. I have never been so bored. And that was before the prima donna era.

  5. Ought to add that I was 12 at the time, and not responsible for my father's purchasing decisions.

  6. I didn't buy my football season ticket this year after 25 years. I found I was enjoying the background soap opera ( signings, footballer punch ups, manager sackings, administrations etc) more than the actual 'football' that was on show at £400 a year or £24 a game. I just listen on the radio, read the football blogs and watch the 'highlights' on tv. Any contentious penalty decisions etc can be viewed on the iplayer.
    I bought a season ticket to the golf and a new flatscreen tv with the money instead.

  7. 'Soap opera' sums it up well. I didn't realise how expensive it was to watch. But golf?

  8. Richard..

    My season ticket was for Scottish football. You could double that for England I would guess.

    Yes golf. A bit sad but my brother needs a golfing buddy and I dream of the couple of pints and sandwich at the end ;)

  9. Ah, yes, the 19th hole. Been there, enjoyed that.

    It's the clothes you have to wear that I couldn't countenance.

  10. Aye the 19th hole is dodgy. I think it's because you drink on an empty stomach and early afternoon.. usually the start of a long session..
    I've managed to avoid the pringle sweaters and smart slacks though :)

  11. I expected nothing less. There is a dress code for this blog, you know.

  12. They don't call it poofball for nothing (erm...footie, not golf, obviously)...

    I don't know that sport needs to be, or should be, graceful - that's a slippery slope that leads towards synchronised swimming and other such thefts of oxygen. All very civilised, but not really full of the atavistic excitement of a miniature war which a proper contest is meant to evoke.

    In all fairness, football is handicapped by being a non-contact sport, which is fine for motor racing, but a whole lot less entertaining when it involves lots of precious ponces dancing around a ball without touching each other. Some pitifully sub-amateur acting whenever any of them get within ten feet of each other is simply no substitute for burly chaps whacking each other in genuine gladiatorial style.

    I may be a little biased, being of the opinion that until Rollerball (the James Caan version, of course) is officially sanctioned, there's only one wheel-less sport worth watching and that's American football. Like chess with knuckles, basically. Not laden with ambiguity, either - at any given time half of both teams aren't even allowed to directly touch the ball, they're simply there to hit the other side. There is the occasional prima donna moment, but, in general, when one of them goes down and stays down it's because they've been clobbered so hard you can hear the impact over the crowd noise...

    Funnily enough, taking that kind of a hit and getting up is a source of pride amongst them - rather like it is with the rugby folks. That's despite the NFL being awash with more money than the Premiership and the best players taking home comparable salaries: they just haven't interpreted that to mean they're too valuable to risk the slightest dent.

    Whether I would conflate the World wrestling Federation-type antics of pro footballers with the litigation culture is a different question. I think perhaps not. The former is an attempt to liven up some fairly tedious running up and down fields so that it still appeals to TV companies. At heart, I suspect they know they're just as ridiculous as the mysteriously masked Kendo Nagasaki used to be on World of Sport. The latter is more sinisterly symptomatic of the "where there's blame, there's a claim...and there's always someone to blame" attitude. And that, I suspect is taken rather more seriously by the participants...

  13. I think the footballers take themselves seriously: that's why it annoys me so much. If I thought they had the faintest understanding of irony and self-deprecation, I would be joining in the fun.

  14. Oops - I'd assumed (from a position of almost complete ignorance) that it had to be just a ritual pantomime gamesmanship with tongue firmly in cheek...

    Probably should have known better.

  15. The jury's out on all of this. It won't get me watching footie, though. Did you see the interviews of the England players after the Australia match - Rugby of course? Intelligent, self-effacing, articlulate, relatively speaking. And a great game as well.

    Back to motorbikes ...


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