Monday, June 23, 2008

"Advantages in comparative obscurity"

I've been mostly avoiding the latest tabloid scandal/possible criminality of the England rugby team, which recently got destroyed in a two-test series in New Zealand, purportedly having something to do with prostitutes at an all-night party/group sex-romp at the Auckland Hilton, one of whom may have been gang raped. It's hard to know what to believe, especially in light of last years' Duke Lacrosse Team Scandal. You can read the sordid details about the English rugby mess here, and here, and here, and hell -- just go here.

Simon Barnes, chief sports columnist at The Times of London, makes a curious observation about public reaction to the scandal.

Obscurity an ally on England rugby tour

Have you noticed the calm, relaxed and laid-back way in which we have greeted the news that four England rugby players may have been involved in a rape? The players have retreated into a legal silence, we wait to see if a formal complaint will be made and in the meantime life goes on, England get walloped by New Zealand and prepare to come home.

We don't need to imagine the way the news would be received if we swapped “rugby” for “football”. It would be the greatest crisis for humanity since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Hell, remember what happened when some bloke we'd never heard of was accused of rape at the Manchester United Christmas party?

If this scandal had attended the England football team, rather than the England rugby team, the four would somehow have been named and shamed and every newspaper in England would have its hardest hacks in Auckland. Indeed, if the England football team had held a party that involved late-night shenanigans of any kind, it would have been the most frightful scandal: unprofessional behaviour, poor match preparation, letting the nation down, etc, etc. But because these are good ol' rugby boys, we let it all wash over us. Yes, poor show and all that, but not such a terribly big deal.

Why should this be? Do we think claims of rape are more serious when footballers do it? The answer to that must be yes.

We love and hate footballers in equal measure. Let them step a foot out of line and we will muster every bit of righteous anger we can. Rugby players deeply envy footballers their fortunes. Those who were involved, no matter how innocently, should understand that there are advantages in comparative obscurity.



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