Listening to the radio yesterday I heard that a man called Dean Richards is returning to a job after a three year ban.
All well and good, nothing surprising really, people get banned from their jobs all the time in sport; drugs sometimes, gambling other times. Rarely, however, is it for a level of pantomime villainy usually reserved for professional wrestling and Jeremy Kyle.
Standing out from his contemporary ban-ees as he does in this regard, Deano grabbed my attention. To cut a long story short for those who have better things to do than care remotely about any rugby at all, let alone British domestic rugby, what Dean ‘Director of Rugby’ Richards did, was tuck a few blood capsules into his little lads socks incase at any point during the show they felt like the crowd weren’t quite clear enough about who the goodies and the baddies were.
I’ve been assured, by those who know about rugby, that by making one of his amateur dramaticians pretend he had taken a good bash to the face, Dean enabled himself to point furiously at said fake blood, implore the baffled ref to remove the stricken cherub from the action and return to the barbary a player who had previously gone off but decided he would quite like to go back on again.
All of this, I would agree with you is entirely boring and inconsequential, after all the football season has just restarted and we can do away with all the obligatory flirting with second rate sports that goes on in its absence.
However, what with Danger Dean Richards making a heralded return to the much vaunted sport of gentlemen it seems a good time to try to lay to bed a consistently touted and idiotic argument that professional footballers are a shadow of their rugby counterparts in the good-egg stakes.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the argument, it usually goes along these sort of lines;
‘Look what footballer x has been caught doing AND he’s always diving, swearing and texting hookers when he’s playing.’
‘You never see rugby players acting like that.’
‘Rugby players are much better blokes than footballers who are all deviant reprobates.’
The argument takes many guises and I’m sure you will have nodded along politely as a pink trouser wearer aged about forty-five regales you with one form or another of the above.
Before a contingent of rugby fanatics raid their halloween cupboards for a few blood capsules with which to show me who’s boss, let me be quite clear about what I’m trying to say. I am NOT saying that footballers are not regularly morons of the highest order who do appalling things. A quick run through the following articles (exhibit A & exhibit B)will dispel that notion immediately. They are often serious prats.
What I AM saying is that they are no worse than their less well paid, less handsomely eared rugby counterparts.
Let’s sift through the nonsense;
Footballers are always in the papers for cheating on their wives, perverted antics or being appallingly uncouth with their money.
Rugby players are very rarely in the papers for this.
Therefore rugby players tower over footballers in moral stakes and are generally better people.
We’ve all heard this one. The old ‘tabloid inches’ stance, which, much to my bafflement seems to be recounted every time with such overwhelming vim and authority by the rugby-is-played-by-gentleman-brigade that they think that’s the end of the matter.
But if you think about this point for a second it really doesn’t stand up. Yes, newspapers are riddled with the sordid tales of footballer depravity, footballer lewdity, footballer nudity and Anton Ferdinand being a clown.
At the same time newspapers and the web are markedly less littered with equivalent coverage of rugby star debauchery - let’s not, however, forget the England rugby teams insistence that a trip to New Zealand would not pass up without slinging a few dwarves around a nightclub, or Kelly Brook’s boyfriend insisting on relaying his sexual fantasies via text to a woman who cared little for him and much more for the few quid she could get by telling the Sun exactly what he likes.
These two things being the case do not lead to the supposedly obvious conclusion that footballers pale into scumery next to their knightly rugby cousins though. Why? Because tabloid inches represent the interest of the nation and not the verbatim actions of a group of sportsmen.
When did you last see the headline in a paper - ‘SORDID SQUASH PLAYER’S SIX IN A BED ROMP’ or ‘BADMINTON BEAUTY GETS SHUTTLE COCKED’? You didn’t, not because these things didn’t happen (they may well have done - I know a few squash players) but because nobody cares if they happened. In much the same way that if a cauliflower-eared rugby player splits up with his broccoli-eared wife, because broccoli found out that cauliflower had been texting cabbage with lewd things he wanted her to do to his cucumber - no one would care, and hence the papers will plump for something else - and rugby’s gallant name stays unsullied.
How about Argument 2, it usually follows these lines:
Rugby players behave themselves like gentlemen on the pitch whilst playing. Footballers dive, cheat and swear constantly whilst playing.
Therefore our muscly rugby rogues are a more gentlemanly bunch than their footballing siblings.
Again this argument reaches for incomparable headlines and seeks to use them as proof of a non-derivative conclusion.
Lets take the footballing claim first and just for the sake of argument acknowledge that it is true in every regard.
How about then the claim those pious rugby chaps run about being heroic, manly and good natured each time they go out and play? Is this even worth acknowledging as plausible? Perhaps they do not dive and attempt to con the referee the way footballers do? Oh no we’re back to Dean Richards again, and if you are about to say that’s not what he and his team were doing, can I just drop this bombshell on you - wrestling isn’t actually real.
How about fair play to their counterparts and it all being a good natured bit of rough and tumble? Well again I find this a tough one to stomach when one international team begin their matches by squaring up to the opposition and delivering what Wikipedia describe as a ‘War Cry’ - I’ve never had war cried at me myself but I imagine were I to, I wouldn’t be thinking - ‘what a lovely gentlemanly bunch of men those war mongerers are’. For those who haven’t seen it it’s reminiscent of the sort of Friday night standoff that ensues between groups of overweight men as they make their way from the Wetherspoons to the local kebab shop.
There are countless incidents of rugby players bashing each other up in horrific fashion, one such barbarian called Tuilagi unleashed a street fighter-esque combo on little blonde man and received (on subsequent review) only a five week ban.
If the fighting, feigning, gauging and war mongering don’t constitute poor mannered and un-gentlemanly behaviour I don’t know what does.
Erm yeah. Sort of also that, as well.
To borrow footballing parlance, ‘at the end of the day’ footballers, rugby players, indeed even squash pros and badminton hoes are all probably up to the same sort of nonsense, the idea that only gents play sport x whilst sport y is enjoyed exclusively by deviant perverts is just too simplistic
So next time you hear the tired old argument being trotted out that the rugby boys are true gents compared to footballs despicable toe-rags, just raise a glass to Dean Richards, for showing us they’re all as bad as each other.