On Friday morning I arrived at Heathrow’s overrated Terminal 5 and picked up a broadsheet in the BA Lounge. I head straight for the back page, as usual, and all I see are articles and opinions on an announcement that Tiger Woods is – wait for it! – going to make an announcement later that day. Nothing to do with golf, just his required public “mea culpa” over his abundant shagging transgressions.
Friday’s announcement came and went – it was probably live on TV, I didn’t watch – and then Saturday’s papers were full of further opinions and analysis: “Yes, he was sincere.” “No, he wasn’t sincere.” “He shouldn’t have done it in the middle of a tournament.” “He did it on the Friday to get back at Accenture.” The Dalai Lama was asked his thoughts on CNN’s Larry King Live, and body language experts were consulted to assess the adulterer’s honesty by determining the number of blinks he made during his statement.
Really – who gives a flying fuck? What a waste of paper.
Tiger Woods is a golfer. A very good golfer. He also appears to be a very prolific shagger, but what he does in his private life is up to him. He may or may not be an arrogant prick, and he’s definitely not the world’s best husband, but at no point did he ever opine on other people’s private lives, or ask people to look up to him as some sort of moral beacon. So why do we need to waste acres of newsprint, days of TV time, thousands of paragraphs on this nonsense? I can sum up the whole story in 12 words: “Porn star or pancake waitress, you’ve got a chance with Tiger Woods.”
[I can do Ashley Cole in five: “Hey, look at my c*ck!”]
The world is going to hell in a handbasket and every time any one of us devotes any attention to this celebrity-based tattle we are just pressing on the accelerator, and from what I can see there is no brake.
So I say stop it. Now.
Last week I watched a youtube clip of John Motson interviewing Brian Clough at some point in the late 1970s or very early 1980s. Cloughie was clearly drunk, but was giving a great interview: “Shut up and show more football.” I was growing up when Clough was in his prime, and it was only when he was well past his best that it became publicly known – or at least publicly mentioned – that he was an alcoholic. Reading “The Damned United” – which I highly recommend – it was clear that he had struggled with booze throughout his career, but it was never a public issue.
A player or manager today would be checked into a high-profile clinic, photographed on the front page of “Hello!” magazine with his family on his return home (pronounced clean), subject to tabloid scrutiny on his relapse, and live his life knowing the people around him are ready with their mobile phones to take photos or videos of any indiscretions… no wonder Gazza can’t take it.
Maybe alcoholism is the wrong “-ism” to pick, given that it’s a disease that often goes unrecognised and untreated, but my point is this: back in the day, footballers were just as likely to run around in flash cars and have affairs with their team-mates’ wives, but it very rarely made the papers, because they were footballers – so what they did in their private lives was of absolutely no interest.
And it still shouldn’t be, because where our footballing heroes stick their little pee-pees is entirely irrelevant to our love of the beautiful game. If Kevin Kyle likes getting dressed up in gimp suits and f*sted – allegedly – that’s his prerogative; if Mark McGhee has a thing for Thai ladyboys, again, that’s between him and Mrs McGhee, (and the Beyonce lookalike he picked up in a bar in Pattaya – allegedly).
So let’s put an end to this celebritisation of football players. If Cloughie were around now he’d ban his players from talking to pointless celebrity magazines, he’d put an end to any PR-inspired relationships his players had with third-rate manufactured girl band singers, and he’d never appear on any fourth-rate reality TV shows eating live worms. He might have been a big-mouthed alky but he always had dignity.
John Motson gets destroyed by Brian Clough – Interview