Hugh Reilly: Cheats should never prosper – but they do
THIS week, Glasgow Rangers face a multi-million pound drop into either the awful abyss of SFL division 3 or the slight descent of SFL division 1.
Under the existing rules, the “newco” should join other jumped-up pub teams like Peterhead in the bottom tier of Scottish professional football. However, in what many perceive to be a panic measure to stave off financial meltdown, football leaders have headhunted Uri Geller to bend SFL rulebook in the hope of ensuring Ranges fans don’t suffer the ignominy of having to stand on the same terracing as bunnett-wearing supporters of Annan Athletic. If the regulations are flouted, Professor Higgs’s next academic paper will discuss the theoretical existence of sporting integrity in the senior game.
Treating Rangers as a special case would be a betrayal of the sporting values we teach young people. When playing a game of “statues” at a birthday party, most kids stoically make their way to the losers’ section of the lounge carpet when outed as the one who moved – it is only a precocious minority who refuse to accept the sagacious judgment of the granny on the waiting list for cataract removal sitting in the umpire’s sofa. Likewise, when playing “pass the parcel”, few kids throw a tantrum when their sleeky attempt to toss the parcel after the music has stopped is deemed illegal.
My generation’s fair play champion was comic-book hero Alf Tupper, a welder who, in between constructing bikes in a battered shed, won Olympic gold. His meticulous preparation for the 1,500 metres event consisted of scoffing a fish supper and washing it down with a bottle of ginger. To be honest, however, there have been occasions when my faith in sporting integrity has been shaken. For example, as a lad, I believed I was a talented fitba player; unfortunately, others experienced difficulty accepting this self-evaluation. With 30 boys in the class and only 22 players allowed on the blaes pitch, eight pubescent Peles were destined to be disappointed. Our PE teacher, Mr Pontius Pilates, washed his hands of the matter, leaving the delicate team selection process in the hands of the two best players. 28 lads lined up with their backs against the chicken-wire perimeter fence and looked forlornly into the eyes of the two selectors. One by one, the more skilful football artists were picked. Soon, only a few slots in each team remained, much to the dismay of the increasingly embarrassed clodhoppers. I trusted one of the captains, my best mate, Jim, would save me from being humiliatingly overlooked – again – but, burdened by his Corinthian spirit, he placed sporting integrity above petty notions of friendship. As the teams headed on to the football field, the rejects milled around a tad aimlessly on the hockey pitch. I sighed as I angrily kicked a semi-inflated ball towards a specky bloke, almost hitting a fat guy talking to the somewhat isolated, flamboyant lad who avidly read the Bunty. It was all too much.
I learned to play golf while at school under the tutelage of Walter Lyle, an elderly relative of the great Sandy Lyle. My dad, thinking that perhaps he had fathered the next Arnold Palmer, rushed out and bought three second-hand golf clubs from a Barras stall: a hickory driver, a mashie niblick and a one-iron for a putter. Pater’s budget did not extend to a golf bag thus I traipsed the public courses with the clubs over my shoulder, a small poly bag of golf balls hanging from one of them (Ben Hobo?).
Despite my golf equipment handicap, I never once cheated – unlike a playing companion who thought nothing of toe-ending his ball a few yards forward when no-one was looking. On one occasion, his ball was in deep rough and I relished the idea of him taking five or six strokes to extricate it from the jungle. Lo and behold, his Titleist ball flew out, as did a rather large wooden tee. To be fair, his disdain for sporting integrity was something of a portent regarding his future career. He is a banker with Crédit Suisse – I wish I were making this up.
When I ran football teams in Glasgow schools, it was not unheard of for some teachers to “accidentally” field a couple of overage players in important games. Speaking for myself, I found it disconcerting to see a youngster with long sideburns and a Ronald Coleman moustache sprinting down the wing, especially in an under-13s girls match. On Friday, I earnestly wish that sporting integrity prevails.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West