As a footballer cries foul over not being made ‘Sir’, Aidan Smith says he wants to blow the whistle on the honours system
Previously, when you heard the phrase “trying too hard for a knighthood” bandied around, the culprit might have been a lord provost overdoing the first citizen routine with an over-polished chain of office and plenty of over-cooked public pronoucements.
He would not have been an ex-footballer who would explode when the “Sir” wasn’t forthcoming, lash out at others who’d received honours and brand the committee charged with identifying recipients of the awards as “unappreciative c***s”.
Allegedly, that is. David Beckham has claimed that leaked e-mails showing his reaction to not getting a knighthood have been doctored and taken out of context and he is particularly upset at suggestions he used his charity work in a cynical attempt to secure the title. But he doesn’t seem to be denying his regret that it wasn’t forthcoming.
Friends have rushed to his defence. The kind of mates who open their mouths and just make a difficult situation worse. “David is just like any normal person,” said one, “and he was extremely disappointed that he wasn’t deemed worthy of becoming a Sir.”
Well, I reckon it’s time to scrap the honours system. If a child in a playroom behaves badly over a toy – is horrible to others in a display of petulance and spite – what do you do? Take the toy away. If “Sir” in front of your name or letters after it are causing this much gnashing and wailing of immaculate, super-white teeth then they should be removed.
That’s bad news for well-deserving folk who don’t draw attention to their deeds with the help of their “brand” or expensive public relations firms or television hagiographies but are cheery lollipop ladies and selfless carers and people who’ve done the same useful but unexciting jobs for half a century and don’t expect anything in return. If they were bothered about not getting a British Empire Medal or somesuch, which obviously they wouldn’t be, they would know who to blame.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how Beckham considers himself to be a “normal person”. I mean, I consider him to have been a normal footballer. He scored some goals, a few of them famous ones, endlessly replayed, but he also missed crucial penalties, deliberately kicked an opponent to incur a useful suspension, got sent off, played poorly in World Cups and incurred the wrath of the greatest club manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, who, with a background of tough Glasgow streets and shipyards, had considerable difficulty relating to the multifarious hairstyles, sarongs, pop-star wife, general narcissism and all-round metrosexuality of the player, one afternoon kicking out at a pile of jockstraps on the changing-room floor which caused a hidden boot to bounce off Beckham’s forehead.
But normal person? Is it normal to be an underwear model with a net worth of £280 million and 40 tattoos and your own whisky and an 11-year-old son releasing Christmas songs and saying about your nascent acting career “I’m honoured that anyone mentions me in the same breath as Steve McQueen” while your retinue are busy exploring new territories and new ways to flog your six-pack, your statesmanlike appeal, your every break of wind?
All of this suggests that as an ex-footballer Beckham keeps himself fairly busy. But while ex-footballers were once content running pubs, this one seems to want to run the world. Well, retirement from the game was always going to be tricky for him. Old players often talk about the difficulties of life when the cheering stops. Beckham was just about the most famous normal person on the planet when he hung up the right boot he used for free-kicks along with the other one. He wasn’t going to slip quietly away.
Who was it who mentioned him in the same breath as Steve McQueen? Doesn’t matter. He’s David Beckham and he’s deveilishly handsome. He’s David Beckham and he’s super-famous. He’s David Beckham and Tom Cruise likes to hang out with him, women fancy him. This is the important stuff. Britain, with its reduced status on the international stage, needs big performers in whatever sphere they can be found. Beckham, with that iconic crotch, bestrides the globe.
Normality is indeed part of the, er, package. He’s not too articulate and those pants are not too smart. He’s the bloke next door who had a bit of talent and made the absolute most of it. And the longer he hangs around, dominating the “And finally ... ” slot on news programmes, flashing his killer-himbo smile, it’s possible we’ll forget all about the goals he scored and just be glad he’s available to help win Olympics bids and stick on tourist tat, like an extended member of the Royal Family with unrounded vowels but better hair. Well, until this, some of us might have done.
Beckham did not do enough in his football life to merit a knighthood and right now, with the sport’s practitioners continuing to be caught in compromising positions and lurid headlines, it’s probably not being viewed by the unappreciative civil servants who compile the honours recommendations as a rich seam of ideal candidates. In his post-football life he’s certainly thrown himself into charity work but now – allegedly – it appears there has been an ulterior motive.
If it’s true he got involved in Unicef campaigns to try and secure a knighthood then you wonder how his image recovers. Muck has affixed itself to him before but not quite stuck. Meanwhile, I don’t really see how the honours system recovers.
Already much-derided, it may just have received a fatal kick in the goolies.