Tom English: ‘It took one clever assist for City fans to chuck their morals in the dustbin and hail Tevez’
THESE are my principles,” said Groucho Marx. “And, if you don’t like them, well, I have others… ”
Groucho came to mind last week, not once, not twice, but three times. The whole issue of sport’s disposable principles is pretty hot right now, the hypocrisy of morality that is at play on and off the fields of England, America and, yes, Scotland, too.
EXHIBIT A: CARLOS TEVEZ
Tevez, remember, disrespected the Manchester City jersey like no other player before him when he refused to come on as a substitute in a European match in Munich last year. It was an über-sulk to end all über-sulks. Roberto Mancini said he would never wear City’s colours again. The fans went potty. Tevez needed a police escort on the way back from Munich. Fans posted their protest on the gates of City’s training ground. With all the righteous indignation they could muster they blasted him to kingdom come.
He was a disgrace, an embarrassment, he should be sacked. The other night he made his reappearance after six months of the most brattish behaviour and, in the space of a few seconds, he was lionised again. It took one clever assist in the goal that brought City victory over Chelsea for the fans to chuck their morals in the dustbin and hail Tevez like nothing had ever happened. A few days later, City had a minor pop at Manchester United for bringing old man Paul Scholes out of retirement to buoy their championship challenge. City have all the riches in the world but they can’t buy irony. It would appear that, not only do they subscribe to Groucho’s view of the world, they are also a club with the self awareness of an elephant in a china shop.
EXHIBIT B: TIGER WOODS
Here I must declare an interest. I’m as guilty as the next man in the hypocrisy that surrounds the Woods story. Tiger is another brat. He has terribly under-developed social graces. Either that or he just didn’t give a damn. He does his mea culpa speech and promises to be a better person and then carries on like before. Maybe he’s not jumping on cocktail waitresses and porn stars the way he used to, but he’s sure as hell not behaving much better towards the fans who have forgiven his sins and want to reach out and touch him. Most of his contemporaries give a little back. Phil Mickelson, as we know, gives a lot. Tiger will barely even smile at a fan, never mind sign an autograph.
But the sight of him at Bay Hill in the opening round of Arnold Palmer’s tournament has been engrossing. He’s hitting fairways, he’s making putts, he’s looking like a guy who might – might – be in the advanced stages of his comeback and, frankly, that makes the pulse quicken with the Masters only a few weeks away.
Watching and willing Tiger to return to past glories is a guilty pleasure. The way this guy has behaved he doesn’t deserve our support. The only thing that’s likeable about him is his game and that’s enough to shove all the other stuff – the infidelity, the swearing, the spitting, the support for the boor that was his caddie Steve Williams, the disrespect he has shown fans, the control freakery – to the margins just because he’s shooting in the 60s again and just because this desire we have in seeing Woods and Rory McIlroy coming down the stretch in a major neck-and-neck is so strong.
On this one, in a roll call of hypocrites, I’d have to raise my hand. We want Tiger to reproduce his best stuff. We want him to put it up to Rory. We want the pair of them slugging it out on the back nine at Augusta. And, of course, we want Rory to triumph. Good over evil, or something like that. But if it’s Tiger and Charl Schwartzel coming up 18 tied for the lead, what do we want? Go Tiger! The renaissance man. The comeback story. We’ll love it, all of us. Then Tiger will do his press conference and we’ll be reminded that maybe Schwartzel would have been a better bet.
“How does it feel, Tiger?”
“Where does this rank among all your major victories?”
“It is what it is.”
“Could you tell us anything remotely interesting here?”
“No. Have a nice day.”
EXHIBIT C: SCOTTISH FOOTBALL
The news that Sky have inserted an Old Firm clause in the new £80m SPL television contract is not a surprise, but it raises certain questions nonetheless. Sky are saying that Rangers and Celtic must remain in the SPL or else they have a right to terminate a deal that so many clubs rely on to keep themselves afloat from one week to the next.
The club has already been found guilty of cheating on its taxes to the tune of £9-£15million. That’s why they’re in administration. Let’s assume the Employee Benefit Trusts tax case verdict is damning. We’re not saying it will be but, for the sake of an argument, let’s say it is. And let’s say that the SPL inquiry also produces a damaging result. The SPL and the SFA then have a decision to make. If morality counted for everything they would revoke Rangers’ membership of the SPL and they would have to start again in the Third Division as punishment for their crimes.
But to do so would mean the ripping up of the broadcast contract which keeps the SPL alive and it would do nothing for the SPL’s chances of finding a new title sponsor when Clydesdale Bank walk away the season after next.
This is a moral argument for another day. But you feel like you already know the answer, don’t you?
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