Sunday, 11 July 2010

Private Lives; Public Heroes

During a text ‘conversation’ about football with my friend in England, he wrote, ‘Did you hear Gerrard rumour?’ My insides turned to ice as I replied, ‘I have heard several – what’s the latest?’ He answered, ‘Getting his wife’s sister pregnant, or brother’s wife. I can’t remember which. That was why Terry was so whingey in South Africa’, to which I shot back, ‘That’s okay then. I thought you were going to say something awful like he’s going to Man Utd.’

Don’t get me wrong – adultery is nothing to be flippant about – but what has it got to do with his football? I care very much about where Stevie chooses to play his football (and I hope he will stay with the not-currently-very-mighty-reds) but his private relationships (extra-marital or otherwise) are none of my business. It seems that many people think it is theirs. I found this from the Talk FC web-forum, where clearly Vicky Pollard is masquerading as ‘redmadmundo’:

“The part of the story is that nonsense is its Ronnie Whelan’s daughter, a lad I know actually knows the girl and there’s no way, the other one about his sister in law was even worse, when a lad in work got a text, I spoke to the fella sitting next to me who lives down the road where her mum lives and he said there wasn’t a sister!”

Since when did we expect sporting figures to be role models? We watch programmes like Footballer’s Wives and then pretend to be outraged if someone has an affair in real life. Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Tiger Woods – they’ve all suffered in recent months from our phony mealy-mouthed morality. We strip them of their endorsements, contracts and captaincy because they don’t set a good example. Basically, it’s mere envy because they are earning thousands of pounds a week, but they’re not earning them for saintly morality; they’re earning them for hitting a ball – and they still do that very well, if we let them.

If I had children I might want them to play football like Stevie G, sing like Dusty Springfield, and build businesses like Richard Branson and bridges like Isambard Kingdom Brunel. But would I trust their emotional judgement? How would I know? I don’t know who these people really are. There is an old joke that people mock David Beckham for not being very bright, but no one criticises Steven Hawkin for being crap at football. There used to be a school of thought that you should stick to what you’re good at – now we seem to expect our ‘stars’ to be paragons of virtue as well, and I don’t know why.

We were supposedly horrified when Gordon Ramsay cheated on his wife. Why? This is the man who routinely swears at and belittles people on public television, and yet he was voted ‘celebrity father of the year’ – clearly demonstrating that bullying is admirable. Serena Williams has the most smashing forehand in women’s tennis, but I wouldn’t take fashion tips from her.
In New Zealand Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads is revered as the greatest lock forward ever – he has an MBE and was named the NZRU Player of the Century in 1999. He endorsed Provincial Finance with the immortal, emotive (and typically Kiwi) line, “solid as, I’d say.” When the finance company went under in 2006 and 14,000 investors lost their money, they seemed somehow surprised, having put their trust in the man rather than company. Again I ask, why? How does sticking your head between other men’s thighs qualify you as a financial advisor? Probably best not to answer that.

There are some public figures who are known to be lovely – Joanna Lumley; Michael Palin and David Attenborough spring to mind. Others less so. I don’t agree with many of Jeremy Clarkson’s opinions and would probably find him insufferably smug and arrogant if I ever met him, but his journalistic style is sublime. Similarly, Tom Cruise’s scientology and sofa bouncing antics may be completely bonkers, but he has made a number of good films (Top Gun; Rain Man; Born on the Fourth of July; A Few Good Men; Interview with the Vampire; Mission: Impossible; Jerry Maguire; Minority Report; Collateral; Valkyrie).

Some people (though God only knows who) might think Angelina Jolie has talent in her chosen field of pouting – oops, I mean acting – but does the fact that she has a bizarre necessity to recreate the united colours of Benetton adverts lessen her attributes? Are Roman Polanski’s films of less merit because of his controversial personal life? The Americans in a wonderful display of duplicity awarded him the Best Director Oscar in 2002 for The Pianist but refused to allow him into the country to accept it. Many singers, authors, musicians, artists have dodgy political viewpoints and personal lives: Michael Jackson may be a child molester of very limited mental faculties, but Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough is still one of the greatest disco sounds of the ‘70s.

I wouldn’t take political pointers from Sean Connery, as he is a rampant right-wing misogynist, but he’s a good actor. Conversely, does the fact that Bill Clinton chose to play hide-the-cigar with his intern have any relevance for anyone other than his wife? It was disgraceful that he lied under oath – and for that alone he should have been removed from office; no one should be above the legal system – but he shouldn’t have been in the dock for it in the first place. We should be ashamed of ourselves for being so enthralled by the salacious gossip. The ‘stars’ are only giving us what we want.

We used to have godparents who were supposed to be our role models and protectors. We respected our parents, teachers, religious leaders, and perhaps scout and guide leaders. I remember being influenced by my parents, aunts, uncles, a couple of teachers and the local Red Cross leader. If we now look up to singers, actors, celebrity non-entities and footballers, what sort of a life are we admiring? Perhaps we actually get what we deserve after all. But Stevie, please don’t leave me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re: Steven 'ahrite ah kid' Gerrard: