And so the fist of God came crashing through the clouds and took out the fat oik with the big disgusting mouth in row four who always insists on standing. Thus, a glorious glow of bonhomie swept over the ground as the men, women and children proceeded to do that for which they had paid their admission. Yes, to watch football...
If only the above were true. Alas, the Almighty has rather more on his plate than ensuring that attending a sporting event nowadays doesn't have to equate to visiting a borstal where the inmates have been on the meths. Yet there were a few abusive fans in the UAE the other day who did come close to feeling, if not the fist of God, then certainly the hand of God slapping across their jaws. Of all Diego Maradona's magic moments, this would have been my very favourite.
Oh, they will say, the naughty little Argentine shouldn't have taken the law into his own infamous paws. But Maradona was sitting there as his side, Al Wasl, were losing 2-0 at Al Shabab and, close by, a section of home crowd morons were picking on his defenceless girlfriend. Yet she wasn't defenceless as Maradona reacted. As he should have reacted. He climbed into the grandstand to confront the cowards and, as cowards do, they backed down. These toerags will probably think twice about delivering their "banter" again.
All the usual stuff about the fans having the right to express their opinion is fair enough, so long as they are expressing their opinion about football. Yet just because they have handed over some hard-earned at the turnstiles, it doesn't give them the right to fling personal insults with all the nonchalance of a Scud-missile launcher buried in a shelter. The yobs wouldn't do it in the streets, and there's a good reason why. Not because they'd fear being arrested by many of the bobbies on the beat (guffaw, guffaw) but they'd be worried they might receive a slap. But at sporting events they feel protected. Why?
As seriously as it takes itself, sport is merely a small part of society, like shopping, or going to the cinema, or going to Pizza Hut, or going to church, or going to the bookies. The same rules should apply, regardless of the adrenalin which is supposedly produced, or testosterone, which, when taken with alcohol, is rumoured to have outrageous side-effects. There is no excuse for some of the vitriol being spouted, and I'm all for instant retribution.
So you are paid £100,000 a week and the clause in your contract stipulates you have to put up with everything thrown at you. Why? The wage isn't danger money, it's a payment for the sport you play. And if it isn't, what is this? A collection of bushtucker trials for sportsmen and sportswomen who must resist lashing out for fear for being evicted? To hell with that. Statements have consequences and nobody should be given a free pass just because they are in a packed arena. The very fact they are surrounded by thousands upon thousands makes the scenario impossible to police completely. So some citizen policing is enforced. It's how society works.
And the normal fan must make it go on working, because more and more the foul-mouthed and flea-brained are ruining what is meant to be an enjoyable experience. It was once just football but now you hear the mindless at rugby matches, at cricket matches, at tennis, even at golf. I was at a tournament recently where a man in the gallery shouted swear words at Lee Westwood telling him to have his teeth done. Westwood turned on his heels, pointed to his set of shiny new pearlers and laughed himself silly as the thug was led away by uniformed officials. They are easy to pick out in golf, however. Although not as easy as they once were. They used just to follow Colin Montgomerie.
Everyone gets carried away, that's the trouble. Even the sanest are wont to mutter and sing silly things. So when this false notion of hatred enters the cranium of an idiot the profanity is inevitable.
Take the Ashes series in 2005. It was the archetypal glorious summer of sport, but for many of us was marred by anti-Aussie over-the-topness. I recall interviewing Dizzy Gillespie, who was given a fearful shellacking at Old Trafford while he was fielding on the boundary. The loudest and foulest of his critics was there with his toddler. But when Gillespie approached this imbecile and asked if that was really the way to speak in front of an infant, the father called over the steward and said the fast bowler was harassing him. "So he wasn't just bringing his kid up to be a thug, but also a coward as well," said Gillespie. "Nice combination."
Where will it end? Well, when you hear thousands chanting to a player that "the baby's not yours", or you hear row upon row singing songs about air disasters, you might think this must be near the end. Surely it can't descend much further?
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