David Flatman: 'Whooping' can turn out to be a whopping great mistake

From the Front Row

Whether we are in the office, on the roads, down the corner shop or at home with the in-laws, there is a code. This code is basically a system of behavioural boundaries that, when obeyed, help maintain decorum and facilitate the polite, unabrasive ticking along of life. Now and then – as a result of being human – somebody oversteps a mark and, until the episode is acknowledged and corrected, calm is lost.

It will come as no surprise to learn that rugby, too, has its codes. I'm not talking about the official ones here, more the unspoken, time-honoured ones. Call me biased, but I've always thought that the prop forward shoulders a lot of responsibility in this area, and this is why it disappoints me so much whenever I see one letting the side down.

You see, as a front-row forward, one is only ever one scrummage away from being physically and publicly humbled; this is why none should ever celebrate too aggressively a powerful surge or favourable decision from a referee. Put simply, gob off too much and all you do is pump motivational fuel into the veins of the man on the other side, making yourself look less of a gentleman all the while.

No, a dominant scrummage or awarded penalty should be met with as little facial expression as possible, as much through sporting respect as through the desire not to damage your own reputation.

How many times have we seen a prop win a decision and mark the occasion with a self-promoting shriek, maybe a fist pump and, if things have really gone south, a patronising head-tap for his opposite number? And how many times have we seen the same man have his head inserted into his backside minutes later? I watch this stuff closely, and it happens an awful lot.

The bad news is the rotis spreading. Once the cauliflower-eared arbiters start misbehaving, the masses will follow. This is perhaps the only sense in which a prop forward could ever be labelled a trendsetter. Sadly, a new phenomenon has crept loudly into our game: whooping. Before I lambast those I regard as offenders, allow me to demonstrate some self-awareness; I am a grumpy old git and I know I am. I am also, some might argue, incapable of doing anything remotely whoop-worthy on the field. So those who dismiss my views as those of an under-talented dinosaur might well have a point.

I am not, however, one of those bitter old goats on the wrong side of 30 who hate the new generation, regardless of how they play and behave. There are some brilliant blokes who fit squarely into what I would call the new generation. Every time I meet these guys I observe that, despite being massively talented and having achieved huge things while so young, they remain humble and real. They get it. But there are also a number of players in England who, for some reason, feel it is acceptable to jeer, mock and abuse their opponents during a game. These players are not all kids, there are grown-ups doing it, too.

Not for one second do I think we should all play in silence, nor would it be possible never to utter a word to an opposing player. But verbal pressure at the line-out or the odd "take that, sunshine" is vastly different to the – dare I say it – Americanised whooping, back-slapping, head-tapping and self-congratulatory affirmations that we are used to seeing in the NFL.

In my view – and it is only my view – this is not what our game is about. I always loved watching Sean Fitzpatrick play, partly because he was so good, but also because – I always noticed – he wore the same mask whether he won or lost. He never gloated, patronised or taunted his adversaries, knowing this would only rile them and knowing, invariably, it's the noisy, cocksure ones who are the least threatening in battle.

It would be silly for me, sitting in this privileged position, to arrogantly assume moral superiority through words and to pour scorn on all those who fail to live up to the behavioural standards my father imbued in me. But, in fact, were I to put together a list of 10 rugby "do nots", there is a decent chance I would be guilty of having done eight or nine of them. This, whether we like it or not, is life in the front row.

One thing I hope I have never done, however, is openly disrespect the bloke opposite me who is giving everything for his team. And this doesn't just go for fellow prop forwards; it goes for all players. Sure, I've celebrated victories, be they big or small, as they happened, but there isa big difference between cheering with your buddies and projecting your celebrations on to your momentarily overpowered opponents.

In essence this is when pride becomes boastfulness. And we don't boast, or at least we shouldn't. Get your head down, do your job, take the win and have a good old sing-song in the bath afterwards. Crikey, I am getting old.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness