Please put on a tweed skirt, Jonny...

The rugby world cup would be more memorable if left as what it was, a thrilling competition and no more
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The Independent Online

This is what makes it so hard to enjoy sport in England, we're not capable of seeing it for what it is. Instead, some newspapers must have been itching to show the rugby world cup parade under a headline "SEE THIS. NOW WHO SAYS WE CAN'T GET INDIA BACK".

The reports got crazier as they went on. One typical article started with dancing Santas and ended up with a disabled bloke climbing out of his wheelchair "wearing the widest smile I saw all day". I should think he WAS smiling, seeing as he'd just been instantly cured of spina bifida. I expected it to continue... "As we passed through Piccadilly Circus, a group of lepers struggled through the crowd and sacrificed a goat so they could shake hands with England captain Martin Johnson. Ignoring concerns that they might infect the William Webb Ellis trophy, he let them drink from the cup whereupon one by one they yelled they were healed, but then I lost sight of them as we turned into Haymarket.

"That's where I noticed the humble figure of Mahatma Gandhi, cheering on the players having painted a flag of St George across his trademark loincloth. As the bus arrived in Trafalgar Square, the team was greeted by cheering tramps who'd trained their scraggy dogs to bark the tune to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". And finally the statue of Nelson began to speak. "I thought naval warfare was tough, but the way you boys dive into those scrums takes more guts than facing old Napoleon, I can tell you", he quipped.

But then there was a new twist to this nonsense, because Jonny Wilkinson was involved in a car crash. So, despite the fact that everyone involved insisted it was a minor incident, three newspapers screamed his survival was a "MIRACLE". The quality of God's miracles has gone seriously downhill over the years. At one point he was parting seas and resurrecting the dead, now he's going "there you are, I've enabled a rugby player to walk away from a slightly dented car. Let's see the cynics explain THAT".

One report added to the drama by exclaiming that in the area of the crash, the temperature "had fallen to zero!" So that's another miracle. If the temperature had dropped by just another forty degrees, the region would have been home to arctic wildlife and England's fly-half hero could have been EATEN BY POLAR BEARS.

This sort of story is taking the obsession to a new level, suggesting that Jonny Wilkinson is not only a sporting hero but a superhero in life in general. If this carries on, he'll end up like the president of North Korea. Everywhere he goes, school kids will be forced to line up and sing "O great and noble kicker, if you haven't got a ball, I would gladly allow my organs to be be drop-kicked into touch by your majestic instep for a line-out deep into opposition territory". And the story of the crash will be rewritten to read "It seemed Jonny had no way of avoiding those trees. But he swerved the car past three oaks, fooled another with a dummy before screeching to a halt and parking in the corner with not a scratch on him.

Then there's the woman who wrote in the Daily Mail after the parade. "London was awash with celebratory St George flags, and it was an uplifting, joyous sight. Hopefully, politicians will now realise that nothing makes the people of a nation more resentful than feeling marginalised in their own country." Then it went on to say that if Tessa Jowell had her way "people like me would be frogmarched to political correctness camps to be cured of patriotism and Christian beliefs."

So for some people this wasn't just a welcome for a sports team, it was a political demonstration. They must have been tempted to declare "Rugby parade shows the euro is not wanted". Maybe other campaigns should do this. After Arsenal's next home game there could be a press statement saying "the marvellous turnout of 50,000 shows the widespread opposition to the arms trade. The robust cries of 'you're shit and you know you are' show what the people of north London think of British Aerospace".

No one has yelled more about the joyous display of patriotism than The Sun. But if its owner really meant that, why didn't he use his paper to support Australia? Does that count as patriotism, to support whatever country you happen to be in at the time? Presumably then, Rupert Murdoch would approve if every soldier that arrived in Iraq said "well now I'm here I support Iraq" and started firing at the Americans.

The rugby world cup would be so much more memorable if left as what it was, a thrilling competition and no more. Instead it's used to justify rants such as another in the Mail about the world cup win being an advert for "real men. They do not get their hair permed. They do not wear diamond ear studs". Please Jonny, turn up to your next match in a blouse and a tweed skirt to announce "I ought to tell you I'm a woman trapped in a fly-half's body".

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