Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Twilight: The Rugby Chronicles

[Above: Vampire pin-up Tom Williams]
“They say that in war truth be the first casualty”
- Zack de la Rocha, One Day As A Lion: Wild International (with apologies to Aeschylus)
Dean Richards, former director of rugby at Harlequins has just been banned from coaching at a European level for three years. He “masterminded” a few (we can’t be sure how many) fake blood injuries for tactical reasons, the most notable being that of young Harlequins’ player Tom Williams.

Right, so he’s a cheat, he’s banned, good. But hearing former England captain Will Carling discuss the issue, one would swear we – coaches, athletes, sports media, starving refugees, the world – are just the victims of circumstance. God rolled the dice and we lost. I’ll just discuss three of Carling’s obfuscations.

“I’m shocked. But we must remember, rugby is played by human beings who sometimes overstep the mark.” (aka Poor Dean Richards syndrome)

Rugby, like war, is a business, the bottom line of which is winning. Richards was doing all he could to win. Moral outrage, much less surprise, should not take pride of place in a society that worships the primacy of performance. I don’t see the BBC doing 15-minute specials on the machinations and intrigues of an unjust war (by the way, how many young British men and women have to die before someone in the House of Lords asks exactly why democracy in Afghanistan is so damn important to everyone?). I would suggest (ala Mark Rowlands) that the real reason we feign surprise and indignation is that we can’t believe we were taken in (“And did you see how bright the “blood” coming out of that boy Williams’ mouth was?”)… And we can’t believe he got caught. In that sense, Carling’s words are almost Gandhian. We’re all human beings, so we get angry when one of us gets caught at it. Damn it Dean you moron, couldn’t you have been cleverer?

“I feel so sorry for Tom Williams. He’s just a young lad, and as we all know, when your boss at work tells you to do something, you do it.” (aka Poor Tom Williams syndrome)

A list of things your boss may have said to you:
“Undo these staples.”
“Phone [disgruntled customer’s name] and tell her about the delay.”
“If the fees negotiator calls, tell him we don’t do rebates. But if he threatens legal action, obviously we can make an exception.”
“If the fees negotiator calls, tell him I’m not in.”
“Put this fake blood capsule in your sock, and if we need you to, slip it into your mouth and bite.”
“Go to a country you have never heard of and kill people you’ve never seen for reasons you do not need to know.”

A list of everyday sacrificial items:
Clean air, factual and impartial media, etc

[Say loudly, and with a gusto that demonstrates how much respect you have for The Rules] “This will carry on unless Rugby wakes up and changes the rules! We don’t want to tarnish the great name of rugby etc.” (aka Poor Rugby syndrome)

Yes. That darn slippy “No Cheating” rule. Perhaps we should just print it twice, like the rules of Fight Club:

The First Rule Is: Do Not Cheat.
The Second Rule Is: Um…Do Not Cheat.
But Will raises an important existential question: How do you litigate a human nature frayed and distorted by a lust for the top spot on the podium, a psychology perverted by the impression that We Must Always Win? How indeed, Will.

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