He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not see his like again.
Maybe you’re just a bit too into politics if you’re taking obscene joy in the US Women’s soccer team losing?
— Sam Stein (@samstein) August 6, 2023
“Obscene joy”? Sounds fun, but I don’t even know what that is. Me, I was this guy:
Well, to be precise, when I saw that the US had lost, I chuckled. When I learned that it was thanks to Rapinoe sending her penalty kick into row Z, I did indeed laugh, because I was reminded once again that there is a trickster god who loves us and wants us to be amused, and laughter is how we show our thanks. It just had to be her! Her last act as a professional athlete! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer attention whore! Seeing some professional lib from MSNBC getting mad about it is a bonus chuckle. That same professional lib accusing me of being “too into politics,” rather than, say, the arrogant players who spent the last several years making their political showboating a major part of their “brand”? Well, now, that’s just goddamed hilarious. Enjoy your post-athletic career as a dime-a-dozen influencer, you silly bint.
There have been references in some sympathetic quarters to the Saudi deal as “life-changing” and as such unrefusable, as though only now can Henderson finally afford a car or a family holiday. And to be fair it is transformative. He can go from ludicrously rich to brain-manglingly, obscenely rich in a single stride.
But there is an obvious moral hypocrisy here. The Saudi league is a political project, an attempt to gain influence while distracting from incompatible levels of prejudice and a bloodthirsty human rights record.
Anyone who takes those above-market fees to act as the public face of this (essentially a bribe to forget your remaining sporting ambitions) is knowingly taking part in those political aims. Which is entirely your own business if you happen to like that process, or if you want to ignore it and simply act as an economically rational agent.
But Henderson has presented himself as something else. A much-praised advocate for LGBTQ+ rights (who is now planning to promote a state where gay people are criminalised). An advocate against racism (now doing PR for a structurally racist state). A campaigner for women’s rights (giving the thumbs up for a patriarchal dictatorship).
Taking a stand is good. But it only really hits home when it overlaps with your personal interests. At the first whiff of that sweet life-changing cash all the rainbow stuff has simply been swished off the desk.
…Where does this end? Because once you start to peel this onion you realise how much it stinks. If we really are going to condemn Henderson’s moral shiftiness, we have to condemn also every Newcastle player who professes to care about human rights or the rainbow flag, to condemn the ethics-washing Premier League for allowing this kind of ownership, to ask what internal contortions it requires to make a heartening stand against racism in Britain but also promote the Abu Dhabi outreach project. And also to understand the historic role of sport in British society.
Then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Guardian reader – isn’t this an indictment of our entire society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth every youngster around the world who dreams of being paid astronomical sums to kick a ball around a field one day. Gentlemen!
So, yes — big drama in the summer transfer window of English soccer. It seems Liverpool’s captain, Jordan Henderson is eager to take on a new challenge, I mean, start a new chapter, err, quadruple his salary by plying his trade in the Saudi Arabian league. The Saudis are trying to attract some of the biggest names in the game in hopes of winning a bid to host the World Cup. Having already lured an aging Cristiano Ronaldo and missed out on Lionel Messi, they’ve started aiming for players still at the top of their game. The temptation of Henderson has occasioned much angst among the young and idealistic. But he’s been an ally! He wore the rainbow captain’s armband! He’s made public statements in support of the alphabet people, all of which were completely heartfelt and not at all mandatory exercises in ubiquitous corporate PR! Right Side of History, Right Side of History, why hast thou forsaken us?
As it happens, I mostly agree with Ronay that trying to sort the world into white hats and black hats is a waste of time. We’ve already established that celebrities, athletes, and celebrity athletes are whores by virtue of their efforts to attain their status; now we’re just haggling over the price. If I were idealistic, I might hope that a shock like this might cause people to see the inherent emptiness of virtue-signaling. None of the sanctimonious spectacle — the knee-taking before kickoff, the rainbow-colored laces on athletic shoes, the po-faced proclamations of commentators — has ever been worth a squirt of piss. If Ronay really wanted to stir things up, he could have concluded by suggesting that self-satisfied spectators should most of all be angry with themselves for being simple-minded enough to demand, and be appeased by, such superficial gestures.
The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands will not wear the OneLove anti-discrimination armband in their World Cup opening games after confirmation that their captains would be given yellow cards if they took part in the initiative.
The announcement came just before their World Cup campaigns were scheduled to start. The national federations said they were prepared to pay a fine for their captains to wear the OneLove armband, but once it became clear their captains would be sanctioned, they had to change plans.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” a joint statement from the nations read. “As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.”
Amazing what happens when the seemingly-irresistible force of woke Western virtue-signaling meets the immovable object of a non-Western culture impervious to guilt-tripping.
Not only that, but I heard that he, Arlo White, and Graeme Le Saux convene in the churchyard at midnight, where they perform a blasphemous mockery of the “take a knee to fight racism” ritual.
The first time I saw current Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, back in his Salzburg days, I thought, “That kid looks like Brock Lesnar’s “before” picture, or maybe his teenage son.” I’ve called him “Baby Brock” ever since. Today, I tried to show somebody what I mean, only to find that there didn’t seem to be any photographic comparisons available. So, once again, it falls to me to make things happen:
The Millwall incident was fairly minor in the scheme of things. But the furious, even demented response to it is incredibly revealing. It confirms that there is a chasm-sized gap between the elites and ordinary people. And it confirms that the woke elites will brook no dissent whatsoever to their divisive agendas of critical race theory and woke re-education. I predict more booing. I hope there’s more booing.
For roughly 350 years, since the birth of liberalism as a political philosophy, those whom we might generally describe as intellectuals in pursuit of progress have understood themselves as opposed to the oppressive nature of state, church, and even culture itself. The phenomenon that some are calling “woke capitalism” seems to be the paradoxical result of this pursuit, in which a small minority of dissidents protesting in the most harmless way possible have to somehow be portrayed as the heirs of this oppressive legacy, still in power, still threatening to reverse progress. A couple thousand fans booing a ridiculous empty gesture at a sporting event is a threat to life and liberty, but a wealthy football league threatening to use the invasive power of surveillance technology to punish them (for breaking what law?) is just the poor, scrappy underdog trying to protect himself. St. George has become a pathetic spectacle, skewering tiny lizards and lashing out at anyone who dares to suggest that they aren’t fire-breathing monsters, or, furthermore, that he is actually becoming something of an oppressor himself. What will it take to bring a moment of crushing self-awareness to this old warrior? Or is it too late, and he’s just doomed to decline into violent senility?
There seemed little likelihood that they would put up with this new performative gesture going on not just once, but months and months after the event that kicked it off. Football grounds, even after decades of gentrification and rising ticket prices, are not always genteel places. They are places where strong views are held about peoples’ failings, real or otherwise, with crowds who do not always keep their opinions to themselves.
And so, as the months dragged on and the strange new ritual seemed impossible to shrug off, the day was always going to come when the clubs reacquainted themselves with their supporters. Sure enough, on Saturday that happened, and the inevitable, predictable thing took place, at the home of one of the less genteel of football clubs: Millwall. At the start of the match between the south London side and visitors Derby County, both teams went down on one knee as is now their custom — and as they did so, many of the supporters began audibly to boo.
So, yes — for those of you unacquainted with the world of English soccer, games have been going on since the leagues restarted over the summer, in empty stadiums. Throughout that time, it has become a new ritual for the players to take a knee for a moment in solidarity with BLM after the opening whistle. Only just this past weekend, tiny numbers of fans were allowed back in certain grounds. As the man said, the Millwall supporters made their feelings known about this new ritual of virtue-signaling. The feculent, inbred world of football journalism, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, was united in its horrified denunciation of these savages who dare to show such impiety toward the new state religion. It was suggested somewhere that CCTV might even be used to identify the “offenders,” who are apparently deserving of punishment under new anti-blasphemy laws. I smirked and thought, “Good for them.”
Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of characters among the booing ruffians whom I would find loathsome (the same rule applies to pretty much any assemblage of five or more people). But for all I know, maybe many of them were booing at what could reasonably be seen as the unwelcome imposition of American political obsessions into English sport. I know if I were English, and even tepidly patriotic, I’d be thinking, “Why do we have to imitate whatever the stupid Yanks are doing?” Either way, the strident condemnation, the determination to crush even the smallest display of dissent, doesn’t give an impression of strength or confidence. It shows insecurity and weakness, a recognition that if anyone other than carefully-chosen media elites is allowed a voice, things could get out of hand in a hurry. Maybe there are racists among the jeering masses. But when the non-racists are a bunch of tongue-swallowing cowards, well, you take your heroes where you can find them.
Eric Cantona has added to his long list of unique and bizarre speeches after collecting the UEFA President’s Award.
The former United forward was on stage ahead of the Champions League draw in Monaco to receive the award, which “recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities”.
Dressed in a rather casual shirt, jeans and flat cap and sporting a familiarly large beard, the 53-year-old began by quoting William Shakespeare’s King Lear: “As flies to wanton boys, we are for the gods.”
The audience, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk, looked on perplexed as Cantona continued: “They will kill us for the sport.
“Soon the science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon the science will fix the cells to the state and so we will become eternal.
“Only accidents, crimes, wars, will still kill us but unfortunately, crimes, wars, will multiply.
“I love football. Thank you.”