The hand that rocks the cradle

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I think we can all agree that cheating on your pregnant wife is bad.

For those of you who don’t want to sully your browsing history with the News of the World – the only website where it’s worse to be caught reading the articles than looking at the tits – this is what Wayne Rooney has, apparently, allegedly, possibly, been up to. Of course, it’s all written in weirdly prurient tabloidspeak, so there’s ROMPING and LIAISONS and PLEASURING, rather than, y’know, fucking and stuff. But that’s the gist.

So yes, if true: bad Wayne, poor Coleen. Fine. The predictable battle lines are forming: plenty of contempt for him, some crude misogyny aimed at his alleged co-rompee, some mutterings about exactly why malicious forces in the press are attempting to undermine England’s qualifying campaign, and a few weirdos blaming Coleen. Armies of keyboard warriors are calling for him to be paraded through the Arndale while jeering City fans pelt him with rotten fruit until he prostrates himself before Colleen’s feet and, through the sickly mush, begs to be given just one more chance. You’ll probably be able to watch it on BBC3.

Much of the chat, inevitably, is about Rooney as failed role model; how he’s let down the hordes of children who wear his name on their backs. It is a particularly sharp issue since Fabio Capello, in the wake of John Terry’s own recent indiscretions, explained that his decision to relieve the Chelsea player of the captaincy was in part because “children look to these players as an example for life”.

The contention is, therefore, that the allegations made against Rooney, and Terry, and whichever other footballers have managed to hide their dirty laundry behind injunctions, contribute directly to retarding the moral development of children. If a footballer cheats on his wife, then the children that idolise him will absorb the idea that infidelity is acceptable, or at the very least normal. That the life of a successful footballer – which, lest we forget, is one that all children aspire to – is one of ‘want = take’.

Now, I’m no sociologist, child psychologist, or indeed any kind of relevant expert (though, unlike those making this assertion, at least I’ll admit it), but there’s more than a faint miasma of self-serving bullshit hanging around that logic. Quite how one would establish a causal link between the reported adultery of a boyhood idol and any subsequent adultery that boy might grow up to commit is beyond me. However, research into whether or not the media presentation of the drinking habits of sports stars affects those who follow sport could not find a connection.

It may well be that this generation of footballers – indeed, of sportspeople – are a generation blighted by money, and the legacy of the 80s equation of greed with good, to the extent that their awareness of the notional boundaries of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ has been blurred. But that’s no reason for the children that watch them to turn out the same; after all, I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that this current generation of alleged adulterers were themselves inspired by their ROMPING idols.

The idea that a footballer functions as a moral example is at best a lazy fallacy, and at worst a conniving lie, calculated to justify the lowest curtain-twitching instincts of the shabbiest excuses for journalists this gutter-dredging country has managed to throw up. And even if they could be, a footballer’s hardly to blame if the parents of these hypothetical impressionable young children haven’t got the time or the inclination to take their progeny off to one side and have a quick chat about the nature of relationships, commitment, monogamy and respect. Presumably they were too busy reading the News of the World, the only paper where you can actually feel yourself getting STUPIDER with every word.

If the allegations are true, fine, Rooney should be ashamed of himself. But so should Dominic Herbert, Carole Aye Maung, Simon Wright, Keith Gladdis, Rupert Murdoch, the Mirror Group, and everyone else involved in this clusterfuck to the bottom. His humiliation is yours. I bet he apologises before you do.

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