[DEBATE] : Re: DEBATE : A dirty tackle on the working classes
bstefan at gmail.com
Fri Oct 19 18:43:16 BST 2007
As soon as people try to enjoy themselves a bit, this kind of
opinion-posing-as-'analysis' fills the commentary pages of the
newspapers. In reply, I'll offer my own equally opinionated 'analysis'
I grew up on football; I am not English; I am not a toff; I am not
from a Public School background; I have never lived in the Home
Counties. However, when I compare rugby (Union, never could acquire a
taste for the League stuff) to football as it is played in the big
leagues across Europe today I see a game that is less commercialised,
less afflicted with the extreme egos and theatrics (narcissism) of the
football superstars and has a much less violent (and in the cases of
some European supporter groupings, a much less explicitly racist)
following. That, from a spectator point of view, is rather appealing.
Surely the England rugby team is worthy a bit more attention that its
Chalk it up to 'false consciousness' or whatever, but I don't buy
Allirajah's 'class analysis' in this case...
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: "Russell Grinker" <grinker at mweb.co.za>
> To: "'debate: SA discussion list '" <debate at lists.kabissa.org>
> Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2007 17:13:06 +0200
> Subject: [DEBATE] : A dirty tackle on the working classes
> Friday 19 October 2007
> A dirty tackle on the working classes
> England's appearance in the Rugby World Cup final tomorrow has become
> another excuse for an outburst of class snobbery against football fans.
> Duleep Allirajah
> All week, I've been mulling over what to do on Saturday night. Should I
> watch a BBC4 documentary on the British Enlightenment or Grand Prix snooker
> on Beeb 2? Or perhaps I should indulge in a spot of burglary in Twickenham.
> It's a tough call - but they can't be any worse than watching England in the
> Rugby Union World Cup final.
> Okay, so the burglary bit was a joke but the dilemma is genuine. I can't get
> that excited about the rugby. Now, don't get me wrong, I've got nothing
> against rugby itself. Given the sorry state of Saturday night TV, I might
> even end up watching the damn thing - though I'd rather be at home than in a
> gastropub surrounded by braying toffs in England rugby shirts. Everyone's
> entitled to their fun, even posh boys. But what's really wound me up is the
> way that, rather than just enjoying the rucking and mauling and leaving the
> rest of us in peace, the bastards insist on using rugby as a stick with
> which to beat football.
> One of the unfortunate side-effects of the amazing zero-to-hero renaissance
> of the England rugby team is the rekindling of the 'rugby versus football'
> debate that briefly raged in 2003. The Times (London), for example, ran a
> '10 reasons why.' head-to-head on which of the two sports is better. 'Is
> there a more depressing sound in sport than 50,000 glory hunters called
> Tarquin singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"?' wrote football journalist Kaveh
> Solhekol (1). Well, actually there is. It's the sound of football fans
> singing the English rugby anthem. Sadly, I witnessed one such shameful
> incident two weeks ago at Selhurst Park. When the Palace substitutes started
> warming up, a huge cheer swept round the stadium. Steady on, I thought, we
> need some fresh legs but there's nobody on the bench to get that excited
> about. Then the penny dropped: the fans were cheering the rugby score, which
> had flashed up on the big screen. England, against all the odds, had beaten
> Australia. And before you could say Jason Robinson, fans started singing
> 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot'. Jesus wept, what's wrong with this country?
> To be fair, I can understand how people who don't even understand the laws
> of the game can contract rugby fever. British sporting success is pretty
> rare. And an English team sticking it to the Aussies is rarer still.
> Moreover, in these atomised times, we'll jump at the chance of a shared
> national experience whatever the pretext: international sporting event,
> celebrity funeral, missing children.we're not that fussy. But football fans
> really ought to think twice about jumping on the rugby bandwagon. Why?
> Because, while we're cheering for 'our' rugby boys, the rugby snobs are
> sneering at us.
> You can't switch on the radio or open a newspaper these days without coming
> across someone sounding off about how rugby is better than football. Patrick
> Collins' tirade in the Mail on Sunday is typical of the genre. 'The public
> believes that professional footballers spend too much of their time diving,
> acting, bickering and bawling abuse at impotent referees', Collins rails.
> 'The public senses that professional football is controlled by mendacious
> agents, avaricious managers and unprincipled chairmen.' By contrast, Collins
> describes a bus journey in which rival rugby fans engaged in good-natured
> banter. 'I remember thinking that this was how sport could be, how it ought
> to be, stripped of cynicism, chauvinism and moronic aggression.' (2)
> On Monday, Radio Five Live hosted a phone-in debate on whether rugby should
> be our new national sport. The basic argument was that the rugby team are
> gentlemen plus they're winning ergo rugby should be our national sport. The
> snobbery also ran through the light-hearted 'rugby versus football' debate
> in The Times. Patrick Kidd's case for rugby rested mainly on rugby's moral
> superiority: players don't feign injury, it's safe for children to attend
> matches, spectators drink responsibly, and rival supporters don't have to be
> segregated (3).
> Then there was self-loathing football fan Simon Hattenstone's account in the
> Guardian of his 'anti-epiphany' when he discovered that rugby is the 'real
> game of the people', a game, moreover, where 'two opposing sets of rugby
> fans can sit in a pub and watch a match, chat intelligently, and not pummel
> each other to death' (4). Hattenstone bemoans the fact that he never played
> rugby at school. 'No, we played football - the game of the people', writes
> Hattenstone bitterly. 'Yes, the same football that now regularly charges
> punters 40 quid plus per Premier League game and bullies season-ticket
> holders to watch every crap cup match for the privilege of a season ticket.'
> By contrast, Hattenstone points out, 'you can watch Jonny Wilkinson at
> Newcastle Falcons for a tenner a head'.
> The problem with Hattenstone's argument is this: if rugby really is the
> people's game, if it's so manifestly superior, how come it's not very
> popular? Of course, everyone gets into rugby when England are doing well in
> the World Cup. But, apart from its traditional Home Counties constituency,
> nobody cares a jot about rugby union the rest of the time.
> As Channel 4 News noted this week: 'The Guinness Premiership's
> best-supported side, Leicester Tigers, had an average crowd of 16,815 last
> season. But the Tigers' average crowds are bettered by 32 English football
> clubs, and many other rugby union clubs struggle to match the attendances of
> football clubs in English football's fourth tier, League Two. TV audiences
> are the same: while 12million watched last Saturday's gripping England v
> France semi-final, more than 20million watch a big England football World
> Cup fixture.' (5)
> There's probably a nerdy pub discussion to be had about the merits of the
> respective sports. But the current 'rugby v football' debate isn't about
> which sport is more skilful or better to watch but which game is more
> virtuous. Ultimately, comparing rugby to football is like comparing apples
> with pears. Personally, I prefer football but I'll concede that rugby has
> the raw ingredients for great sporting drama too. What I don't like about
> the debate is the barely concealed snobbery that runs through it. Elitism is
> not openly espoused these days. Access and inclusion are the order of the
> day. Even the toffs are flattening their vowels and glottalising their
> But elitism hasn't disappeared altogether. It merely expresses itself in a
> coded form, whether through Little Britain-style chav-baiting or else in the
> current 'rugby is better than football' debate. And when I say 'coded', you
> don't need to be Roland Barthes to deconstruct it. For football, read
> uncouth working class scum. And that's why I'll choose football, warts and
> all, any day over rugby union. Football, for all its conspicuous consumption
> and the gaudy US-style razzmatazz that comes with commercialism, is far
> preferable to a sport championed by sneering toffs who think they're better
> than us.
> Duleep Allirajah is spiked's sports columnist. He is speaking at the session
> Are we a nation of sporting losers? at the Battle of Ideas festival in
> London on 27-28 October.
> Read on:
> spiked-issue: Sport
> (1) Ten reasons why football is better than rugby, The Times (London), 15
> October 2007
> (2) A Dream Ticket? What a pity football can't see the truth, Mail on
> Sunday, 14 October 2007
> (3) Ten reasons why rugby is better than football, The Times (London), 15
> October 2007
> (4) Rugby uncovers the awful truth of my wasted life, Guardian, 10 October
> (5) More enjoying Pilates than rugby, Channel 4 News, 17 October 2007
> reprinted from: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3985/
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