I listen to Sun FM at work. Why? Don't ask me, it's just on. I usually fire up my iPod and play good music, but there are times I just don't have time.
So anyway I tend to hear things like Rick Ball's On the Ball with Rick Ball sports editorial at least three times a day. Today after one about Euro 2004 where he suggests that football players are childish because of Francesco Totti's little spitting incident for Italy the other day, I decided to respond.
The problem was that the way he structured his argument it basically said that spitting was bad but things like cheap shots in hockey were okay. Or at least preferable to spitting. Which is sort of a very bizzare position to have.
I fired off this letter to Sun FM.
Dear Rick Ball:
I've heard your comment on the childish nature of football (or soccer) players twice now today. The first time I thought, "Well whatever, he's wrong but that's his right." Then I heard it again and since I'm currently at work I'm sure I'll hear it at least once maybe twice more today, so I felt compelled to fire off this rebuttal.
Are footballers the sharpest knives in the drawer? Not generally no. I’ve never heard anyone accuse David Beckham, currently the most famous sportsman in the world, of being particularly bright. Francesco Totti’s actions were childish true. Spitting isn’t exactly polite behavior, even in Europe and pretty much anyone could have come put with a better way to display displeasure than that. The problem I have is that you singled out footballers as being particularly childish. The structure of your argument was such that it seemed like you were suggesting that a cheap shot would have been less childish and therefore preferable.
So are you suggesting that it would have been less petulant of Totti to have sucker punched someone leaving them motionless on the field? There are no sticks in football but surely maybe you’d not rather he kicked someone in the face with his cleats? This is not to suggest that football doesn’t have its share of on field violence. Read through Manchester United captain Roy Keane’s biography to see countless examples of what his blind rage has caused him to do on field.
Let’s all be honest sports stars tend to be childish by nature. Hockey players, footballers, baseball players and everyone else who achieves wealth and celebrity for something like sporting excellence, uniformly tend to live in their own world. From a young age when they start to excel they have people fawning over them. Once they hit the big time they’re no loner required to deal with the everyday hassles of life, like shopping for groceries, and something like an on field slight or a wrong call by a ref can take on a level of importance way out of line with its real value.
So complain about the childishness of sports stars; throw in movies stars, Paris Hilton, P-Diddy and Jennifer Love Hewitt if you’d like. But it’s not fair to single out footballers as being particularly childish, and excuse hockey violence in the same breath.
At the heart of my argument is this, what Totti did was stupid. It wasn’t, however, dangerous, unlike similar outbursts in other sports and even in football. When was the last time I spit at someone? Well never as far as I can tell. When was the last time I blindsided someone from behind and knocked them cold? Well I would have to say aside from video games I’ve never done that. When was the last time I rushed someone in a big group and started a brawl in the middle of a baseball diamond? Or hit someone with a stick on the side of the head?
Thank you for your time.
Arts and Entertainment Editor (former Sports Editor)
UBC-Okanagan’s Official Student Paper