YOU know that scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers when Donald Sutherland suddenly realises everyone in San Francisco is an alien?
That’s a bit how I felt by midday on Thursday when I realised that people – actual human beings, with brains and everything – were taking the Roy Hodgson ‘race row’ seriously.
As we all know, Hodgson enlivened his half-time team-talk with an old tale about NASA sending a monkey and an astronaut into space.
The gist of the ‘joke’ is that the monkey is more important than the man, the punchline that the astronaut’s sole purpose is to ‘feed the monkey’.
Hodgson was trying to illustrate that full-back Chris Smalling should pass to the more talented Andros Townsend.
Somebody in the room objected to hearing Townsend – who is mixed race, by the way – described as a monkey. The story was leaked to the Sun, and all hell broke loose.
Now, I’ve read almost every article about this. I’ve seen almost every comment. And for all the talk of inference and connotations, I can’t escape one conclusion: the whole thing is mad.
It wasn’t racist. It wasn’t even borderline. The monkey in question was unequivocally a monkey, the kind that eats bananas and swings on tyres. The fact that Townsend is of mixed race was totally inconsequential.
Hodgson has no reason to be ashamed. He shouldn’t even have apologised. But there are plenty of people who should.
Like the player who leaked the story. If he can’t tell the difference between a real monkey and an offensive metaphor, I would suggest that makes him the racist.
Then there are men like Piara Powar, the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe. “Hodgson used a very silly term within a diverse team environment,” he tweeted. “He should know better. Some players will see it as reflection of the crude language still used by some coaches.”
Is Powar really suggesting that people aren’t intelligent enough to understand when a word is used as an insult?
Paki is a fundamentally racist word. Monkey is not. Banning words without considering context is all a bit 1984. It also makes Powar look petty and dogmatic.
And while I hate to attack my comrades, the journalists involved should hang their heads. This is a story that should never have been reported. It should have been laughed out of the building.
Instead, they bowed to the PC bigots who believe in draining our language of colour and our sports stars of personality. We are our own worst enemies sometimes.
Yes, it kept the anti-racism agenda in the public eye. But does castigating an innocent man for no reason really help the cause? I think it just makes us all look like paranoid, PC bullies.
That does nothing for anti-racism, nothing for football, and nothing for society. As the Manic Street Preachers once said, a PC victory really is a pyrrhic victory.
SORRY, ROVERS YOU’RE A BUSTED FLUSH
IF you play a hand of poker and go all in, you know the consequences. Win and you’re a genius. Lose and you’re a fool. But the rules is the rules.
Which is why Blackburn’s bleating about Financial Fair Play is little more than the sour grapes of a beaten gambler.
Rovers lost £27m last year, way more than new Financial Fair Play rules allow. As a result, Gary Bowyer’s side will face a fine if they go up and transfer
embargo if they stay put.
“I personally don’t like the rule, and I know Gary doesn’t,” said Blackburn’s managing director Derek Shaw, probably echoing a convicted burglar’s feelings about the criminal justice system.
“It’s very difficult for clubs who have come down from the Premier League with quite a number of big contracts that are in place, but we’re working on it.”
Persuasive eh? Well, just put those violins away for a minute. Yes, Rovers had big names on big money. There’s nothing they could do about the likes of Paul Robinson and Morten Gamst Pedersen.
But what about spending £8m on Jordan Rhodes? What about the £3m it cost to sign Leon Best from Newcastle? And what about the wages paid to Danny Murphy following his free from Fulham?
Don’t forget all those managers either. Steve Kean was forced to resign in October and later won £1.2m in damages.
Then Henning Berg was sacked after nine games and won £2.5m in compensation. Michael Appleton got only £500,000 but it all adds up.
The fact is that Blackburn gambled. They went all in. They knew FFP was coming and they splashed the cash in a desperate bid to escape the Championship before the rules kicked in.
When one manager slipped up, they sacked him and hired another, just like a gambler will chase his losses.
And that’s fair enough. It’s a bold strategy and it might have worked. As Del Boy used to say, he who dares, wins.
Only sometimes he doesn’t. And now that Blackburn have folded their hand and blown their cash, they have no right to moan about the consequences. Just ask any gambler who can’t afford the taxi home.
WE NEED A LEAGUE DAY FOR SMALLER CLUBS
CAN’T help feeling the lower leagues are missing a trick in international week. Last Saturday, League One represented the pinnacle of the domestic game.
For one week only, the players of Leyton Orient and Peterborough were the finest in the land.
But did folk flock to see these superstars? Not really. Orient were the exception, Brisbane Road swollen with some 6,359 punters for the match against MK Dons, their highest attendance in almost two years.
Sadly, everywhere else, attendances were either on or below average. That’s a shame, because as one of those at Orient, I can honestly say the quality of football was higher than plenty of Championship matches I’ve watched this season.
During the first international break, attendances at grassroots football were boosted by a PR campaign called Non-League Day, which encouraged matchless punters to visit their local club.
It would be great if the Football League did something similar. After all, when you’ve been fleeced of your savings by Man United, it probably wouldn’t take much to provoke a switch of allegiance to Rochdale or Bury.