Warne and Maradona outshine Michael Mouse ‘heroes’
spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).
- Good to see two of my sporting heroes in the headlines this week.
No, not Michael Vaughan, Michael Owen or any of the other rather Michael Mouse ‘giants’ of English sport today. I mean Shane Warne and Diego Maradona.
If it was weird to see the dullards’ game of rugby union turned into an excitedly Shared National Experience a couple of years ago; it is frankly bizarre to see the same treatment given to the somnambulist sport of English cricket. That could only happen because England’s ‘new national heroes’ are in with a chance of beating the Australians – and one blond, full-bellied, 600-wicket-taking Aussie bowler in particular.
It is a sure sign of greatness to be both envied and execrated like Warne.
This is his last Ashes tour, and it will never be the same once he has gone. Football has never been the same since Maradona went. He has now returned from getting fat in Cuba to host a talk show on Argentine television, where this week he taunted England (again) over his infamous ‘hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup. My abiding memory of that match remains Maradona’s second goal, when he humiliated the entire England defence. Maradona not only won that World Cup single-handedly but, given the notorious weakness of his right foot, he won it on one leg.
Some might complain that neither Warne the serial sex-texter nor Maradona the cokehead exactly set a moral example for the youth. But that refusal to play the part only adds to their appeal among those of us who want sporting heroes, not role models for real life. In an age of bland conformism, neither has noticeably given a monkey’s about what anybody else thinks. Perhaps it reflects the different global standing of their sports that, where Warne reserves his acidic remarks for opponents, groundsmen or journalists, Maradona enjoyed launching into the Argentine president or Pope John Paul II.
Much to the delight of their enemies, Maradona was kicked out of a World Cup and Warne barred from the cricket equivalent, after each was found guilty of taking banned substances. These ‘performance-enhancing drugs’ turned out to be weight-loss medication. Nobody has invented a drug that could make you dribble like Diego or spin it like Shane. If they had, even England’s slimline sporting heroes could surely have won back the World Cup and the Ashes long ago.
- Why did the police shoot Jean Charles de Menezes?
Apparently because he was an electrician, and knew that the initial story about the July 7 explosions being caused by an electrical surge was planted to cover up the fact that the secret services bombed those trains. So they silenced him. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?
This loony conspiracy theory and many more can be found all over the Internet. The worrying thing, however, is that they are not that far removed from what now passes for serious public discussion. When high-profile commentators talk about 7/7 as ‘Blair’s bombs’, claiming that the Prime Minister was to blame for the bombings and has benefited from them, and when prominent parts of the media assume that there must have been a cover-up because CCTV tapes don’t show the Underground shooting, then it is little wonder that the conspiracy-mongers are having a field day.
As one who protested against police violence long before that became a national sport, I agree that the de Menezes shooting showed the dangers of unleashing an armed force in an atmosphere of official panic. But we should be just as concerned about the public mood of paranoia and defeatism revealed in the shrill responses to his death. It seems that for many today, a mistake must be deliberate murder, a cock-up equals a cover-up, and the lack of evidence only proves that the conspiracy goes deep.
That spirit of self-flagellation spreads from the top downwards. It was remarkable to see how meekly establishment spokesmen allowed themselves to be interrogated about the Stockwell shooting by a delegation from Brazil, without anybody mentioning the small matter of the eight policemen who have been charged with the massacre of 30 people in Rio de Janeiro.
Never mind the huffing and puffing about whether the Metropolitan Police chief should resign. It’s the creeping mood of resignation among the rest of us that I worry about.
Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)
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