Monday, August 20, 2012

Mountains From Molehills

The Football Association, the organization that oversees soccer in England, has a knack for creating big issues out of trivialities. Often, this stems from a misplaced desire to cater, no matter the cost, to every politically correct theory ever advanced by any addle-pated social thinker with a podium; hoping, in this way, to deflect all criticism of what was once a rough game played by tough factory workers, but which they wish to have seem a genteel give-and-take between two groups of sartorially challenged debate teams. The FA is eager to appear the moral guardian of all good things, and its dedication, for example, to stamping out what passes for racism in Britain is second to none. Consider, for example, its decision to charge Rio Ferdinand, of Manchester United, with racism for his participation in this exchange on Twitter:

Unnamed interlocutor: "Looks like Ashley Cole [who plays for Man United's arch-rival Chelsea] is going to be their choc ice. Then again, he's always been a sell-out. Shame on him."

Ferdinand: ""I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic! hahahahahahha!!"


(In racial terms, "Choc ice" is to the English what "Oreo" is to Americans.)

(Even worse, but beside the point here, is that the local police are prosecuting Ferdinand for a criminal violation for that tweet. When did England give up being a free country? And are these pro soccer players so delicate that words like this can be so offensive as to warrant the expenditure of public moneys on the ponderous activity of the police?)

But this week comes another example of the FA's unsurpassed capacity to make something controversial out of something ordinary and unremarkable.

In an exciting match on Saturday between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, two teams that are very close competitors, the match officials made what seemed to many to be a wrong call, in favour of Tottenham and detrimental to Newcastle. Alan Pardew, the manager (head coach) of Newcastle, was standing on the sideline, watching, and he was quite naturally agitated by what he saw. He turned and said something to someone behind him, then immediately turned the other way to say something to the linesman (or referee's assistant to the politically correct). The linesman, it turns out, was standing just a couple feet away, looking down the line, and Pardew reached over, shouted "Hey" (or maybe "Oy!" --- he is English, after all) and starts to comment excitedly about the call.

This is no push. This is a tap on the shoulder. An excited tap, yes, but still no more. The linesman was slightly unbalanced by the contact, not because it was violent or even hard, but because he was in an odd position already, leaning well forward to see past someone farther down the sideline.

Well, of course the game had to come to a complete halt while the referee came over and sent Pardew to the stands for this trivial incident, and now the FA has announced misconduct charges over the incident.

Why is it that highly-paid administrators such as the FA has are so completely unable to exercise any sort of reasonable discretion? I understand the perceived need to protect soccer officials from violent attacks by team managers (and everyone else), but I would have thought that these mature individuals would be able to distinguish a tap on the shoulder from a violent shove.

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