I have been determined not to mention the ridiculous furore surrounding Mike Tindall’s antics. There are far more interesting and important things happening in this tournament, let alone the world as a whole, to make it worthwhile. But having read yet another article in the British press blaming England’s first two performances on some sort of moral malaise in the squad and Nick Easter’s back injury on a bungee jump, it had got too annoying too ignore.
What is it with the British press? Why do they seem so determined to sabotage the nation’s teams at World Cups? To a list which has included Beckham, Flintoff, Terry and Rooney, you can now add Mike Tindall. And once the press has something between their teeth, they refuse to let go. It has been two weeks for heaven’s sake. Move on. Anyway, can anyone actually prove that Tindall has done anything wrong? On tours, guys chat to and flirt with girls and yes, sorry ladies, even motorboat them. That does not mean that they inevitably must have followed through so to speak.
Over here in New Zealand there has been lots of banter about Tindall. Locals are using it as stick with which to beat England supporters but it is all very Tongue in cheek and occasionally quite amusing. Where England’s and New Zealand’s fans are united along with NZ press is in their ridiculing of much of the English press reporting, not just the tabloids. Here the press supports the All Blacks to an almost nauseating extent and they find the English approach extraordinary. Why would the press make life as hard as possible for their team for the sake of some pretty low brow copy?
The Sunday Star Times in New Zealand derisively quotes the Daily Mail as saying that, as she is a heavy drinker herself, Zara Phillips should treat the whole thing as ‘a wake up call for both of them’. The object of the derision is not Zara or Mike, but entirely the Daily Mail. Maybe it is a failing of the rugby community that they turn a blind eye to these things usually but rugby must not be dictated to by the agenda of those who have hitherto shown no interest in the sport but have seen an opportunity to climb aboard their high horses.
The real disappointment is how seasoned rugby journalists have jumped on the bandwagon. Pretty much every article on England in the Times has made mention of dwarf throwing and bungee jumping. Anyone who has done the latter will know that the odds of getting injured bungee jumping are much smaller than in even a light rugby training session yet you’d think that this is the only possible explanation for Nick Easter’s back problems. This is lazy and is the worst kind of making sure the truth doesn’t get in the way of a potentially good story.
There has been enough to criticise England for on the pitch in this World Cup without trying to make out that it is an inevitable reflection of some sort of general moral bankruptcy. Anyone who has been on a rugby tour knows that you need a night out to blow off steam. It is part and parcel of team bonding even in the most serious of sporting environments.
Let us not forget that this is the same country who’s press laid into Fabio Capello for running a monastic camp in South Africa last year leaving the players bored, frustrated and demotivated. Now because Martin Johnson allows a night out which gets a touch rowdy (and nothing more if you speak to people who actually know) you’d think the England team are using Charlie Sheen as a role model. Yes there may have been some naïveté in these days of camera phones but ‘Bunch of twenty-odd year old blokes on a rugby tour have night out and behave naively’ is hardly groundbreaking news whether they are the national team or not.
Out here in New Zealand it all seems rather ridiculous because there is actually some really good rugby being played, much of it by some of the smaller teams. I have thoroughly enjoyed matches such as USA v Russia and Tonga v Japan and enjoyed the resistance put up against the bigger teams by the likes of Japan and Romania who came close to causing upsets. That is the news to which rugby journalists should be paying attention as well as discussing how to further broaden the experiences of these teams. There is so much out here to enjoy, talk about and write about. Leave the gutter stuff to the tabloid gossip pages.
Right, rant over. As you were.
by Stuart Peel