Sunday, June 22, 2003

Shock news: Beckham not dead

It is hard to believe but David Beckham did just change jobs last week. News at Ten ran what was, to all intent and purpose, an obituary, but he is almost certainly, alive.

The obituary writers had better not pack their pens just yet because the assassination of Beckham begins here. Not least in Saturday’s Daily Mail, I confess we did have it in the house, and yes, I did read it. The story ‘Goldenballs Vs Goldenboots’ was a systematic dismantling of Beckham in a comparative assessment of the golden boy of English rugby Johnny Wilkinson, I quote: -

“One is arguably the greatest English rugby player of all time and pays £8.50 for his haircut. The other’s a multi millionaire who captains a lacklustre England side and wears an Alice band. How do they compare?”
It doesn’t sound like it’ll be a balanced assessment does it? The premise upon which the story is built is pretty sinister. We learn that Wilkinson has A levels and achieved a place at Durham University whilst Beckham has no qualifications and reportedly couldn’t spell the word ‘Professional’ or ‘Footballer’. Also, Wilkinson’s dad is a financial advisor, and that his mum still washes his kit. Beckham’s dad is a Gas Engineer, his mum a hairdresser. Wilkinson lives in a modest house, Beckham is lives in a mansion, Beckham drives ‘anything flash’, Wilkinson a Mercedes.

Most telling is their ‘philosophy’. Wikinson’s is a quote, “You’ve got to go out and chase your dreams. You have all your life afterwards to think about your reputation.” Sniff, that’s beautiful.

Now deadlines must have been tight, because it seems journalist Paul Harris was unable to unearth a single quote from Beckham about his dedication to his game, or his family – including how he rages a one man war against an entire culture of laddism, nothing about his ambitions and dreams, about playing for Manchester United and captaining England. Instead Harris is left to summarise Beckham’s philosophy without the benefit of a quote, his summary? Beckham’s Philosophy is “I fink (sic) therefore I am.”

In short Wilkinson is middle class and therefore good, and Beckham is working class and therefore crass and gauche. The more paranoid amongst us could take this further, could the Mail be saying that the unconventional, non-educational, Beckham route to success is bad, and that the only good success is the classic middle class route? Could they be giving out a message to talented non-academic kids, or kids from working class backgrounds that regardless of what success they achieve it will never be as good as their more fortunate counterparts?

Sadly they had to edit out the section on “Sport Played” so let me recreate it here for you now: -

Beckham: Football, interwoven into fabric of global society, crossing every continent, every religion, every sex, race, colour and creed. A sport that can dictate political success or failure, economic stability or crisis, war and peace. A sport capable of dictating the fortunes and progression of society and mankind itself.

Wilkinson: Rugby, a sport of significance amongst certain socio-economic groups in Britain and some, though not all, old commonwealth countries.

If you don’t believe me, look at the world’s obsession with the World Cup (we don’t even need to tag on which world cup we’re talking about), and compare that to this autumn’s rugby World Cup.

What do you mean you didn’t know there was a rugby world cup this autumn?


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