Public enemies; don't believe the hype

The norm in England over recent weeks has been football on Saturday, football scandal on Sunday.  Is this the fault of players or media?  David Hartrick just wants to get back to football.

So,  a fortnight on and with the dust settling on Wayne Rooney’s alleged bedroom shenanigans, what have we learnt from the media outcry?

To paraphrase -Wayne Rooney is a sex crazed, cigarette addicted, prostitute bothering scumbag, Coleen Rooney is one friendship with Cheryl Cole away from sainthood, and football is a morally bankrupt vacuum.

Allegedly.

The reaction to the Rooney scandal has been typically hysterical from the red tops, and typically condemnatory from the ‘quality’ press. It has brought comment from such football luminaries as Vanessa Feltz, Kerry Katona, and Wayne’s own boob-jobbed and fame hungry cousin Natalie. Whatever the truth at the base of the allegations there are only three things we can say with absolute certainty at the current time –

1. The headlines will not be helping the Rooney’s marriage.
2. The headlines will not be helping Wayne Rooney’s state of mind on the pitch.
3. Since the story broke, John Terry’s slept like a baby.

Some of my highlights of the coverage have included the News of the World’s startling admission that ‘Michael Owen looked on disapprovingly’, to Adrian Durham stating on talkSPORT that although he didn’t condone Rooney’s alleged actions, he didn’t really blame him as it was clearly a lack of guidance from Manchester United that was at the root of the problem.

The reaction has of course, been mostly based in nonsense.

I am here to neither defend nor condemn Rooney’s conduct. The only comment on the subject I will personally give you is this –

Like 50% of the men and women who will have read the various allegations, I’m intelligent enough to know not to believe everything I read in the papers. The other 50% will more than likely be the sort of people who watch and enjoy Big Brother, understand Hollyoaks, and know what a ‘Lady Gaga’ is.

The Rooney story and the allegations that allegedly several other allegedly English allegedly internationals have allegedly got super allegedly injunctions allegedly out; do raise the questions several high court judges are allegedly facing at the moment. How do you classify what’s in the ‘public interest’, when the press are baying to print stories just because they know the ‘public’ is ‘interested’ in them?

Though many bemoan the fact rather pitifully, footballers have to accept the fact they’re celebrities as well as sportsmen now if that’s the life they choose to live. The minute they accept their first endorsement deal to become the face of the many products they adorn, they lose the right to complain. For example, Peter Crouch can’t claim press intrusion over his recent brushes with the News of the World’s dogs of war, because while he may have spent the summer with the England squad, he was also playing keepie-uppy with an empty Pringles tube in the ad breaks. He has also worked for T-Mobile and Mars as well as presenting a World Cup clip show with fellow tabloid bothering alumni Richard Bacon. He has made his life ‘public interest’ as he has lived aspects of it in the public eye beyond his two day jobs - playing football and being tall.

Similarly with Rooney, he has courted a high profile life as the public face of Coca-Cola, Nike, and the FIFA series of games, as well as full endorsement deals with Ford, Asda, and Nokia. He has also signed a huge book deal so his autobiographies will be published regularly, and his wife has become a television presenter essentially on the back of his success as a footballer. This is before you even begin to discuss the numerous magazine deals on aspects of everyday life most of us think of as private. If a story such as this comes to light, the very idea of having promoted anything other than your footballing ability means you are also open to the positive and negative attention that brings.

The equation is simply this – if you promote an image that is in reality in complete contrast to how you actually live your life, it is in the public interest to know about it.

At its most basic level, if you’re talking shite don’t be mad when someone proves it.

Say what you like about Jermaine Defoe but he appears to have slept with more women than El Diego’s had fine Cuban cigars. Never once has Defoe apologised for the lifestyle he leads, he’s never threatened a registry office with a marriage, and he’s never claimed to be a wholesome advocate of a celibate life. Taking all that into consideration if he sleeps with a woman, prostitute or otherwise, it’s not in your, my, or anyone’s interest to know about it. He should be protected by his honesty, he’s not got a public image that differs from his page three filled private life.

I wouldn’t want to be a judge making such decisions and I appreciate the huge chasms of grey area over each case, but if I was in the chair I would know that if John Terry or any other footballer has made money from being crowned ‘Dad of the Year’, they don’t then deserve the chance to squash a story that potentially proves they’re anything but.

The idea that a footballer is a role model is out dated and to be honest, completely wrong. Footballers are sportsmen - no more, no less – their ability doesn’t place any demands on their life other than to earn a living doing what they’re good at. The idea that someone is a role model just because they’re good at football is no different from saying that Katie Price is a role model, just because she has become incredibly good at using her nipples to generate income. It doesn’t make sense to say that all girls should follow her lead and go topless and orange, just as it doesn’t make sense to say that Jack Rodwell looks like he could be a quality player - therefore he has to lead a perfect life. All Rodwell needs to do is keep trying to become a quality player, all the other stuff depends on the life choices he makes in the future. If he chooses a life in the public arena, he must be made aware of the scrutiny that brings.

So should we have any sympathy for footballers in these situations? Just to be completely non-committal, yes and no.

No one deserves the levels of media intrusion the Rooney’s have been subjected to since the story broke. To see paparazzi pictures of Coleen visiting her coma-stricken sister was sickening. It has become a tabloid orgy, just as John Terry and Peter Crouch endured, and to be frank it’s become boring. Every day that passes with another ‘insider’ telling us they’re patching things up, he has to say sorry to mum and dad, they will try for another baby, he’s promised this, he’s promised that, she’s demanding the other, blah, blah, blah, blah…….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……..

But by the same token all three of these individuals have placed themselves in the public eye. All three cultivated an image as many footballers do, and all have reaped the benefits of their decisions. If you don’t live up to that image, you shouldn’t really be surprised when someone pulls the rug from under you.

The issues clearly complicated and in the hugely partisan world of football, it’s often difficult to get a balanced view without taking into account your personal feelings towards the player or club involved. All I can say to you is this, don’t believe it just because the News of the World says it’s so and make your own mind up. It’s too easy to take it all at face value when inevitably, there will be elements of truth alongside complete fabrications.

If you’d like to read more from David, please visit  I know who Cyrille Makanaky was.

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