Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Everything changes when a man becomes purple”

“When I am old” wrote Jenny Joseph in her wonderful poem about ageing “I shall wear purple” and that has a resonance I’m sure to anyone of more mature years! The whole point of the poem, of course, is that purple except in small doses is a pretty awful colour.Chris-Robshaw-England-v-A-008

When Scarlett wears a dress of orange and purple in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” Gareth slightly mockingly says “…fabulous dress – the ecclesiastical purple and the pagan orange symbolising the magical symbiosis in marriage between the heathen and Christian traditions”

“Everything changes when a man becomes purple”  said Charlie McDonnell.

Which brings us to the heathen tradition of England rugby. Rugby at the very top is quite a closed world. There are 6 Nations in the Northern Hemisphere and four in the Southern who play the game at the highest level. Admittedly from time to time upsets occur (like Samoa’s amazing defeat of Wales at the Millennium Stadium). But really we are in a closed world where the “Perm any 4 from 10” to find the semi-finalists in a Rugby World Cup applies. In that world there are enormous distinctions between the teams. The six home nations are utterly and historically different from one another – as are the four big beasts in the South – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. It makes for engaging and unmissible watching whenever the big beasts are paired against one another.

Symbolism plays a huge part in sport and not least in the world of elite International Rugby. Each one of the tem big players has pride – a pride that is, or should be, manifested in its brand. Towering above all are the All Blacks whose very name shows that the brand and its associated visual symbols is crucial. Similarly the Welsh team struts its stuff in Red and its only concession to the dilution of this imagery is that it allows the British Lions to do the same. Wales and the Lions in red Shirts. The Kiwis in Black shirts and shorts. The Aussies in Green and Gold – that’s how it is.

The mirror image of New Zealand in their black gear is England in its white. Although England is not called the “All Whites” that is what we are. When Jonny Wilkinson kicked that dropped goal to win the World Cup back in 2003 he and the rest of the team were in All White kit. Of course they were. And there is NEVER any reason for England Rugby NOT to wear White. There is never any colour clash with the other members of the top Ten Rugby Nations. Never.

So what the hell was England doing in purple shirts at Twickenham on November 17th? And why did the numskulls who managed that call not see that the psychological ground was conceded to the proudly Green and Gold Aussies before even the first whistle blew? Ask yourself whether it is conceivable that the New Zealand Rugby Union would send the All Blacks out in purple shirts to face the Aussies in Auckland. Don’t duck the question please is it conceivable? Answer. NO! So if it is inconceivable that New Zealand would surrender their traditional and unique colour for a key match at home why would England do it? D'oh!

The referee, with contempt just about absent from his voice, referred to England as “Pink” at Twickenham. Perhaps M. Poite is a tad colour-blind. But surely the absurdity of an England Rugby team prancing around the park in purple contributed somewhat to their downfall. Where is the pride in purple? Where is the logic and the crowd-pleasing resonance?

Dear RFU. Look deeply at the grotesque calumny that you have committed. And sack the marketing twerps you led you down the purple path. And let’s get England in all-white kit again next week against the Boks!!

Friday, November 09, 2012

I’m Happy to be a member of the “Yid Army”

I have been a Tottenham Hotspur supporter all my life as my Grandfather was before me. I am not from a Jewish family but the Jewish support tradition of Spurs is something I welcome and enjoy. Jewish humour is very funny and it is quite common to be at White Hart Lane and to be exposed to it. And you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the jokes.

clip_image002The history of anti-Semitism in British society is a disgraceful story but thankfully it has now faded - if not quite disappeared completely. Opposing fans at the Lane used to mock Spurs supporters by calling them “Yids” – a rather nasty term of abuse. It has been typical of the Spurs fans to handle this not with anger but with pride and to adopt the term “Yid” as a badge of distinction rather than a racist epithet. You disarm your opponents by adopting their descriptor and throwing it back in their faces. That is what the “Yid Army” does – it is the reverse of racism, it is saying that racism is absurd and well as disgusting and to reveal that absurdity we will call ourselves by the terms you use.

I doubt that the The Society of Black Lawyers, who hit out at Tottenham and the Football Association and threatened to go to the police over what it regards as anti-Semitic chanting at White Hart Lane, understands this at all. If they did surely they would see that it is a powerful weapon to attack racists by ridiculing them. That’s what Spurs supporters do when they chant “Yid Army”. The Society should be congratulating Spurs fans not criticising them!