I’ve not blogged for a while, because I’ve been busy with my ghost-writing project – you know, the one I can’t tell you about.
But I’ve not forgotten that I owe you the follow-up blog about my new toy (in case you’ve forgotten, my new 911 Carrera 4 cabrio) but that’s going to have to wait because I’ve found something much more important to blog about.
Towards the end of the last century, I taught at St john’s School in Sidmouth. Being a boarding school, a couple of times each term it was incumbent upon each of us poor overworked teachers to undergo a Sunday duty.
And the worst part of this was the Sunday evening chapel service, which was presided over by the local Catholic priest, Father Kilgarriff, whose sermons were as uplifting as a song by Morrissey.
And the worst of these was delivered one January evening when he announced that he hadn’t prepared a thing to talk about at all… at all… so he was going to tell us about poor old Mrs O’Leary, who was dying a slow, painful death from cancer.
Just the sort of stuff you want to hear on a cold, miserable January Sunday night. Particularly if you’re aged around eight.
I liked Father Kilgarriff. Despite myself being an Irishman who kicked (if I kicked at all) with the other foot, we shared the bonhomie of the exiled Irish through common interests such as rugby and horse racing. His deep sorrow following the Enniskillen bombing almost moved me to tears. This heinous outrage also happened on a Sunday… my, weren’t Sundays something to look forward to back then?
So, what has this got to do with… well, anything?
Let me tell you what it’s to do with: the slow, painful death that Rugby Union is currently going through.
Rugby is being choked to death by the obsessive and inconclusive propaganda proliferated by the Fear of Injury Gestapo… which is in turn driven by fear of litigation (isn’t everything?) and compounded by the RFU – a sports governing body which still appears to be populated by 57 old farts; old farts who have difficulty in distinguishing between an arse, an elbow, and now, it seems, a waist.
A couple of weeks ago, the rugby community was stunned by the announcement that, from July 2023, tackling above the waist would be outlawed.
For one thing, it’s not that that easy to accurately define the precise location of most amateur (we now must call them “community”) players’ waists, in order to tackle it.
Now I’m going to keep this simple for those of you whose interest in rugby is on a similar level to your interest in Porsches.
Even I will admit that changes from how the game was played, back in the day when I played, were necessary. When I played, if you engaged in a bit of fisticuffs with an opponent, the referee would wait until you had finished and then invite you to settle the matter by shaking hands. As Martin Bayfield once said, two Grievous Bodily Harms earned you an introduction.
I’m not condoning violent play, cynical play, deliberate contact with the head, nor any of the shenanigans that were perpetrated (particularly in the Welsh valleys and the Forest of Dean) by players who only played the game in order to inflict an many injuries on opponents as possible.
And I also applaud many of the steps that World Rugby has taken to make the game safer. If we are going to entice Little Jonny’s parents to prize Little Jonny away from his Playstation – or whatever it’s now called – and interest him in playing mini-Rugby at the local club, Rugby needs to sell itself as a wholesome, inclusive activity which is basically… well, safe.
And if Rugby fails to attract young players through building trust with parents – particularly parents who have never played the game – then the game will ultimately cease to be played.
But what exactly is “safe”, when it comes to the tackle? let’s hear from Dr Ross Tucker.
Dr Ross Tucker, a South African sports injuries specialist working with World Rugby, was interviewed by the panel on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight last Sunday. But instead of endorsing the new proposals, he threw the subject of the tackle into further turmoil. According to Tucker, accredited research – freely available to all stakeholders including the RFU – indicates that a player’s body is made up of three colour zones, indicating the safety of contact.
No surprises that anything above shoulder height is classed as “red”.
But the big surprise – which flies in the face of the RFU findings – is that anything below the waist is classed as “orange,” and the area between the waist (lets refer to this as the hips for simplicity) and the sternum is the “green” area. Consequently this – the softest area – is regarded by peer-reviewed researchers as the safest area for contact and the least likely to result in serious injuries.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s view on this is worth noting. He considers that it will lead to tacklers’ heads being what he calls “sitting ducks” for ball carriers’ knees.
What the RFU announced – an announcement which has now been downgraded almost to the point of retraction – was, at best, a knee-jerk reaction. It was policy made along the lines of: “something must be done… this is something… so let’s do it.”
Let’s move on from player safety.
There’s something else that’s threatening to strangle the life out of rugby… something to emulate poor old Mrs O’Leary’s slow, painful death from cancer, and that’s the “woke brigade”.
So far, they’ve managed to get the Exeter Chiefs re-badged, ban the Tomahawk Chop, and other political incorrectness they’ve managed to “rectify,” that I can’t be bothered to mention.
Here is the latest:
The Welsh RFU announced this week that the singing of Dalilah would no longer feature as part of any official entertainment. This initiative was introduced back in 2015, but didn’t receive much publicity. However, recent events west of the Severn resulting in the resignation of the WRU’s chief executive following allegations of a “toxic culture” of misogyny, racism and homophobia at the organisation, have escalated this.
Let’s take a look at Delilah, and consider the reasons for what amounts to a ban. Delilah is a song about a jealous (male) lover who murders his (female) lover (no evidence that she was a prostitute) having observed her sleeping with another man. She then compounds the felony by laughing at him when he confronts her. The outcome of this is that he murderers her with a knife. Indefensible, I’ll admit, but it’s a song. And how many men hear this played at the Millennium Stadium and make the snap decision to go home and murder the missus?
What most offends the woke brigade are the lines:
She stood there laughing, I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.
For sure, to sing about murdering a lover isn’t as anodyne as Ginger Ed singing about being in love with someone’s body, but I don’t find Delilah any more offensive than a Shakespeare tragedy, Mack the Knife, or Sweet Chariot, come to that.
And last night you were in my room, and now my bedsheets smell like you. Well, one man sniffing bedsheets is another man’s crime of passion.
And to be fair, the protagonist in Dalilah, does passionately express his remorse:
Forgive me Delilah I just couldn’t take anymore, which makes it quite clear that this was a crime of passion, not one of misogyny.
Besides which, I think we’re missing the point here. Singing and rugby have always pushed the envelope in a unique but inoffensive way. And before you contradict this, let me say that if you found the songs to be offensive, then you probably wouldn’t play the game in the first place. Or you would go straight home to mummy after the post-match pie, beans and chips. Rugby songs have traditionally combined humour with vulgarity in a manner that only rugby folk could countenance and understand.
Let’s take Old King Cole, for example:
Old King Cole was a bu**er for his h***,
And a bu**er for his h*** was he,
He called for his wife in the middle of the night,
and it goes on:
… He called for his wife in the middle of the night,
And he called for his butchers three.
Now every butcher had a very fine chopper,
And very fine chopper had he…
Harmless fun, inoffensive sexual innuendo sung after a good rumble about the park and a few pints – or misogyny which has no place in the culture of the game of Rugby?
I’ll let you decide.
Perhaps I could suggest a compromise?
Let’s re-write the offensive part of Dalilah thus:
She stood there laughing, I felt the flowers in my hand and she laughed no more.
There, that’s better, isn’t it?
And while we’re at it, let’s chop Old King Cole around a bit as well:
Old Queen Cole was a bu**er for her h***,
And a bu**er for her h*** was she,
She called for her husband in the middle of the night…
Okay… that’s just stupid. But then, in my opinion stupidity lies in the hands of those zealots who want to homogenise and air-brush everything until it fits their view of what is acceptable.
Rant over. Now let’s look forward to a dazzlingly entertaining 6 Nations.
And one that doesn’t have more cards than a branch of WHSmith.