Rooney: Not right, but not wrong either.
First of all, let me just make something very clear: I am not a fan of Wayne Rooney. In fact, I dislike him very much. I don’t care how good a footballer he is, I don’t like how he hounds referees, treats other professional and generally acts on a football pitch and, although this has nothing to do with football, I can’t help but be disgusted by what he has done in his private life. However, putting that to one side, I’m actually going to defend ‘Wazza’, to an extent, on this occasion.
Now, the reaction to Rooney looking down straight down a camera whilst saying a naughty word has been slightly mixed; some have labelled it a “’disgusting’ foul-mouthed rant” (take a wild guess at where that link takes you) whilst others have taken a more relaxed approach, with The Telegraph’s Mark Ogden wading into the ‘footballers are role models’ debate.
Is it just me or does the bloke next to the
cameraman look pretty darn happy?
Footballers are, of course, in the spotlight at all times, especially on the football field. Every single step is prodded and poked, every facial expression described and analysed. Rooney has, this season, been a frustrated footballer. While I have no sympathy for him whatsoever (his problems are of his own doing) I can understand that he is frustrated. His performances, on the whole, have been poor. Manchester United have been poor. Yesterday, they went into half-time 2-0 down against a side battling relegation. West Ham are enjoying a late burst of form and will probably stay up, but Rooney, and the rest of the team, must have been pretty hacked off with their own performances going into the dressing room. Rooney then came out in the second half and scored three goals (a free-kick, a wonderfully taken volley and a penalty), all-but ending the title race as a contest. Rooney knew that that third goal pretty much sealed the title for United.
Frustration alone, of course, does not mean that is socially acceptable to go around F-ing and blinding. But, for me at least, it’s explicable. When Rooney plays, he’s not thinking about kids sat at home watching, and nor should he have to. He’s thinking about winning; thinking about scoring goals and getting back to the unstoppable form that Manchester United fans are crying out for.
Yes, because footballers are in the limelight they will be seen as ‘idol’ material. However, once a footballer does something ‘wrong’, it is up to the parents to tell their kids that that is wrong. If a child was set at home yesterday, watching the United game, and promptly turned round to his father and told him where to go after seeing Rooney do what he did, it’s up to that parent to tell the child it’s wrong. Some would say that the parent shouldn’t have to (and, actually, the role model debate is the only debate out of all of this that I can actually, sort of, sympathise with) but I would argue that if parents are still allowing their children to idolise Wayne Rooney, then that’s their own fault.
I’ve seen many, many (MANY) people over the weekend say something along the lines of “If I earned what Wayne Rooney earns, I’d learn to control myself”. That’s very easy to say when you’re not actually in the situation. In this instance, I don’t care how much Rooney earns; he’s still a human being, he still gets frustrated, he still feels the intensity of a football match and he will probably swear. Like we all do. The idea that, if a person earns £200,000 a week they will immediately stop swearing is ludicrous – unless it’s in his contract, of course. The amount of money that Rooney earns is completely irrelevant. As is the Respect campaign in this case – who exactly has Rooney disrespected?
Some have complained that the outburst was before 9pm, the watershed, and so, somehow, that makes it much worse. As Liam Blackburn has noted, this isn’t a television drama, it’s a football match. Football shouldn’t change just because there are cameras. Football would be just fine without the cameras. A football match is played by real people in real life in real time. Footballers can’t afford to be thinking about the cameras or the millions of people sat at home, they need to concentrate on the task at hand.
“Wash your mouth out, son”
Rooney has, I’m sure you’ll remember, got previous in this kind of thing. “Nice to see ya own fans booing ya” didn’t include any taboo words but actually did disrespect the fans that paid obscene amounts of money to go out to South Africa and watch another pathetic English attempt at doing something (ANYTHING) at a World Cup. That outburst, as well as the general public’s (understandable) dislike for Rooney, means that Saturday’s episode has been blown out of all proportion. Rooney can hardly be seen as a victim but, in my eyes, he’s done very little wrong on this occasion. I’m sure Chelsea fans will point to the fact that Didier Drogba was punished for swearing to a camera in the Champions League; but that was completely different. Drogba called the ref a disgrace. “He brought the referee’s integrity into question”, as a footballing organisation would say.
And here’s why: there is, on the whole, a massive overreaction to swearing in general. Why is “fuck” a swear word? Who sat down one day and decided that, actually, certain words weren’t allowed?
Look at the word “crap”, or “bastard”. Ten years ago, these words would have been seen as highly offensive. Now, they are seen as words that are somewhere in the middle between acceptable language and swearing. The word “crap” is often used to stop yourself from swearing, like “bugger” or “shhhhhhhugar”.
In a few years, the word “fuck” will have changed its status. Swear words don’t actually mean anything. The youth of today, rightly or wrongly, swear. I’ve often wondered why swear words are seen as swear words. Maybe this article should have been given the headline “There’s a massive overreaction to swearing in general” (as well as WARNING: RANT ALERT), but the headline is not important. My point is: Rooney should not be punished for saying the word “fuck”. Oh, sorry, has that offended you? Of course not. It’s a word. Move on.
Rooney has, to his credit, apologised for his ‘outburst’:
As Alan Shearer said on Match of The Day on Saturday night – he’s apologised, so let’s move on.