Friday, June 26, 2009

Steven Wells

In the frenzy to report on the mortality of celebrities, the death of Guardian football writer Steven Wells barely merits a mention. But with his passing, the world has lost a fine sportswriter. Wells died on Tuesday of lymphatic cancer. He was 49.

For examples of his work see here. Reprinted below is my favourite.

On the FA's respect campaign:

"Refs are like traffic wardens — incredibly valuable public servants who are soft targets of a dumb, unthinking sheep-like consensus. And just as traffic wardens perform a vital task in keeping the planet-raping speedophile car filth in check, so referees are crucial to the very existence of the sport.

"That's why I cringe whenever I hear some triple-chinned has-been former red-card magnet deride a ref for 'thinking he's the most important person on the pitch'. The ref is the most important person on the pitch — the most important person in the entire sport.

"Undermine the authority of the ref and the entire structure of the sport collapses. And what rushes to fill the vacuum? The Corinthian values of the millionaire brats who play the game? The free-market amorality of the owners? The bumbling blazered bureaucracy? Only the referee remains pure of motive and entirely dedicated to the fundamentals of the game.

"Which is why the Respect campaign doesn't go far enough. The referee should be omnipotent and beyond question. Even when the ref is wrong — totally wrong, magnificently wrong, egregiously, almost-certainly-been-bribed catastrophically wrong — the ref is right. We need to instill a culture where to challenge a ref's authority is considered the sporting equivalent of picking one's nose in front the Queen.

"We should tool the refs up ... with tasers. Let's make the players wear undergarments laced with a filigree of superconductive wiring. One word of dissent, one raised eyebrow, the slightest suggestion of a smirk, one tiny gesture of sarcastic applause and the offending player is dealt a brief but instructive agony. This could be particularly effective with those players feigning injury. Bzzzzzzt! Get up. Bzzzzzzzzt! Get up. Repeat as needed."

"But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Respect needs to start in the commentary box and the backpages of the tabloids. All you old lags, all you wannabe Motsons, all you catcalling conveyers of cowardly consensus — show some respect for the game and shut your stupid mouths. The damage you do to the very fabric of the sport every time you undermine the ref is incalculable."

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