Tuesday 22 August 2017

Bristow scores 180 on the offence-ometer

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

One of the many odd things about the comments made by Eric 'The Crafty Cockney' Bristow on sex abuse in football, was how un-Crafty they were. The least we expect from a man whose very name was extended in order to recognise the extent of his craftiness, is the basic ability to avoid tweeting himself into oblivion in such an unpardonable fashion.

"Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when I was a kid as I got older I would have went back and sorted that poof out," he told his 103,000 followers - adding "darts players tough guys footballers wimps", and in a final act of career-immolation, issuing this clarification: "sorry meant paedo not poof."

It sounds like something they'd use on a training course for the most incorrigible denizens of the Old School - starting with the "looney", which is no longer appropriate as it implies a simplistic approach towards issues around mental health, then proceeding to the more grievous offence whereby the paedophile is incorrectly equated with the gay man or "poof", and the clincher, the criticism of survivors of abuse for not avenging the wrong that was done to them, as if they are now partly to blame.

In passing, they are also chided for not conforming with an ideal of masculinity which was starting to look stereotypical even in the days when darts players were allowed to drink pint pots of ale on television, as they prepared to release their arrows through the fog of cigarette smoke.

On this notional training course, having illustrated all the wrong things to say, and the wrong way in which to say them, the instructor then proceeds with the final flourish, as the doomed tweeter re-visits the scene with that "clarification", which merely confirms that he wants most of the original to stay on the record, he just wants to change "poof" to "paedo" - the idea that "poof" in itself might have unhappy overtones, is completely beyond him.

In scoring One-Hundred-And-Eightyyyyy on the offence-ometer, with the same apparently effortless style he had displayed for decades on the oche, Bristow seemed astoundingly unaware of certain developments in our culture since the 1970s, and of the fact that such analysis is unwise even in the current climate, whatever that is.

Indeed in what we used to call "the current climate", not only would these be the tweets of a man who has forgotten everything he ever knew about being crafty, ducking and diving, bobbing and weaving, about knowing when to say your piece and when to keep schtum - they'd be the tweets of what can only be described as a stone-cold eejit.

Ah, but what is "the current climate"? Certainly Sky Sports didn't even have to think about it, or otherwise engage in their usual corporate acrobatics, they just chucked him out, all the way back to the badlands of clueless self-parody from whence he had come.

Indeed he had to go on ITV's Good Morning Britain to issue a classically garbled apology, with his manager allegedly asking the BBC for £5,000 as an appearance fee, another move taken straight from that training course advising what you should not do in such a predicament under any circumstances whatsoever - remembering Minder, we wonder if that £5,000 included VAT?

But we also start to wonder if the Crafty Cockney felt more in tune with "the current climate" than his critics - which included half of the world - were prepared to acknowledge? With Trump, we've moved towards an awareness of climate change in this regard at least, the polar icecaps of political correctness are melting, the rain forests of positive discrimination are in jeopardy.

Could Trump have said what Bristow said, and still have won the election? I think so.

And looking at this from Farage's Britain, perhaps Eric Bristow felt that at last the time has come when a man can say what is in his heart, in exactly the way that he wants to say it, without being hung for it by the wimps and the poofs.

Rather than being antediluvian, maybe the Crafty Cockney thought he was in tune with the spirit of the new age, which officially began on the day that Trump impersonated a disabled man, and it didn't do him any harm.

It seems that there is one law for Trump, and another law for Bristow. And soon there will be many laws for Trump, that he'll be turning to his own advantage.

And so the slam-dunk dismissal of Bristow for transgressions similar to those committed routinely by the president-elect, leaves us in strange place.

Can a fella go out there now and blast away at anyone who gets on his wick, in whatever terms seem appropriate to him, or can he not? When the Crafty Cockney felt the need to register his dismay at the character defects of footballers who had been sexually abused, all things considered was he not entitled to expect a warmer response?

Trump got nearly 60 million votes saying stuff like that, Eric Bristow won't even get to do his punditry at the World Darts Championship at the Ally Pally this Christmas. But there is some consolation - if he fancies becoming prime minister some day, there's very little can stop him now.

Sunday Independent

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