Mary Kenny: 'Cheater' Terry to suffer the same fate as Parnell
Published 01/02/2010 | 05:00
Shock, horror! Hold the front page! Summon the preachers to denounce the sinner! A footballer has, apparently, committed adultery. Stone him!
Apart from Mr Beckham, Mr Keane, and possibly Mr Rooney, I wouldn't know a footballer if he came up and bit me. To each his own passions: I have to ask my son Patrick to explain to me what is happening in the world of sport.
But even I have been aware that the world of football has been rocked by the intelligence that John Terry, who, I believe is the captain of a team called Chelsea -- and of a team called England -- has been exposed, excoriated and denounced to high heaven for having had a sexual relationship with a lady not his wife.
Terry is married with two children, and has formerly been voted 'Dad of the Year'. Doubtless he will be stripped of this title ere long, like Captain Dreyfus having his sword ceremonially broken and the epaulettes torn from his shoulders.
The England manager, Fabio Capello, is very, very cross, as he takes an extremely dim view of adultery among the players.
The public, the media and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all have turned on the offender as a "love-rat".
Terry's fans are hanging on to their idol out of sheer, gritty loyalty, like the Dubliner Parnellites who stuck by the leader even when Gladstone and the whole world forsook him.
And that is just what this saga of John Terry's adulterous affair calls to mind: the scandal over Charles Stewart Parnell, who lost the leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party when his adultery became public.
The funny thing is I thought that manners and morals had rather changed since the 1890s.
I understood that society, in general, had become not only more permissive, but that it had been well established that there is a compartment called "public life" and a compartment called "private life".
A man may be flawed in his private life -- indeed, what human being is not? -- but nonetheless be perfectly competent to carry on his public duties.
If he is not breaking the law in his private life, even though his conduct may not be admirable, there is no pressing compulsion to arraign him.
Which only demonstrates how little I understood the world of football, which, in addition to being distinctly tribal, is also highly moralistic.
It is surely significant that the word for marital infidelity has switched from old-style colloquialisms such as "a bit on the side", or "playing away", to the American-inspired word of highly puritanical coinage -- "cheating".
Having an extra-marital affair is now universally described as "cheating". What a very unpleasant word that is, with all its connotations of duplicity, underhand dealings and downright dishonesty.
Terry, it seems, not only "cheated" on his wife. He cheated with the former girlfriend of a teammate, who was one of his closest friends.
And that, it seems, is breaking something akin to the officers' code, where hanky-panky, if it must be succumbed to, must never, ever be entertained with the spouse of a fellow officer; a bounder to be drummed out of the regiment.
In working-class parlance, such as portrayed in the soap opera 'EastEnders', this is described, in threatening dialogue, as "you looking at my bird, mate?".
Rooney -- who I am informed is a great favourite of Capello -- has been known in the past to "play away" from the lady who was then his fiancee. But Rooney's frolics were engaged with a professional poule de luxe, and so, this did not, in the same way, count as "cheating". That was regarded as just a silly bit of laddishness.
He confessed all to the tabloids, and was absolved of his errors, and when he married, given the modern equivalent of a plenary indulgence.
Laddishness is allowed. Falls from grace are permitted. But not "cheating". Methinks that Terry will have to go, if I read the runes correctly.
Capello considers that a "cheating" footballer is very bad for the morale of the game. A footballer who cheats with the inamorata of another player may spread dishonour in the locker room. A captain who "cheats" will lose authority with his players.
Terry's financial dealings, which have been described as "spivvy" (he has moonlighted from his Stg£170,000 a week on nixer jobs), have been added to the charge sheet on his character.
A tabloid newspaper has now also claimed that Terry impregnated the lady with whom he cheated, which will add to the general ire: the birth-control campaigners will excoriate him for not acting responsibly and for giving bad example to the feckless youngsters who can't be bothered to use a condom.
And the pro-life lobby will denounce him for treating human life so carelessly. The feminists won't be best pleased, either.
And the media will punish him further for trying to conceal his sins by seeking privacy injunctions.
Those of us who only have a glancing understanding of football, often garnered from the celebrity magazines and the sociology of popular culture, had mistakenly imagined that in the world of WAGs, quaffing magnums of champagne worth a thousand quid a throw, anything goes.
But, as the case of John Terry demonstrates, not so. Not so, at all. It is more akin to Kipling's 'Gods of the Copybook Headings', who return with fire and brimstone to punish men for their old sins.
John Calvin himself could scarcely be more judgmental of John Terry for his cheatin' ways. He is done for. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.