Sunday 20 January 2019

Carragher's Day of Judgement on corporate altar

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Oh no, not another judgement for us to make… We are exhausted now, truly we are no longer able to function as regular human beings, such are the demands being placed on us almost every day to reach some verdict on which we are all agreed.

Was this how religion started? Did the people become so weary of having to make their pronouncements on the nature of various transgressions, eventually all these issues of what could broadly be called "morality" were just kicked into another arena, into this thing we now call "the church"?

There's no church any more, or at least none that has much credibility left in the morality game. So it's all down to the multitudes again, who are thought to have nothing better to be doing than judging, judging and more judging.

Even if we wanted to walk away from it all, even if we desperately wanted to get through just one day without having to judge some other person, we would have to hide in a hole in the ground to escape the incessant calls on our decision-making abilities. We have been judging too much for too long. We are all judged out.

Jamie Carragher… last week we were supposed to make a judgement on whether Jamie Carragher spitting in the general direction of a car in which the driver was filming him on his mobile, taunting him about United beating Liverpool, meant that Carragher "had to go".

Like any experienced judge, with a Twitter account which contains a variety of verdicts on all sorts of controversial cases, I made a quick check-list of Carragher's offences in this undoubtedly disgraceful incident.

Was it racist? No. Sexist? No. Though his spittle inadvertently struck a teenage girl, which wasn't very nice.

Still, not being very nice, while it is... well... not very nice, does not fall into one of the major categories of offences for which summary judgement is demanded. Moreover, the ancillary charge of hypocrisy could not be thrown at Carragher here, as he has not made it his business to be nice, either as player or as a pundit.

Indeed, his lack of niceness is one of the attributes which has made him such a vitally important commentator on Sky's Monday Night Football and beyond, and thus a vitally important person in our culture - so important indeed, that my immediate reaction was that this one was crying out for what is known in the judging trade as "a policy decision".

In the law courts, which used to have a greater role in these controversies, a "policy decision" is one in which the judge decides in advance what the verdict should be, on grounds of "public policy", and then shoehorns the judgment into that requirement. "Public policy" of course, can usually be defined in these situations as "whatever the judge, and people like him, think is the right result, regardless of the... eh... technicalities".

Or, if you like, the law.

On which point there was a superb intervention in the Carragher case by the BBC's Jeremy Vine, who put his judgement up on Twitter - perhaps the highest court in our present system of jurisprudence: "Spitting: disgusting, possibly criminal, certainly sackable... Filming on a mobile while driving a car with a child in the back, on a motorway, paying no attention whatsoever to the road: straight to jail."

An ingenious formulation, I felt, and all the better for being true.

Though when you are handing down a policy decision, you make your own truth. Which in this case would tend towards the view that far from being a total degenerate, as this regrettable incident might suggest, in the broader scheme of our culture "Carra" is virtually a moral giant - albeit in a land in which, for these purposes, people in general are quite small in stature.

What he is bringing, with his punditry is a kind of a repudiation of the corporate culture which is devouring our world in so many ways, and which has been particularly active in football and in any other sport which attracts the executive class in large numbers. It is a world of no morality, as such, just strictly observed codes of behaviour designed to separate the privileged from the under-privileged, to keep out people like... well, like Jamie Carragher, before he got rich.

There is a practice which has entered the game of football at the highest level, whereby the players cover their mouths with their hands when they are talking to one another. On the pitch or sitting on the substitutes' bench, before, during or after a game, whether speaking to a member of their own team or one of their opponents, they observe this practice with impressive zeal.

You would think that they are imparting highly classified information to one another - perhaps the codes which might trigger a nuclear conflagration, or the number of a Swiss bank account which they are sharing for reasons best known to themselves. Though in truth it is probably no more than our old friend - the bit of banter. Maybe they're arranging some sort of drinks party for later on, the details of which they would understandably not wish to be passed on to TV viewers with lip-reading skills.

It's a clear physical expression of a culture that is now deeply set, one of exclusion of the masses from the inner workings of the game, and from some of the outer workings too.

Notoriously, when a bunch of Everton supporters waved a sex toy behind the head of a Sky Sports reporter on Deadline Day in 2014, supporters were banished forever from these broadcasts - the smart casual style of the executive lounge favoured by Sky, is not one in which such proletarian atrocities can be allowed.

By all means let them be filling the stadiums like extras put together for a crowd scene, or just TV subscribers keeping the show on the road - but let these punters not be thinking that they can openly breach the codes of correct corporate behaviour, or that they can have a say in anything.

It's enough that Carragher is there, representing these unhappy people with his anger and his frustration and his all-round belligerence - he's the fellow you'd notice straight away if you walked into an executive box, because he's a bit louder than the rest, a bit more argumentative, apparently more troubled in general by what he is seeing.

So, Sky need him still, for that authenticity. Just so they can say that they've still got it, albeit in rapidly diminishing quantities. And sure enough they made the right "policy decision", suspending him until the end of the season, a relatively minor sentence in our current system, a wise if self-serving judgement.

But your Jamie Carraghers in general are not long for this world. Even before his disgrace, he needed to be much better than the rest at Sky, for his dirty realism to be accepted.

So I would not judge him too harshly, but then I have a personal stake in this one, to do with fear of abandonment to the likes of Thierry Henry and Jamie Redknapp.

I rest my case.

Sunday Independent

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