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How lots of men can't understand what Terry's done wrong

Men can do it. Women can't. Men can focus on the performance of a footballer on the field and disregard his performance elsewhere.

Not all men, of course. But the media guys who write the worshipful commentaries about their heroes don't care if the heroes play offside, maritally. If a guy plays great footie, what's love got to do with it? Or sex, for that matter? Sporting journalists disregard that peripheral stuff, partly because, if they get critical, in print, about a sporting hero's not-so-private, not-so-admirable life outside of sport, that hero is unlikely to grant them an exclusive interview in the near future.

Nor is this unquestioning admiration confined to football. Many golfing journalists wish Tiger would do a deal with his wife, go through sex addiction therapy (even if they secretly know it's a load of absolute rubbish) and get back out there to show the world how it's done. (Golf, that is. He's already shown the world how a filthy rich star can recklessly bonk a series of random slappers while letting on to be Mr Family Man.)

They have a point, the sporting purists. Not much of a point, but a point nonetheless. It's the same point that allows art historians to gloss over the fact that painters like Caravaggio were violent dangerous amoral drunks. So? Did such men not produce works of stunning impact and lasting value? What does it matter what they did when they didn't have a paintbrush in their hand?


The difference, of course, between painters in the Middle Ages and footballers today is that every kid gets to know and worship today's footballers from an early age. The kids wear the gear, share the information and, where they can, imitate their idol. The footballers become role models. It's fair to assume that a kid who learns about John Terry's sex with a line-up of beautiful women, despite his married state, will figure that it's OK. Better than OK, in fact: one of the perks of footballing talent.

Women, watching this sordid saga unfold, are sympathetic and infuriated, in equal measure, with The Wife. They are sorry for Toni Terry, all on her own in a resort in Dubai. Although it has to be said that being miserable in the sun in luxury Dubai beats the hell out of being miserable in Blanchardstown on a wet Wednesday. Women are horrified by the notion that she'll forgive him, because the chances of a guy who has behaved so badly suddenly seeing the light and staying faithful from now on are somewhere between slim and non-existent. Women, accordingly, feel his wife is just asking for further humiliation by taking him back.

Men, in sharp contrast, focus on a weird standard that suggests if you're going to start messing with someone outside of the marital bed, to do it with a friend's partner or wife is not acceptable. Think on that, sisters. It's not that he broke his vows to Toni and bonked anyone who'd hold still for him, it's that breaking the bond with other guys on the team is not acceptable.

The other issue men care about -- and women seriously do NOT care about -- is the bad reflection on a team of this kind of action on the part of the captain. The English have a "playing fields of Eton" notion that the captain of any of their major teams -- particularly, and oddly, cricket teams -- should represent some sort of values other than their ability to play that sport. So some English sports fans would be morto that the captain of the team would earn such headlines. They'd have him replaced in a minute, so they would.

Except that if Terry's relieved of the captaincy, his potential replacements are Steven Gerrard, who busted the jaw of a DJ in a night club and Wayne Rooney, with his ageing prostitute habit.

Role models, anyone?