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Are you rascist? Football matches or elsewhere? Are you sure?

No rascism even in the heat of the moment.....

I’m not a football fan – I’ve only been to a few matches and I’ve never grasped the off-side rule and, frankly, if someone explains it to me I’m asleep by the end of the very long sentence.

But I have been interested in this latest argument about FIFA’s boss and rascism. It’s made me think about rascism and how it affects us all.

 

Sepp Blatter has said that racist remarks on the field of play should be dealt with at the end with a match with a handshake and various other comments. Listening to a debate about this on Five Live, I listened to a female caller and a male caller argue the issue.

The woman, talked about her children, of mixed race, who  suffered abuse because of the colour of their skin. For her, dealing with such comments, even if said in the heat of the football match, was something serious which should be stamped on strongly.

For the male caller, it was a storm in a teacup. He talked about playing in football matches where things were said in the heat of the moment which would never be said in the office, in the pub or elsewhere. The emotions and adrenalin of the match caused such things to happen. He said, as a man with dark skin, he’d said things that he’d never ever say in any other environment. He said it was not rascist.

The woman countered, saying that things said in the heat of the moment, off the cuff, often revealed what someone really thought deep down. So such comments had to be punished.

I thought about this carefully. I applied it to myself. What do I think?

I have many friends whose skin isn’t the same colour of mine. I don’t think of myself as rascist at all. Just as I don’t think of myself of homophobic  – I have many gay friends. Frankly these friends are my friends and the rest is irrelevant.

But I also believe that everyone has prejudice in them and it’s dangerous to think otherwise. If we think we’re immune we may not recognise when something we say or do hurts someone else.

I’m reminded of two things that sometimes pop into my head unbidden and when they do I mentally slap myself for being so stupid.

One is seeing a gold coloured old Mercedes or BMW with a black man driving, of any age, and the words ‘drug dealer’ come into my head. Why is that? Where have I got that message from? I have no idea, no memory of where this comes from. I know it’s not real, it’s not logical and I feel ashamed to even allow this to pass fleetingly through my mind.

Another relates to groups of Irish travellers, who visit  each year in Swindon. As soon as I see a group of caravans I think ‘mess, criminal damage, petty pilfering’. I know why these thoughts come unbidden into my head, because I’ve written many stories from residents who do feel those things.

However, I have had a group of travellers move on to land near my house – nothing was stolen from me or my neighbours. There was mess and I can’t say I liked them being there. But they caused me no personal distress.

Should something we might not always be able to control be punished?

One of my children, while at pre school, refused to hold another child’s hand because she thought that child’s hand was dirty. These children were three at the time and the other child was black. I was called into the school about this matter. I was horrified that my child thought such a thing. I apologised to the child’s parent and explained to my child that this was wrong. Even though I knew she didn’t mean to be rascist. And rightly so. Years later, my child cannot believe she ever even thought such a thing.

When any of these things happened to me – or happen to me – I berate myself and remind myself that it’s unacceptable even though it’s not deliberate.

So overall, I have to agree with the mum in the argument. Things said in the heat of the moment may be rascist , and may well pop out of the mouth without the brain being engaged, but it’s still not all right.

And the moment we don’t act to stamp it out, we’re allowing rascism to creep in under the radar.

 

I want to hear about tennis – not the fluffy stuff

It’s great when you’ve got a long drive home from the office to listen to the radio – Five Live is my choice – and enjoy the ride.

tennis ball to left of frame resting on grass

All I'm interested in is the tennis.....

I’m sure it’s the same for you if you have a long commute (mum or not).

 

So Wimbledon is good for me as it’s gentle entertainment and it’s a sport I can watch or listen to easily – which is saying something as I’m not good at sustaining interest in long drawn-out matches. I always feel there should be something else that would be more productive. But stuck in car, it has its place in my life. I also think there’s something about the sound of the ball which is comforting, like a loud ticking clock.

 

However I did get a bit frustrated yesterday when listening to the commentary on the match between Andy Murray and his opponent Feliciano Lopez.

Now commentating on a sport is a special skill if you give it some thought. You have to describe in detail what’s happening so that the listener can visualise and you have to keep talking, as naturally, as possible almost continuously.

 

Give it a try….look at a sport you love and commentate on it for an hour. It’s exhausting. I’ve tried it once or twice and it’s difficult.


For those who love sport, the most awkward time for chatting is often when there are breaks in play. So you get a lot of repetition, cliches and idle chit-chat.

However, I’ve generally found that the Wimbledon tv teams stick very much to the play and players’ form and rarely digress.

That’s what I expect. So I was rather surprised to hear a male commentator talking about Lopez rather personally. Something about him being so proud of his appearance that he spends ages looking at himself in the mirror. Did anyone care about that? Not me.

He went on to say that Lopez wouldn’t like the way that he looked right now if he could see it. Well as I’m listening to the radio – I can’t. Was he sweaty? Was his hair untidy? Was his make-up running? What irrelevant twaddle. I don’t think Lopez gave a stuff what he looked like as he was desperately trying to hold his own (and failing) against Murray.

These comments gave the strong impression that Lopez’s tennis was so mediocre, even poor, that the only thing worth talking about was what he looked like. Then the speaker started referring to what Murray’s mum thought about Lopez, calling him Deliciano! And Murray didn’t really like that. Okay. But what’s that got to do with the match in hand?

How does Lopez want us to think about him? Good looking guy who dresses up to play reasonable tennis or damn good tennis player? I wonder.

Also, let’s try to avoid the personal. I didn’t hear the commentator talk about Murray’s looks, ugly or goodlooking? Handsome or not? Great hair or unruly locks? Big nose or lips? No comments on how often he looks in the mirror or how much he considers his appearance when he’s been running a marathon around a tennis court trying to return serves of 130mph. Does Murray care about any of that during a tennis match? I think not – I certainly don’t.

There’s so much to say at Wimbledon, particularly on a day when the sublime Roger Federer got beaten by the courageous Tsonga, that there’s no need to pick up on tabloid obsession.

Let’s give all of that rest and enjoy the tennis!

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