Following my last blog, (available here - http://rugbyunited.org.uk/content/i-need-vent) I made a silent vow to myself to take a break from the blog. There are just too many things that piss me off during the 6 Nations (and indeed any international break) and I fail miserably to find my 'happy place' where I do my best writing.
But as the Beast from the East is taking a grip, I sit here with itchy trigger fingers, so it's time to go through exactly what pisses me off the most!
CASE NUMBER 1 - THE REFEREE IS A CHEAT
My god, this is just embarrassing for the sport. On Saturday, we saw the social media experts proclaim they had seen Glen Jackson 'cheat' Wales out of the win against Ireland, followed by Nigel Owens 'cheating' England out of the Scotland match. No mention of Ireland, despite key injuries, running up a bonus point victory over Wales. No mention of the international pedigree of the new guard, Stockdale, Farrell, Porter, Leavy who are all starting to look excellent. The reaction to Owens was higher profile, but in fact, probably less intense, as there were many more plaudits from England fans to the Scottish victory than there were idiots blaming the referee.
The fact is, it is NEVER the referee that is biased, it is us as fans. We see 'our' guys do something and we justify it, we see the opposition do the same and we call it as a foul. We focus on the oppositions negatives, not our own. I implore you, watch the 'controversial' decisions with both eyes open and I bet you you see that the referee will get 99% of the calls correct, watch the game back with impartiality and you will see missed or wrong decisions go to both sides.
And as I've said before, if you believe you are such an expert..... go get the qualifications and do a better job.
CASE NUMBER TWO - THE ENDLESS ENGLAND BASHING
For me, being part of #'RugbyUnited means to not get embroiled in trivial, petty bullshit. I try my best, but on occasions, I have to bite back. This year, I've been pretty good about things, I've let a lot slide past me on Twitter, but Facebook....oh Facebook.... that is something else entirely. It's the Premiership standard of taking any story regarding rugby and spinning it to bash England.
The insistence that English fans live in the past and still trade off of the World Cup win.....when the first mention of 2003 is guaranteed to have been made by either a Welsh fan, often accompanied by a mention of the 1970's Wales dominance or the 1999 Scott Gibbs try, or a Scottish fan who'll talk about how Scotland are the reigning 5 nations champions, just to throw hypocrisy into the mix.
The broadcasters are biased towards England. Well, this one nearly got a section to itself. First England match of the championship and the ITV coverage was being roundly abused for not having an Italian representative on the broadcast panel. Erm. Forgetting that Marco Bortolami was there at pitchside. I couldn't get an answer from the few people I responded to as to how many English were on the Italian broadcast. Or what percentage of viewers on a BRITISH channel were in fact Italian and did that percentage warrant a studio guest?
I mean, 2 Welshmen on commentary, one of whom, Jiffy, is essentially a cheerleader for the Welsh....that's perfectly fine and not biased at all. But BBC rugby host John Inverdale gets on screen and OH MY GOD, THE ENGLISH BIAS IS UNREAL.
Harping back to Mr Butler and Mr Davies, one of my tournament highlights was them being joined by Joe Worsley for the France match. Worsley, as a coach in France, knows the French players well and brought great insight into the booth. However, for one of my 'friends' on Facebook, 'That English guy' on commentary only spoke about England or the Premiership. I watched the game back, and Jiffy mentions England a fair few times, but I failed to spot the constant barrage from Worsley......
Honourable mentions of anti English spin:-
Nathan Hughes scuffle with Ryan Wilson - Hughes was apparently 'Choking' Wilson..... with an open palm and therefore deserved the contact with the eyes. UPDATE- chips pissed on. Wilson free to play, no choke, no gouging, no problemo!
Owen Farrell's scuffle with Ryan Wilson - Farrell was in the wrong for weaving through the crowded tunnel, I mean, his pushes had nothing behind them, it was more akin to trying to get to the bar in a crowded pub than a petulant shove, but screw it, let's blame Farrell for a total misunderstanding and an overreaction by Wilson who clearly thought the shove was meant as aggression. (By the way, Barclay is two foot from the melee but claims he was in the toilet...... not having a dig, genuinely made me laugh!!! lol) Both Wilson and Farrell had decent matches so the shenanigans obviously affected them both badly, hey! BREAKING NEWS -no punishments for any party, but warnings to both sides on conduct..... fucking shocker.
Mike Brown's smile at Scott Williams - After Williams refused to give the ball to Brown, they exchanged a mischevious grin, due to the angle they were stood at, the camera only caught Brown though, so obviously he's an arrogant bastard mocking Williams for being dragged into touch. Right? Same day, there is a photo of a beaming Ryan Wilson (that man again....sorry !!) aimed at France following a scrum penalty, yet no social media justice warriors went after him! Also, Alun Wyn Jones slap of Maro Itoje's face was met with stony silence.
Dylan Hartley spat at a Welsh player - My arse did he. Another camera angle being used to slight one of Englands perpetual targets. He spits on the ground about 3 foot from the nearest Welshman, but its all about perspective. To quote Father Ted, "These cows are small, Dougal, the others are faaaaaaar away"
The try that wasn't. - this could have fit into section 1 as well. The TMO missed the touchdown, he also missed the knock on. It's a game of small margins.
Jonny May 'didn't score either try' - another that could fit into section 1..... freeze frames of May sliding over the line with the ball not in contact with the ground means 100% it wasn't a try. Despite video and other angles showing the ball touched down....
These are examples from the last 2 matches, and it's not an exhaustive list. I could cope if it was one person, but this is dozens of people on both Facebook and Twitter passing these things as fact... and it's not helped by.....
CASE NUMBER 3 - SHIT JOURNALISM
Firstly, there are dozens of decent rugby journalists, hundreds of bloggers and possibly one decent Facebook 'news' page.....possibly.....
Unfortunately, Stephen Jones exists, I'll name him as he blocked me for disputing the validity of one of his one sided, anti England Rugby articles in the Times, I may have used the phrase Shitty Journalism, but for me, it was. The response I got would have been a mystery as he sent me a very petty and childish response and blocked me before I could read it. He didn't count on the power of Twitter though and within minutes about a dozen people had sent me a screenshot of the reply. basically telling me to learn the laws (I was talking about a photograph, so I'm not sure what law covers that) and informing me he was up for rugby writer of the year.... the phrase that got many, many of my Twitter buddies laughing at the #humblebrag he dropped in there. In all honesty though, He has blocked countless rugby people, including a whole bunch of #Rugbyunited accounts, and seemingly has very little respect from anyone outside of his little circle, the fact he is up for writer of the year is laughable and proves my point about the poor state of top line rugby journalism.
Another person from the mainstream media drawing ire, was Paul Hayward of the Telegraph, who Tweeted something along the lines of 'It's a good job Owen Farrell (not tagged in the tweet, naturally) has rugby as an outlet for his unpleasant side' - many people instantly jumped on this as it was seen as a personal attack on a guy who off pitch is almost universally known as a good guy and a humble lad, I have fleetingly sat in on a press conference with Owen and he seems to be exactly what the majority think, a nice guy! When Mr Hayward was asked to clarify what he meant, his reply contained "I don't have to 'back it up' you're a "global influencer,," not a judge" Right..... you're a journalist, buddy, you're supposed to be impartial, and if you are going to make sweeping, negative statements, you really ought to be able to back it up. When he was again asked about what his tweet implied regarding off the field implications..... we got silence.
The biggest shock for me, is I've not seen anything from the Mail to really get my goat. YET.
There are good journo's though. The guys who will happily interact with fans, whether for a good natured chat or a fiery debate, Neil Fissler, Simon Thomas, Paul Williams to name but three, so not to knock ALL the rugby press, just the ones who think they're above everyone else when in fact they're just people who give a paid opinion rather than those that give it for free!!!
On Facebook, we get countless bullshit articles from the usual sources, although the likes of RugbyLad, Rugby Onslaught, Ruck, GiveMeSport, Joe et al do come up with some good stuff, the clickbaity, shock jock tactics are shameful at times, but the articles are nothing compared to the comments sections. Honestly, if you have a spare hour, go look. I'm taking aim at the papers, you can check the Facebook nonsense for yourselves!
CASE NUMBER 4 - THE BLAME GAME
Missed TMO calls, biased refs, closed roofs, injuries, voodoo dolls, the wrong brand of water in the dressing rooms, BREXIT, leaves on the line, ReVeNgE, the Beast from the East, travel plans, a dodgy curry or a poor telephone reception. All will be used as a reason for a loss. Honestly, if you look hard enough, I reckon you'll find all of these given as a post mortem for a defeat. Very few people will say "Well done Scotland, the best team won" without a prefix of 'if it wasn't for the referee' and this pisses me off more than most things. Part of being a rugby fan is this fabled camaraderie between fans, this kinship. So why the hell can we not get it right at international level? Why is defeat so hard to take? Why can we not give credit to the better side? The players and coaches largely manage it. Even Eddie Jones had nice words to say about Scotland (whilst being booed by the fans at Murrayfield), so why can't Dave from Dagenham not do it? And if Dave from Dagenham is one of these guys that is a rugby fan but only for internationals, then why aren't more people educating him? Some of my most memorable rugby days in club rugby have been following a defeat, Munster for the miracle game being one of the very best, we were treated like kings and the game was suddenly a backing track to what rugby is about. ALCOHO..... I mean, FUN! Yet, everytime I've been to an international match, I've been left with a bad taste in my mouth, is this a microcosm of my entire issues with this time of year? Are international rugby fans different during these windows or is it entirely a different set of fans? I can't answer that, but I'm getting to the end of my tether with the international breaks and I'm considering a Social Media blackout during the windows in future, I genuinely think it's the only way I'll keep my blood pressure down.
I could continue, but this may end up as war and peace.
If the blog is quiet over the next month, you know I'm biting my tongue again. If not.... see you next week...maybe for part 2!!!