Sport has to face up, to yank its head out of the sand, to break the omerta.
So, for one week, I combed documents leaked by Google, tapped my sources (Twitter). The findings were even more shocking than anyone could have feared.
Sport’s apology culture is embedded. Sorry is certainly not sport’s hardest word. And there are abnormalities in modern apologising practices.
This goes global. A quick data dump, all from the last seven days: “Wolves midfield ace Dave Edwards apologised to travelling faithful for Brentford horror show.”
” I made a goalkeeping blunder and I am sorry. It will not happen again:” a Khairul Fahmi Che Mat spill almost cost Malaysia dear.
“This performance wasn’t acceptable. I apologize for that,” tweeted San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York.
“Dortmund players pull pints for fans at Christmas party to apologise for poor results.”
No level has been spared this epidemic. “Largs Thistle boss Sandy MacLean made an apology to club support for shock Scottish Cup defeat by Johnstone Burgh.”
The wave of contrition has ebbed a while. But what has triggered the tsunami?
A spillover from celebrity culture, with its endless supply of My Shame reveals?
“Apology is only egotism wrong side out,” diagnosed American poet and doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, a century ago.
Is this a variety of Plebgate? A public relations overdose in bridging the gap between elite athletes and the suckers who supply the eyeballs that power the gravy train? Or is it a surge in fan entitlement? In ready outrage? No wonder the sorries tumble freely when you’re invariably 90 minutes from Absolute Disgrace.
After he exchanged cross words with a supporter following the defeat by Liverpool, “Leicester fans demanded an apology from Nigel Pearson.”
Whatever it is, this worrying surge in the use of performance-excusing apologies is just the tip of the penitential iceberg.
We reflected, last week, on John Delaney’s reluctance to throw himself at the mercy of the fast-track Misjudgment-Controvassy-Apology-Whatever cycle.
And on the FAI’s choice to go down the drawn-out Misjudgment-Controvassy-Deny-Controvassy-Apology-Controvassy route.
Most are quicker to supply the necessary regret.
This week Mario Balotelli, a black man with a Jewish mother, had to apologise for offence to black people and Jews.
Frenchman Emmanuel Petit apologised to French people and Jews for imagining his homeland as a nicer place, more tolerant of Thierry Henry’s handiwork, had Germany won the war.
Hawaiian gridiron broadcaster Robert Kekaula said sorry for calling the city of Fresno “the armpit of America”.
Even Bernie Ecclestone — the least repentant man in sport, maybe history — offered a mea culpa for labelling the Sauber, Lotus and Force India teams ‘idiots’ and ‘beggars’.
Of those, we might have trusted Mario’s mortification most, and cut him more slack, if sorry isn’t so regularly a handy postscript when attention-seeking or grandstanding backfires.
Maybe the standout sorry of the week got a bit lost too. “Kiwi jockey Lisa Cropp has issued an apology after failing a drug test.” A rare move in the one area of disgrace left where holding your hands up isn’t yet the fashion.
The modern apology’s currency was further diminished by Western Sydney Wanderers hardman Iacopo La Rocca, who supplied a classic mealy-mouthed Sorry, Not Sorry for ending Ali Abbas’s season with a lunge.
“In last year’s derby I was on the receiving end and tore two ligaments in my ankle, for example. These things happen in football and I am really sorry for what happened.”
And there’s now a very special category, which requires careful examination: the Vincent Tan Apology.
A sensitive area where men at loggerheads with billionaires find themselves thrown out on the street, but only after they’ve apologised to the billionaires.
Step up Spanish defender Juan Cala. “I wish to apologise to Tan Sri Vincent Tan for my recent comments. It was just [the end of] my time at Cardiff City.”
Meanwhile, the domestic repentance trade does suffer from slow lead times, but Mayo county board chairman Paddy McNicholas finally issued Kevin McStay with an apology for that bit of hassle, job-wise.
And Roy Keane, who you might mistake as a subscriber to PG Wodehouse’s view that “the right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them” is still after one from Fergie.
Brad Friedel wants one too, from Tim Howard, for something or other, but there might be a delay, given new confusion among the pair’s people about what actually constitutes an apology.
“We did not apologise to police,” the St Louis Rams insist, after players took the field last week making ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ gestures in solidarity with Ferguson shooting victim Michael Brown. Police claim Rams VP Kevin Demoff offered “regret at any offence officers may have taken”. That’s an apology, argue the cops. The Rams disagree.
Ultimately, if only for the sake of clarity, it might be better all round if sport took the always wise George Costanza’s advice for a while: Stuff your sorries in a sack.
The tenth tap of the snooze button. The mid-morning doze. The afternoon kip. The evening embedded in the sofa. It was the week when we could all live, guilt-free, like pros.
Of course, the nation’s GAA players – more used to hearing people marvel at The Demands and The Sacrifices – took exception to Stephen Hunt’s suggestion that they mightn’t be able to cope with all the resting required of a professional footballer.
The dispute – like all disputes that involve Joe Brolly – escalated. Joe set Stephen a Bear Grylls-style survival mission: five minutes in an Ulster club final.
And Hunty hit back with a summer skills challenge to a GAA player of Brolly’s choosing.
This is more like it. A throwback to the days when footballers gave up some of their restful close season to entertain us, such as when Duncan McKenzie jumped over a Mini parked in the middle of Elland Road. Then underlined his versatility in field events by throwing a golf ball over the stand.
I’ve banged this drum before, but if the settling of this squabble is going to recapture those halcyon pre-health and safety times, we may as well go the extra mile and revive Superstars – the only accepted way to settle inter-sport argument.
If another Pat Spillane or Bernard Brogan Sr can be found, Hunty may yet be crying himself to sleep.
Stairway To Heaven
Eoin Kelly: Many medals, more brilliant scores. But his biggest achievement, according to ‘Abel Xavier’ on Premierview.ie, was averting the “Cuban Missile Crisis” for North Tipp people with his accuracy against Offaly in 2007, so close was “the Doomsday scenario” of a loss to their neighbours.
JJ Delaney: The jostling to get in for goods on Black Friday was nothing compared to the jostling of greats to get out in Black December.
England DNA: The final piece in the 2022 jigsaw. The essence of Englishness, once embedded in Brave JT’s armbands, will now be uploaded onto “wristband memory sticks” for all England players.