Oh none so vain as lads and their mags

IT MAY have come to your attention that there is a Heineken Cup semi-final tomorrow.

The Munster-Leinster game is one of those rare events that gets a grip on the collective imagination. It’s not the only European Cup semi-final down for decision this week. Consider Manchester United v Arsenal in the Association football equivalent.

(Full disclosure: I love using the above term purely because it makes me feel like the judge some years ago who heard a case involving Paul Gascoigne. Told that Gascoigne was a well-known footballer, the judicial response was immortal: “Rugby or association?”).

That particular game comes to mind because of the participation of Rio Ferdinand of Man United.

Mindful of Frank Lampard’s recent decision to phone a disc jockey who was discussing Lampard’s private life – Frank would no doubt agree with Anthony Burgess’s characterisation of the DJ as a “wriggling ponce of the spoken word” – we want to say we have no animus against Ferdinand, nor do we know anything of his personal habits apart from an unfortunate tendency to range around the more adventurous end of the hair-dressing spectrum earlier in his career.

However, we can’t let the day pass without drawing attention to Rio’s newest venture, in which he has joined the world of publishing with #5, his new magazine – or, to be exact, the “world’s first digital lifestyle magazine”.

To be fair to Rio, he’s not the first footballer to be associated with a publishing venture.

Take Jamie Redknapp’s Icon magazine, a publication that he ran with his fragrant wife Louise and which was aimed at top-class professional footballers, where top-class is spelt with the letters R-I-C-H.

(Give Rio some credit – at least he named his magazine after a jersey number rather than the image system central to the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Church).

Jamie and Louise’s magazine couldn’t be bought in the shops, though we are reliably informed that it was on offer in first-class lounges in major airports.

It wasn’t an online offering like Rio’s, though the high-calibre interviewees are a common feature.

In the first edition of #5 – do you have to refer to it aloud as “hash five’? – Rio talks politics with 50 Cent.

In the first edition of Icon, Jamie had a chat with Les Ferdinand about the drawbacks of buying a new... helicopter. An R44, to be precise (“I got a good deal on it,” said Ferdinand. “I paid about £180,000 (€201,000) but normally it would set you back about a quarter of a million pounds”).

They’re not the only lads with mags. Aficionados of the New York Mets 20 years ago remember Lenny Dykstra fondly, the spiky hitter nicknamed Nails who helped them to the 1986 World Series.

Lenny’s magazine idea is The Players Club, which sounds like a place with velvet robes and girls “working their way through college”, but was aimed, by Dykstra, at... yet again, top-earning sports megastars.

In Dykstra’s case it was baseball players, in Ferdinand and Redknapp’s footballers. Why don’t these guys learn? They’re aiming for a super-rich demographic, but if there’s one reason 99.99% of that demographic have the fattest wallets in town, it’s because they didn’t bother with distractions. Distractions like reading.

The proof of their disinterest? Lenny is leaving behind “a string of unpaid bills and a constant parade of shifting editors and office addresses”, according to the New York Post.

Jamie and Louise’s magazine was taken over after less than three years.

The general reasoning behind these high-end exclusive magazines is sound in theory but falls down in reality. Celebrity sports-star publishers can convince themselves that they’re the best people to tell other sports stars how to spend their money... until they realise they’re wasting their own money with a vanity project that will eventually turn to dust.

What odds, then, a John Hayes celebrity magazine?

* Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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