Friday, 27 August 2010

Sport's alpha males and the law of the jungle

SO Tiger Woods is now divorced. No great surprise there, surely.
The real question is: So what?
I can see it may be a vital issue to Woods, his ex-wife, their children and maybe a few close friends and family. But to you and me?
Personally, I’ve never met the man. And I don’t suppose you have either. So his divorce is, frankly, none of our business.
Neither, really, are the sexual antics (whether actual or merely alleged) of all those footballers whose names neither I, nor various national newspapers, can reveal.
I can’t reveal them because I don’t know them (though I’ve heard a few salacious hints and rumours).
The papers can’t because of a growing list of injunctions and legal threats preventing them from telling us what they know.
And that’s where I get a bit queasy about it.
Not at the sex part, but all the legal bits.
It might not matter much to me that “a married England star” has been cheating on his wife.
I can understand that he might want to keep his extra-marital affairs private – especially if he hasn’t fessed up to his wife.
Even more so, perhaps, if he has a lucrative sponsorship deal or two that rely on him retaining a squeaky-clean public image.
If or when the story does appear, part of me may take some prurient enjoyment in reading the smutty details. A bigger part will probably yawn and turn away from yet another tedious tale of an alpha male behaving as alpha males do.
It’s hardly news that famous, over-paid, physically fit young men should attract a lot of amorous female attention. Or that sometimes they might succumb to that flattering attention.
Let’s look at it in terms of evolution. There’s an obvious imperative for the fittest males to sow their seed as widely as possible.
Meanwhile, in many species – including the human – there’s a competing imperative for the female to keep her male to herself and enlist him in the process of rearing their offspring safely to maturity.
Hence marriage. And hence divorce.
That may be a cynical view, and it’s certainly a very limited one. We humans, even the simplest among us, are a complicated species. We’re made more complicated by things like society and morals.
But however much we dress it up, basic evolutionary drives are never really that far below the surface.
Woods has merely been behaving as tigers do (though I couldn’t say whether his kind of oh-naughty-me hypocrisy has any part in jungle lore).
The same goes for all those “soccer cheats” who have been caught – allegedly – with their shorts down.
Sex goes on before, after, in and out of marriage. We all know that. Does it really matter who does it with whom, so long as it’s purely between consenting adults?
Do we need to know? Probably not.
But the use of heavy-handed, and extremely expensive, legal instruments to keep us in the dark is a worrying trend.
And not only because it’s a weapon that’s only available to the very rich.
On current count, there’s more than half a team of Premier League players who have taken legal action to prevent us hearing about their away games. Others have had their gambling habit hushed up.
With so much of British law being based on precedent, it adds up in practice to a privacy law.
A law brought in by the back door – rather like the antics whose perpetrators it protects.
Its purpose is the preservation of reputations that arguably don’t deserve preserving.
One of its (presumably unintended) effects is to besmirch the reputation of ALL top-level footballers.
If I were one of those many players whose lives are beyond reproach I wouldn’t be too pleased to have my reputation dirtied by association and suspicion.
Come to think of it, on that basis I wouldn’t much care to be a footballer’s wife, either.
The few I’ve met didn’t seem to deserve what has become their collective reputation.


MY O- and A-level results looked pretty good at the time. Good enough, as it turned out, to get me into one of the supposedly “top” universities.
Put them alongside the latest batch, though, and they’d look distinctly average.
This week’s GCSE results showed that 22.6 per cent of papers were graded A or A* – one percentage point up on last year.
Almost three times as many pupils got top grades as when the exams were introduced in 1988.
Last week we heard that A-level grades were up for the 28th straight year.
Does this really mean our kids are getting brighter, working harder, being better taught, every year?
Or is mere inflation at work here, steadily devaluing the educational achievements of all of us who went before?
And, incidentally, unrealistically levelling out this year’s crop too, undermining the best and hardest-working.
Today’s sixth-formers are expected to go on to university, yet know that even a fistful of A grades won’t guarantee them the place they want.
I don’t believe they’re cleverer than we were. But I wouldn’t mind betting they’re more stressed.

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