Friday, 22 October 2010

Money Never Sleeps

The phrase “live fast, die young” could not be truer. As the saga surrounding Wayne Rooney thunders into its second week, it does not take a genius to observe that his metamorphic acceleration to fame at just sixteen years old has facilitated some momentous character flaws. Rooney’s inherent egocentricity was promulgated in no small way by the £26 million that Manchester United paid Everton for his services back in 2004. Since then however, it seems Sir Alex Ferguson’s authority has diminished perceptibly. No stranger to ruthless squad culling, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ruud Van Nistelrooy represent high-profile casualties that were jettisoned by Ferguson in acrimonious fashion. Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009 lingers in the memory because the Portuguese international maintained a level of respect and gratitude for his manager right up until the moment he pulled on the Real Madrid shirt.
While it has been revealed today that Rooney has now signed a new five-year contract at United, one must surely wonder if the player’s relationship with Ferguson has been irrevocably damaged. The whole saga reeks of “publicity stunt”, with Rooney recently losing his starting place, his sponsors, and his dignity, it took something incredible to turn the headlines back in his favour. It also represents something of a shift in the power circles at Old Trafford, with Rooney ostensibly holding his own manager ransom; it is therefore difficult to believe that this whole affair is motivated by anything other than money. Moreover, one cannot think that the United supporters can possibly reverse their furious death threats back into the loving adulation that once reverberated for Rooney.
Sir Alex Ferguson meanwhile would do well to quote Monty Python at his next press conference: “He’s not a messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.

Friday, 1 October 2010

PGA Ryder Cup 2010: The Greatest Game Ever Played?

On the dawn of the 38th Ryder Cup, the stage is set for Europe and USA to lock horns in what will surely be the most tantalising tournament of the year. Team USA Corey Pavin deployed a precursory barb on Tuesday night by recruiting Gulf War pilot PGA Tour professional Major Dan Rooney to motivate his troops. Colin Montgomerie opted for a more traditional pep talk by bringing in the Welsh rugby union hero Gareth Edwards, as he continues to prime his players for combat. Team Europe were also treated to an inspirational speaker-phone call from the magnanimous Ryder Cup legend, Seve Ballesteros, who continues his battle against cancer after being struck down by the affliction in 2008.
The onus lies firmly with Montgomerie and his men to wrestle the trophy from the grasp of the Americans. Team Europe will be hoping the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, can form a formidable partnership, while the two effervescent Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell can convert their friendship into a pernicious pairing. Such has been the astute level of Montgomerie’s preparation and assiduous handling of the media that there has been little insight into the faring of the world number one, besides the visible lack of “birdies” accompanying him at Celtic Manor. It is rejuvenating to consider the huge popularity of the Ryder Cup in the current sporting context of astronomical winners fees, bonuses and sponsorship deals, that the world’s golfing haiso, continue to be romanticised by this tournament.

One sport however, is becoming increasingly bereft of its amateur sporting ideologies. The Tour de France precarious reputation was dealt another blow after this years’ winner, Alberto Contador, was recently revealed to have failed a drugs test during the Tour. Professional cycling has been palpably rife with doping since the sport was established in the 1890’s, but the International Cycling Union should be credited for its continued viability over the years. The ICU has remained true its professional ethics by disclosing similar offences by Ezequiel Mosquera, Li Fiyu and Floyd Landis, despite the somewhat perverse effect on the sport.

However, as Ed Smith investigated in the BBC documentary “Is Professionalism Killing Sport?” the weight of professionalism can often stifle creativity due to its emphasis on performance and results, although some sportsmen are unaffected by such pressures. Usain Bolt continues to mesmerise audiences worldwide with his Herculean performances on the track, regardless of the opaque doping allegations that plague him. Bolt’s congeniality comes from his inherent enjoyment of athletics that has been sustained since his childhood. It is a similar kind of joy that we reap from seeing the childish grin of Lionel Messi every time he scores a goal. Other sportsmen such as Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton, Ryan Giggs are successful because they maintain that child-like enthusiasm throughout their careers, playing principally for enjoyment rather than fortune.
Perhaps this is why Colin Montgomerie carries an unbeaten record into the tournament that holds no cash prize. The question is, can Team Europe profit from “Monty’s” magnanimity?