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« Tyranny of the majority | Main | Why Forest lost interest in Labour »

In defence of Wayne Rooney

On Saturday the health section of the BBC News website ran a piece headlined 'Athletes attacked for smoking habits'. Footballers such as Wayne Rooney and Zinedine Zidane and basketball player Michael Jordan were all mentioned as example of "top athletes" who should be role models for children and, by implication, shouldn't smoke.

I was asked for a comment and this is what I said:

"Research suggests that it is mainly peer pressure and the influence of family members that encourages young people to smoke.

"However the responsibility for young people smoking lies primarily with those who supply tobacco to underage users. We should crack down on them and leave people like Wayne Rooney alone.

"Rooney and other high-profile athletes are adults. They are entitled to smoke without being targeted by the finger-waggers' alliance."

You can read the full report HERE.

H/T The expression "finger-waggers' alliance" was used by journalist Dorothy-Grace Elder, a former member of the Scottish Parliament, when she appeared on Politics Now (ITV Scotland) with The Free Society's Brian Monteith last year (see HERE). I have used it occasionally ever since.

Reader Comments (12)

It was interesting that you got more than your usual soundbyte too.

The thing that sticks in the throat of the "finger wagging alliance" is the fact that these are world class athletes who seem entirely unaffected by smoking. Michael Jordon smokes cigars. When I was playing I was so fit that my heart beat at rest was 55 bpm and a blood pressure limit so low that the doctor nearly considered it dangerous, his only solution was to do err...less exercise.

My other athletic claim to fame was I could outsprint 10.3 second, 100 meters runners over 25-30 meters, and leg press 450kg (nearly 1,000 lbs) you really have to be fit to be able to do that. A professional footballer on an average training day will burn off 5,000 calories and probably consumes by a factor of 20 more oxygen per day than the average person. Smoking has very little effect on your performance.

Other World Cup winners who smoked include Sir Bobby Charlton, Maradona, Socrates, Fabien Barthez, and Roberto Rivelino and Gérson de Oliveira Nunes from the Brazillian 1970 winning team.

Other notable playes and smokers include Robert Prosinečki, David Ginola, Gazza, Teddy Sheringham, Dimitar Berbatov and Johan Cruyff (but he has packed it in).

Finally lets not forget the lady's 100 meter hurdles Silver Medalist at the Moscow Olympics, 20 a day Rothmans smoker Shirley Strong.

September 27, 2010 at 11:03 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

So '"top athletes" who should be role models for children and, by implication, shouldn't smoke.'

Wayne Rooney was having sex with prostitutes when his wife was pregnant so where is the role model in that?

What was his worst offence? Sex with hookers or a smoke afterwards?

September 27, 2010 at 11:32 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Peoples

'Finger-Waggers' Alliance' - I DO like that one, and shall do my bit to insert it into the Public Consciousness.

As for all the role-model-for-our-chidren blather, wouldn't it be nice if - just for once - one of the targets for the FWA's sniper squad were to turn round and say (in effect):

"So what ? I'm a sportsman/scientist/soldier/actor/artist - NOT a fucking Primary School Teacher. Now ask another Stupid Question !"

Not so long ago, we were a nation that produced (inter alios) inventors, statesmen and engineers. Please don't let us become one that only produces dunderheads and 'professors' of Health and Hygiene !

September 27, 2010 at 12:08 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Surely the point here is that it's the requirements of the dreaded "role model" that have changed, not the perfectly normal behaviour of sportsmen and athletes. I have in front of me a wonderful photograph of the England cricket captain Sir Leonard Hutton acknowledging the cheers of the crowd after England regained the Ashes at the Oval in 1953, smartly dressed with a dark tie over a white shirt, with bryllcreamed hair, dozens of cameras pointing at him and a BBC commentator waiting to interview him - and with a fag in his left hand.

Years later, I remember seeing one of my own boyhood heroes, "Deadly" Derek Underwood puffing away happily on the balcony of the pavilion at Lord's - and of course Dave has already mentioned Bobby Moore, World Cup winning captain and thoroughly respected sportsman.

The only thing that's new in all this is the baleful existence of professional busybodies like the egregious Anna Gilmore.

September 27, 2010 at 12:14 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

Quite, Rick-

And it's not just real-life 'role models' that get The Treatment: just look at what they've been doing to Desperate Dan over the years !

Is NOBODY safe from these pestilential bores ?

September 27, 2010 at 13:13 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

What an absolute disgrace - Wayne Rooney, presumably caught on camera smoking a cigarette, and him an all-round good egg, sporting star as well. I dread to think what the kiddies of our country will think when they hear about this, or worse still, even see a video of him puffing away on You-Tube, it could ruin their poor little lives for ever couldn't it?

We all know of course that sports stars, and especially footballers, are shown spitting and gobbing all over the football pitch, where their poor unfortunate team-mates can slip and slide in their slimy phlegm, and catch any germs that may be lingering there. We also know that most footballers think nothing of punching and kicking each other, as well as swearing at each other during the match. Most of them also own at least several enormous gas-guzzlng cars that belt out poisonous fumes as they charge around town, usually from bar to bar, with an entourage of old slappers in tow.

As for booze and drugs, they seem to be part of the course, but it seems that all of this is completely acceptable, and our kiddies see it and hear about it on such a daily basis that even they now seem to turn a blind eye to it, probably in most cases at the instigation of their parents, many of whom secretly wish that they were part of this degenerate band of British "sportsmen".

I say that any footballer found smoking in view of a child under 15 should have his weekly heroin ration confiscated, and be banned from appearing in "Wags Weekly" or "Slappers Online" for at least a whole month.

September 27, 2010 at 13:26 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

It seems to me that the finger waggers are just as selective with the 'role models' they attack or who happen to be in the firing line of the day.
I'm sure if the prostitute Chloe Mafia of Xfactor fame smoked, it would have been held up as the bad example to young people, rather than her whooring, which as far as I could see was considered 'cool' and 'with it'.
Not that I look at Xfactor, I just read about it.
It just goes to show where our finger waggers priorities lie in this modern age and they should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

September 27, 2010 at 13:59 | Unregistered Commenterann

There does seem to have recently been an enormous amount of grant money available for anti tobacco projects. I haven't looked back but I think Gilmore's heart attack study got £173K from the Dept of Health. Universities like those mentioned are set to lose about 17% of their Gov funding over the next five years and these Dept Health grants will also be cut.

September 27, 2010 at 14:32 | Unregistered Commenterjon

Got something wrong, Shirley Strong won the Olympic Silver Medal at the Los Angeles Games losing by 0.04 of a second to Benita Fitzgerald-Brown. She also in 1983 came 5th in the World Championships as well as between 1979 and 1984 she won six consecutive golds at the AAA Championships and was UK Champion in 1979, 1980 and 1983.

Here is a fetching photo of our Shirl in her Great Britain tracksuit, silver medal and a fag.

September 27, 2010 at 15:22 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Let's not forget that England lost the world cup because of addiction. If they had not of been smokers, not only would England of won the world cup but a billion lives would be saved from early death by perfect role models.

September 27, 2010 at 18:40 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Doesn't it ever occur to these people that if they didn't keep batting on about the fact that all these sportspeople smoked, all the kiddies would remain in blissful ignorance, believing the propaganda that "top athletes don't smoke." And, as mindless acceptance of all their stereotyped images seems to be their aim, surely all these "Shock! Horror! Top-class footballer smokes!" type stories can surely only be seen as - well - a bit of a own goal, really!

September 28, 2010 at 0:58 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

"a bit of an own goal, really............."

Yes, Misty.

But let's just be grateful that there's some Madness in their Method: it might help to make Sanity fashionable again.................................

September 28, 2010 at 10:43 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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