FACE-OFF STUART BARNES KATIE FIELD
Should rugby players be viewed as role models?
FORMER ENGLAND FLY-HALF
Danny Cipriani is one of the most gifted attacking fly-halves in the world. He
organises a team’s shape and his passing is the stuff of poetry. But he’s not a role model, nor should he be one. Sportsmen are overgrown kids in shorts (bar golfers). Like Peter Pan, they are
blessed with endless youth. They are makers of magic and memories, men and women who brighten the most boring weekend – but they are not role models.
Those who take the big bucks can’t complain when an off-field incident costs them a lucrative contract but that’s not what we are getting at. Role models are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Role models are selfless people
who do good deeds for nothing. Sportsmen are elevated into positions of moral posturing (by others) because of ability, which has nothing to do with morality. We want them, like any person, to be as decent as possible but young supporters want them to be winners – that is the point of sport. George Orwell called it “war minus the shooting”. Heroes with feet of clay they may
well be but not role models.
FREELANCE RUGBY JOURNALIST
In an ideal world all adults would behave respectably, as good role models for the young. In reality, with bad behaviour of varying degrees all around, adults in the public eye should try harder to set a good example. A professional rugby player’s career is a short one, so is it really too much to ask that they stay on the right side of the law and live by a few decent morals during that time? They have the rest of their lives to behave badly!
It matters when players are convicted of crimes like drink-driving – as Dan Carter, Danny Care and Danny Cipriani have been – or assault, because they are heroes to teenagers. It also matters when an athlete’s sexual misconduct is revealed in graphic detail in the law courts, or when they’re disciplined by their teams for it.
In the 20th century, players got away with all sorts because there was less of a media and social media spotlight. Today’s players enjoy many advantages over those in the past, so they have to live with the disadvantages too – which means acting with respect and good sense on and off the pitch. Drink up! Ed Parsons, from Croydon, brings new meaning to team-bonding drinks with this side. Send alternative XVs to firstname.lastname@example.org