I watched a bit of the superbowl last night.
Not for the football game, you'll have to understand. I struggle with rugby at the best of times. American football to me just looks like an all out war, only the soldiers for some reason are not allowed weapons, or to punch or kick, so their only way of attacking seems to be to slam into one another head first. Oh, and like rugby there's a perversely shaped ball being chucked around the place.
So, yeah; I was in it for everything other than the game itself. I watched it as an intrigued outsider. And, I really enjoyed it! I gather that it's almost like the cultural equivalent of the royal wedding over here. Only more popular, and a little bit more traditional.
Anyway, this was all well and good. But there was one particular ceremony that really struck me whilst watching it, and that was the awarding of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, for outstanding behaviour off of the pitch; for charitable work.
The main thing that struck me was not that we do not have such an award in the UK, which we don't. It was more the realization that it felt to me utterly inconceivable that we would have one.
The only charitable behaviour that I ever remember hearing about in a high profile way was Mario Ballatelli wandering around Manchester handing out wads of cash to beguiled pedestrians. Is it really the case that UK footballers, despite earning 400 odd times more than the average UK earner, are just not very charitable, or are just not that interested in humanitarian causes?
I thought I'd do a quick google to see whether this is completely unfounded. And I'm relieved to say, for the most part, it is. It transpires that there are indeed a fair few footballers who do some charitable work. Only, we don't hear about it.
It seems to be that charitable donations from football has had a bit of a bad press. It has to be said that a lot of the charitable activities that clubs take out in Africa have a rather blatant vested interest, namely of finding the next Didier Drogba. And, there was also the well publicised incident with Petr Cech, whose club wanted to donate £3000 to the charity and hospitals that saved his life. The money didn't come from Cech, who earns over £50 000 a week; it didn't even come from Chelsea, who have so much money they don't know what to do with it. It came by selling photos of Cech to fans.
As David James explains here, many footballers are very cynical about setting up charitable organizations because they are so often exploited by people wangling for easy cash, or have seen their money evaporate with nothing achieved. Maybe this would be solved in part by grouping the myriad individual organizations that footballers set up into bigger charities, with a a better centralized infrastructure.
Or maybe there should be a way of raising the profile of charitable footballers. Maybe we should have an award like the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for footballers in the UK. I think we should replace the vacuous farce that is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year with something like that. I can't really see a downside.
Not sure how much of a reception this will get at Science 2.0 but I'm glad to have vented my spleen anyhow.
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Thoughts on the Superbowl and UK football