Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rooney's Foot Makes Bad News

Attempting, via the portal of Sky News, to monitor last week's developments in the damp corner of the planet that these islands constitute, two recurring narratives intertwined, alternating their prominence and seemingly merging into one headline-generating uberconglomerate of scandal, misfortune and incompetence.

The fortunes of the British Labour government and those of the Football Association and the international team which it runs are so eerily similar in their coverage that one imagines that the major British media outlets have some sort of time-saving computer program for generating stories on both: simply log on and select between the following: 'Blair' or 'Barwick'; 'McClaren' or 'Prescott'; 'mishandling of foreign managers' or 'mishandling of foreign prisoners'; 'broken metatarsal' or 'banjaxed health service'; 'tawdry affair with secretary' or 'tawdry affair with secretary'. Then press Enter and watch circulations rise!

Infamously, New Labour adviser Jo Moore lost her job after sending an email memo to party staff on September 11, 2001 suggesting that that event would provide an opportune time to release and 'bury' any bad news which government departments might be sitting on. As the Blair government lurched from scandal to crisis to humiliation last week, the snapping of a bone in Wayne Rooney's foot could not have come at a more timely moment to nudge aside - if not exactly 'bury'' - in the consciousness of the nation the wretched events of the week which its political leadership had endured.

Professional football and the hullaballoo it generates is, in normal times, about as newsworthy and as central to the thoughts of the masses as 'proper' news, and often more so. But, in the run-up to a World Cup in which England are involved, the build-up of hysteria and media attention resembles the moments before the eruption of a particularly explosive volcano - one which releases its molten discharge throughout each quadrennial June in the form of St.George Cross flags on white vans, rampant jingoism and a thousand square miles of cash-in merchandising tat.

So the demise of Rooney's metatarsal and the howl of collective anguish it provoked was so impeccably timed for Tony Blair that one was tempted to check if Paulo Ferreira had been doing a bit of canvassing for Labour in London West of late. As if the normal blanket football coverage that World Cup summers provide was not enough to wipe the inconsequential doings of humble Westminster folk off the front pages, the focus of 50 million pairs of eyes on the well-being of the right foot of a 20-year old prodigy relegates the turmoil of Britain's government to the 'In Brief' section of most people's minds.

We can expect or have already seen any or all of the following: Yuri Geller being called upon again, like a football version of Mr.Wolf from Pulp Fiction, to fix Rooney's foot, just because he made Gary McAllister miss that penalty in 1996; every foot-surgeon (if such a thing exists) in Britain and beyond being asked if Rooney will be fit, until one gin-sodden polytechnic lecturer says he will, upon which he is presented with an MBE; the following conversation taking place around 17,497 times between assorted ashen-faced Sky Sports News personnel and assorted ashen-faced Manchester United or England personnel:

SKY: "Any news on Wayne?"

MAN IN TRACKSUIT: "No, nothing as yet."

SKY: "So are you hopeful he will be fit?"

M.I.T.: "No, it doesn't look good."

SKY: "So are you ruling him out of the World Cup?"

M.I.T.:"Well that's not for me to say."

SKY: "So you're not ruling him out of the World Cup then?"

M.I.T.: "Well, I mean, I'm not saying he definintely won't but...."

SKY: "There you have it, postive news about Wayne Rooney here from this man in a tracksuit, back to you in the studio Jim...."

It will all be tedious, mindless and seemingly interminable.

Still, beats another story about John Prescott's four-times-a-night sex romps.


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