That fat, loathsome prick Martin Samuel has written a particularly unpleasant piece in the Mail today. The bulky hack with the beard-and-hair combo of a Radio 1 DJ of the seventies (is that a good look these days?) sneers at the tiny handful of openly gay sportsmen from the rugby and cricket worlds and attempts some sort of clumsy comedy routine about football needing a similar "gay hero". It's utter drivel. Casual, blokey bigotry presumably written after a boozy lunch, made stranger still by Samuel's bizarre decision to suggest that QPR and Marseille's own Joey Barton should "come out as gay".
I have a better suggestion. Forget Joey Barton. It's Martin Samuel who should come out of the closet. Because if you consider the tough-tackling midfielder and the overweight tabloid muck-raker, it's much more likely that the latter is gay.
Why would I say that? Because in my experience, supposedly straight people who take an unusual interest in who may or may not be gay can be repressed homosexuals themselves. In that scenario, the gay jokes (the last line of Samuel's article certainly qualifies as a weak attempt at a gay joke), the piss-taking and whatnot all add up to a none-too-convincing smokescreen for someone keen to hide from his own true sexual orientation.
Whenever I hear people complaining about "political correctness" having "gone mad", I think of Stewart Lee's amusing and articulate response to that charge. Along the way, Lee tells us of a Tory election candidate in the 1970s using the slogan "if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour". For my own part, I am reminded of what passed for banter in my school during the eighties. As the boys trudged from one cold, leaking mobile classroom to another, the handful of Asian lads in the school (Ugandan-Gujarati Hindus, I believe) were called "pakis" to their faces. Anyone who hesitated to cough up a small loan was immediately labelled a "fucking Jew". I'd moved to the area (the sticks!) from a part of London that was (and still is) pretty cosmopolitan, not least in the sense of having a good-sized Jewish population whose roots extend to many different parts of Europe. So that last bit of nastiness was a bit of a shock at first.
This sort of thing was not limited to the pupils. How fondly I will always remember the games teacher who railed against the less able sportsmen, usually reaching for "you fucking spastic" from his limited vocabulary. Boys and teachers alike were also united in using the term "poof" to describe anyone one might describe as even vaguely effeminate. For vaguely effeminate, read not routinely posturing in an exaggeratedly masculine manner out of a fear of not fitting in and being bullied as a result. Thinking back, of course, I don't suppose many of the boys labelled as poofs were actually gay. Indeed, of the ones about whose circumstances I remain aware, most have got married (to women) and have had children. In fact, I can only think of one schoolmate from that period who did turn out to be gay. He was a curious fellow.
Dave (not his real name) was one of the more aggressive banterers. A bully, in fact. Moreover, he was certainly among those who used the term poof pretty freely. Indeed, he used it much more regularly than anyone else. He must have called someone else a poof at least once an hour on each of the hundreds and hundreds of days on which I saw him at school, in town, at teenage parties or down the pub. It was at the one pub at which most of us could get served, I remember, that several of us stumbled upon a very effective way of winding him up.
The pub was small and the crowd that flocked there from our school was large. So the seating arrangements were pretty tight. "Don't sit on my lap, you fucking poof," Dave would snap. "Which fucking poof is touching my leg? Get off, you fucking arse bandit!" It started with accidental and innocent contact, but we all soon latched onto the obvious comedy value and deliberate thigh fondling became a constant irritation for young Dave. As he squirmed and snarled, those of us who'd been paying attention to Hamlet in our English lessons were reminded of Queen Gertrude's famous line about the lady protesting too much.
So we were mindful of this when observing Dave's relationships with girls. His usual pattern was to lust very openly after a particular female for a while. His pursuit would play out over a number of weeks, sometimes arriving at a successful conclusion and sometimes not. But when he did achieve an effective seduction, there emerged a predictable pattern to what would happen next. In every case, having won the heart (i.e. removed the bra) of some girl, he would almost immediately lose interest in her, driving her away by avoiding her or even becoming quite hostile. He seemed to enjoy the company of girls as much as any of us did. But when his fledgling relationships become more physical, he seemed to become repulsed. Even in the case of really very attractive girls.
So it was with very little surprise in later years that I heard stories to the effect that Dave had finally faced up to his homosexuality. He seemed like such a hostile twat at the time. But all the hostility was clearly just his way of dealing with a lot of confusion and with the fear of what would have been, I'm sure, merciless bullying from his school chums. Now, in a more enlightened age and away from the cruel pressures of school, Dave is free to be himself.
So, come on, Martin Samuel. Do the decent thing. Can't one lardy shit-for-brains writing for a grubby gutter press scandal sheet come out and be gay, so everybody can be really cool about it and the sports press can get on with its life? It's not too much to ask, surely? Come on, (very) big boy. You know you want to.