On August 22nd in Liverpool UK, an 11 year old boy named Rhys Jones was shot dead. The tragic,accidental, victim of a gang related incident. This has been very big news in England since the event, and whilst I heartily detest the way that incidents like this have become an excuse for the British public to wallow in grief over a person that they did not know (we get enough grief in our lives without sneaking into other peoples) there was one aspect of the incident that struck me as both strange and telling.
Rhys was a big fan of Everton soccer club and his father wrote a poem about how he would be playing for them in Heaven. Not a very good poem but clearly incredibly heart-felt, and what struck me about it were the following lines;
"So Rhys was taken up above
God took him by the hand
To play the game he loved so much
Where sponsorship is banned
There is no cheating either as
God is the referee
There are no mega wages
And the transfers they are free
The games are live on telly
You don’t have to subscribe….."
What struck me about this was the fact that even through the grief of his 11 year old son being murdered he felt strongly enough about the commercialization of sport to turn this into some kind of "protest poem". Maybe he resented that he couldn’t afford to take Rhys to all the games that he wanted to go to,or that replica jerseys are so expensive and change every year, or that the games cost too much to even watch on TV, but whatever the reason his idealized view of sport is that it should be free of cheating and greed.
It’s an almost Olympian ideal that probably never existed and certainly won’t exist in our lifetimes, but it’s a timely reminder for those who run or own sporting clubs that what is in their charge is far more precious than numbers on a balance sheet,for they are in charge of the way that fathers and sons interact and dream together, and they are in charge of the way that people who are not on "mega wages" forget about their mortgage payments or their sh***ty jobs.
I’m not saying that they should make the sport virginal and pure,I’m just asking that they try not to turn it into some amoral crack wh**e.