Gallop SHOULD quit – and get a real job
On Sunday, Phil Gould wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald in which he called for David Gallop to resign from his post as chief executive officer of the NRL, following his comparison of Melbourne Storm fans to terrorists.
Gus is right. And don’t you hate it when that happens? Gallop should resign – but only to preserve the last piece of quiet dignity he has tried to instill in a sport which views dignity as a personal attack. The NRL desperately needs David Gallop, but it is also slowly killing him. How can you save something that refuses to save itself? Gallop has much to offer Australian society, but not with rugby league. His comment that Melbourne fans were akin to terrorists was the reaction of a man who has spent the last 10 years being served up excrement sandwiches and then having to wipe his mouth and say thank you. His comments were the weary call of an unflappable, stoic servant. His comments were rash, horrible timed, and 100 percent correct.
By way of introduction, it is important for me to state that I’m not exactly rugby league’s greatest fan. In keeping with the terrorist theme, I view rugby league a little bit like Osama Bin Laden, in that if I awoke one day to find it no longer existed, I don’t really believe the world would be a better or safer place, but then I also wouldn’t lose much sleep either.
By definition, I believe rugby league aims for the middle. The very rules and nature of the game place a glass ceiling on spectacle. It is “stop-start” by design, and whilst the sport requires only the most exceptional form of athlete to play it – brave, strong, fast, skillful – it is a small pond. The accolades are finite, the boundaries too near. It is not a worldly game in the true sense. For sheer excitement value, it does not do enough to warrant the endless stream of controversy and idiocy that follows it like a mangy dog. There is no place for subtlety in league, and moments of brilliance are overshadowed by a constant, sledgehammer, repetitive approach. Millions will disagree with me (including my fellow contributors), but isn’t that the fun part?
Don’t get me wrong – I still swallow plenty of rugby league. I will cheer as loudly as the next man during State of Origin, and have attended my obligatory one game a year for the Knights (here in Newcastle, they deport you to Stockton if you don’t). For the record, mine is a footballing world. It is a 360-degree game full of tension, grace and speed, laced with drama and politics and money and characters. I love rugby union for at least trying to be a game based on flow and nuance. The idea of the sport is constriction and expansion and working as a unit, although I am the first to admit it’s a pipe-dream. Union can be pretty rubbish nowadays, but at least it’s trying. Even cricket, with all the history and individual brilliance, reminds me that it’s summertime and that I should smile more.
Which brings me to Gus. Phil Gould is the biggest problem for rugby league because he has no knowledge of self. There is a place for rugby league (and a hugely successful place at that), but there is no need to dress it up as ballet. Whenever Phil Gould stands beneath the goalposts and tries to sound like T.S. Eliot while some exhausted camera-man runs around him in swooping circles trying to create some sort of dramatic, gladiatorial effect, I am reminded of the words of football manager Jorge Valdano. A renowned student of the soccer game, Valdano once famously (and controversially) criticised certain clubs for being lauded as brilliant when they were actually stifling the game. Stop me when this sounds familiar –
“Put a shit hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it’s a work of art. It’s not: it’s a shit hanging from a stick.”
And while Gus goes on telly and compares the players to warriors, the stadium to the Sistine Chapel and “this moment” to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, David Gallop waits by the phone for the next time one of these artists has his way with a dog, or punches his girlfriend. Then it is he – Gallop – who has to go on television and apologise to children and fans, and the camera-man never, ever runs around him in circles to make it look more dramatic.
When the Melbourne Storm fans boo him because their single minded passion and fervor have removed them from the realm of logic and fairness (much like a terrorist), they are forgetting that they were grossly betrayed by their own club. Their jeers serve to brush over the fact that it was one of their own players who triggered the brawl against Manly and was deservedly banned from the finals series. Next time Phil Gould steps out in front of Melbourne fans in his pre-game recital of the Crispin’s day speech from Henry the Fifth, he will likely receive an almighty cheer. He knew this when he wrote his article calling for Gallop’s head – but much like the game he exhorts, he has aimed for the middle. Lowest common denominator. Shit on a stick.
Gallop should quit, and join a political party – any of them – and I’ll vote for him because if he can imbue rugby league with even a modicum of respect, running the country will be a doddle.