12 April 2013

Banana-man banned three years

Thomas Flint was charged on Friday with "throwing a missile on the playing area and using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior or disorderly behavior likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress." His sentence: a three-year ban from football, a £250 fine and victim surcharge payments of £85 and £25.  In one of my very earliest posts, I called for a sentence that he "eat nothing but bananas for a week while wearing naught but a garbage bag around his waist so that he will have to swim in his own defecations".

In a way, then, he got off easy. On the other hand, the ban seems excessive. I don't know British law, but I assume that the charges are legalistic code that the judge quotes from. However, calling a banana a "missile" is a bit of a stretch. North Korea is trying to launch missiles. Flint threw a banana. Even if it had been green, it's hardly a weapon. It is (in part) a fan's job to harass and distress opposing players, so that part also seems to push things a little as well. Fans  regularly get away with saying far-worse than what Flint said, but he made the mistake of drawing further attention to himself by throwing the "missile".

While the language of the law might be excessive, the judge seems to have struggled to contain the histrionics, saying "what you threw from such a distance could have hurt someone...it could have boiled over into violence." His is only the most visible evidence of that sort of thing. I don't know what all he said, so I'll couch myself in that. I'm pretty sure that there were many, many fans who castigated the opposing team in fairly harsh terms, harsh enough to prevent my repeating them here (this is, after all, a family-friendly site at least as far as my own kids are concerned). I'm willing to wager on various Gooners referring unkindly to yids, for example, and not in a gentle, comradely way.

In terms of how best to mock an opposing player, the whole banana-tossing approach is at best lazy and at worst racist. Go after a player for choices, not genetics. For example, I think Ronaldo is laughably funny-looking. However, whenever I mock him (something I do whenever I have a moment), I'm ignoring that because it's not something he chose. I'm going to mock him for his propensity to dive, for his silly attempts at looking solemn or emo or whatever it is he does, for not being Messi, etc. When it comes to Bale, there is similarly abundant material to work with: his decision to sign for Spurs, his susceptibility to gravity, especially when a defender is nearby, that hairdo.... The laziness around the banana-approach just makes Flint look bad. Look, Tom, if you're going after appearance, take a cue from Steve Martin in the film Roxanne. Have some fun with it. Get creative. Maybe make a play on words: "Bale bails again under pressure from defender", "Another 'gareth' dive..." You get the idea.

Having said all that, the link from banana-throwing to racism is serious enough that the judge was right to come down hard on Flint. I don't know if three years is appropriate, but it is important to send a message that it will not tolerate anything that smacks of racism. That Bale is Welsh and not, say, Nigerian or Turkish is beside the point. Once a gesture is associated with racism, any use of that gesture becomes unavoidably racist. Van Persie got himself in trouble with a gesture last year that resembled a Nazi salute, and he was lucky, in my opinion, to avoid a reprimand. For myself,  I wouldn't wear a white sheet as a ghost-costume at Halloween because it might resemble a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

It's up to all of us to stamp out this kind of behavior, whether it's mindless or deliberate, and I hope that Mr. Flint comes out at the other end of his ban a bit wiser and willing to speak out against similar acts of foolishness.

Right. We have some Canaries to deal with tomorrow. With Mr. Flint in mind, I do hope that Mr. Ramsey does his fellow Welshman proud. Come on, you Gooners!