joeldurston

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Why Lance Armstrong’s philanthropy’s tainted

In Sport on October 21, 2012 at 9:38 PM

*written as part of a debate piece*

So it appears Lance Armstrong was living very strong indeed. Yet somehow many still describe him as a ‘legend’. Truelad, despite the crassness and misogyny, is a good litmus test for such modern morality tests among average sports-watchers. And two recent posts, proclaiming him still a ‘legend’ for his cancer recovery and consequent philanthropy, find broad approval for the former cyclist, with ‘GoodLAD’ to ‘ShitLAD’ ratios of about 2:1 and 18:5 respectively.

Undoubtedly, Livestrong has done wonders for raising funding for, and awareness of, cancer – diseases which tragically take the lives of millions. So, essentially, a Good Thing. And no doubt, the vast majority of the people, paid or not, who have worked for it have done so precisely because of their good, trusting nature.

The means are an infinitely messier affair than the ends, though, and it’s certainly debatable whether the latter justifies the former. The question of whether charities should accept donations from tax avoiders and crooks is a troublesome one, and, in principle, this issue represents a similarly interesting moral maze, especially as the protagonist is so high-profile, rich and successful.

In today’s world a celebrity publically promoting their own philanthropic foundation, in effect at least, represents a statement on the morals of the individual in question, whether they like it or not. Basically, affecting their PR, usually positively. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily so, but it’s hard to deny it’s so, not least with the incredible story of Lance Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer with an estimated 10% chance of survival.

It’s easy to be cynical about do-goody celebrities. I’m actually broadly in favour, as those in the spotlight have a great platform to effect change – but to ignore the propensity for such philanthopy to be hectoring, shameless PR, a substitute for tax avoidance, a cover-up for fundamental deceit and hypocrisy, or a combination of all three, is plain naive. The latter is certainly in evidence with the current Jimmy Savile scandal, as many in positions of responsibility have admitted to being wary of investigating his now-known child abuse because his charity work suggested he was a caring man who wouldn’t do such things and that his philanthropy may stop if he was opposed. I think Armstrong’s case is largely analogous.

It’s hard to know exactly where Armstrong’s motivations lie in regard to Livestrong (because let’s face it, we can’t really trust what he says now); but one thing you can be sure about is that his doping was thorough and calculated, involving widescale ‘bullying’ and coercion of riders, a fostering of a code of ‘omerta’ and aggressive lawsuits against those who voiced dissent – USADA, former masseuse Emma O’Reilly and journalist David Walsh . Therefore it’s fairly safe to say he would be fully aware of the resulting trusting effect, in the public eye, of his notable charity work, and the egregious divide between the very good (at least, separately) and the very bad. In this interview on doping in sport, in which a plain-faced Armstrong denounces doping – from a health and moral standpoint – and discusses prevention techniques, he claims (at 4:35): “In my case, I came out of a life-threatening disease; I was on my deathbed. Do you really think I’m going to come back into a sport and say, o.k, doctor,  give me everything you got, I just want to go fast. No way! I would never do that.” Certainly seems like a fairly concrete, intentional link between the positive image from his philanthropy and the doping cover-up to me.

This ultimately toxic combination of trust and fear allowed him to win millions (£2.4m of which he has been ordered to pay back to the Tour de France and hasn’t replied) and perpetuate a con which the Union Cycliste Internationale’s chief Pat McQuaid has called cycling’s “greatest ever crisis”. Put two and two together and it seems Livestrong played a pivotal role in fostering this atmosphere of silenced reverence. So, though I’m by no means calling all Livestrong’s fundraising dirty money or all its efforts a scam, that the shame-faced corruption came from the highest point, and prospered, leaves a very sour taste.

Joel Durston

The US election

In Opinion on October 20, 2012 at 9:34 PM

Who should be president…

In a word, Obama. The economic question is an extremely complicated one, and even the best economists are puzzled about how to balance the books in the West (or if). So while I tend towards Obama’s centre-left economics of the free market with interventionism and specific funding, I state this with no great certainty. Where I do believe Obama should be president is in what he stands for, or is seen to, compared to Romney.

Obama is a Law School graduate and former community organiser who can connect as well with those in academia as those in the hood (if that sounds racist, consider the miniscule votes Romney polls among black voters – as low as 0% in one NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. While Romney is a former venture capitalist with a net worth of between £120 and £156 million, who, although philanthropic, has morally dubious business and tax records. And also, it’s hard to know exactly what he stands for, because he, as the US commentariat are putting it, he flip-flops on so many issues (though it must be said Obama is not immune from the trait). As much as the first televised debate represented a fight back for Romney, it was largely because he so effectively almost rebranded himself as “Moderate Mitt”.

This is not to mention the Republican party as a whole, members of which in recent years have, variously, claimed that the female body has ways of shutting down the reproductive systems in cases of ‘legitimate rape’ (Todd Akin – member of a Congress Science, Space and Technology Committee, no less); evolution, embryology and the Big Bang Theory are “lies from the pit of hell” (Paul Broun, member of George’s state version of the committee, among others); and pregnancy through rape is god’s gift (presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who said he’d say the same thing if his daughter was impregnated through rape, so at the very least he’s consistent).

Obama, on the other hand, represents (or at least represented) a progressive breath of fresh air for many different groups once, or still, ‘marginalised’ in America, without doing so at the expense of the white minority. And he backs it up with sometimes costly but certainly well-intentioned policies such as food stamps, cheaper healthcare, better funding for students, research and green energy, and support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. His image is also better abroad than the home, partly thanks to some recent foreign policy gaffes from Romney. In the media- and celebrity-obsessed States, the importance of the statesman, as opposed to the bureaucrat, should not underestimated. I just hope too many don’t brand him as a useless socialist.

Who will be president…

It is frequently said no president has got re-elected with unemployment above 8%, and as such Obama has a rather sizeable noose around neck with the current rate of 8.2% (which has hovered at around the same level throughout his presidency). Romney has cleverly used these figures –usually under the more headline-grabbing 23 million unemployed– and the Reagan question – are you better off than you were four years ago? – to attack the president. Add to this a staggering $16 trillion national debt, and Romney’s quicker-fix mantra of getting business moving with less state spending and lower taxes will certainly play well to many in a notoriously passionate, optimistic country which prides itself on a kind of utopian libertarianism – which is arguably unattainable but that’s beside the point. (An American friend said something very telling recently, and only partly in jest; that in America, the Conservatives would be socialist and Labour would be communist).

But Obama has got some powerful counter-arguments in his armoury. The economy has recovered since the peak of the recession in 2008 and 2009 (though it is slowing); he saved the well-respected Detroit car manufacturing industry; he has been consistently hampered by Republicans in passing legislation, notably the Jobs bill; through no fault of his own the world is changing, with the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil and other ‘Tigers’ and ‘Lions’; and perhaps strongest of all, that “Obama was a surgeon in a crowded operating theatre who asked for a bone saw and was given a rusty scalpel”, as novelist Walter Mosley put it and Obama often reminds. With the economy the numero uno issue, for these reasons I think Obama will be given the benefit of the doubt another term…just.

Joel Durston

FA planning sinister brain implants

In Satire, Sport on October 12, 2012 at 1:30 PM

St George’s Park, the new £105m national football training centre, is secretly being used to pioneer brain implants to administer to prospective England players, TAY can exclusively reveal.

The centre is intended to be a world-class training facility to identify and train talent at all ranks of English football.

But our reporter, at the launch this week, exposed the shocking true motives for the centre, secretly recording a conversation between two scientists.

While collecting a stray ball from a journalists’ kickabout, he heard voices speaking through the wall and, as anyone good journo would do, listened in, excusing himself from the kickabout when he started to hear scandalous revelations on the centre’s true purpose.

One man speaking on the taped conversation revealed: “The money is just a ruse. Do you really think you need a hundred million bloody pounds to build some football pitches, a canteen and some jacuzzis?! I mean it’s nice, but c’mon…”

He went on to explain to another man, seemingly a new recruit to the project, how the real purpose was for the development of sinister new monitoring of players’ behaviour and lifestyle, with the intention of using findings for behavioural therapy to ameliorate the much damaged view of footballers, football authorities and the English national team.

And, in shocking revelations, he even claimed some players might be subject to new brain implants (which leave football ability intact) that they are very close to having pioneered, which make players less troublesome and more compliant.

The news follows the unveiling of a new code of conduct for current England players – a response to recent scandal surrounding the investigations into John Terry’s alleged racism, and social media hysteria about selection policy

He explained: “Think about it – we’ve been mediocre as a footballing force for so long that people are kind of resigned to that.

“Just get to some quarter finals and unluckily go out on penalties, get the odd big win against the Frogs or the Krauts and, especially with the success of the Premier League, we can just about kid ourselves we’re still a major international force, just perennially unlucky –despite the fact that supposed misfortune would surely have averaged out over THIRTY-SIX BLOODY YEARS [the time since England last won a major tournament]…

“No, what people are really so disillusioned about is this mediocrity compounded with players who are, or at least they think to be, c***s.”

He explained how, as with film stars and rock stars, no one really cares if their heroes are “wankers” so long as they are talented, indeed that it can actually boost the appeal, but the same decadent traits are poisonous when married to the “unrelenting mediocrity of English football we are bombarded with ”.

He added that the success of the Olympics – “decent people doing well” – great as it was, exacerbated the problem.

All Under-19 England players will undergo several “media training” sessions – some personal, some as a team – and a thorough ‘personality test’, under the auspices of beneficial career advice and determining suitable roommates.

But the actual primary purpose of these measures is to determine the extent of the need for behavioural therapy for players, or even brain implants, to ultimately avoid scandal for the FA (apparently not so much the players themselves, though – “if the media wasn’t on our backs like fucking leeches, we wouldn’t really give a shit what trouble some idiot from Salford does”).

The FA declined to comment.

 

We imagined what the test might look like:

1. Which most accurately describes your leisure activities?

A. Visiting art galleries, watching arthouse films, salsa.

B. Meeting mates, seeing the family, watching TV, playing Call of Duty and FIFA.

C. Getting drunk with the lads.

D. Chirpsing, cotchin’ and getting crunk.

 

2. Imagine, if you are not anyway, that you are single and in a club with your teammates. An attractive but clearly quite drunk young lady walks up to you and praises you for your performance in your last match. Do you?

A. Thank the young lady and converse with the young lady, finding out what she is like and what she does, but making it clear to her that if she has any “amorous intentions” she will disappointed. This is because you have a rule against that kind of thing when you are “dragged along” to a club by your teammates, due to the “fleeting and sordid” nature of such alcohol-influenced attachments and the perils of the “vulture-ish media and prying eyes of the public” damaging the image of the game.

B. Talk to the girl, end up kissing her and swapping numbers – but making it clear that, while you like her, you won’t take it any further until you’ve seen her a few more times and gained her trust because, “unfortunately”, you are wary of, as a time before, pictures and stories splashed in the tabloids. (Partly a genuine worry; partly a subtle request to her to be discreet).

C. Chat the girl up, end up going home with her (with your trusted cabbie, of course), while demanding several times she doesn’t sell her story to “those fucking scummy hacks”.

D. Start flirting outrageously with her from the off, aiming to be in the club toilets with her within five minutes.

 

3. Which of the below most accurately describes your views on gay marriage?

A. Passionately in favour. Love is beautiful thing and, in a true democracy, should be allowed to flourish by anyone fortunate enough to be blessed by it.

B. In favour. Don’t see a reason gay people shouldn’t be allowed to be as miserable as the rest of us.

C. Errrrm, ok, as long as they shove it anyone’s faces.

D. Weird. What’s wrong with pussy, man?! And won’t this means that AIDS will spread…

 

4. Which of the below most accurately describes your views on the EU?

A.  In favour. It has its negatives but the aim of greater political and economic consensus is a noble, and generally beneficial, one.

B. Dunno really. It’s a tough one. I hear it creates a lot of business, but it’s bloody expensive and they have some stupid regulations.

C.  It’s bollocks. Too many bloody foreign bureaucrats meddling in our business, and getting paid loads for it too.

D. The what?! Oh yeah, that thing…errr, I don’t really do politics, geez.

 

5. Which of the below most accurately describes your current relationship status?

A. Blissfully in love.

B. Single and looking for a relationship if you find the right person OR been going out with someone for a while and it’s going pretty well; just taking each day as it comes.

C. Single; you want to have fun while you’re young.

D. ‘On the prowl’

 

6. A bloke comes up to you in a club, clearly pissed, fairly aggressive saying you were “shit” last week. Do you…

A. Try to engage the chap in a epistemological discussion on the nature of perception, of which you believe society, and it seems him, has an overly restrictive view.

B. Admit that it wasn’t your best game, but state you will put it right next game.

C. Proudly defend yourself by citing your record of goals and assists record for that season.

D. Declare that the man is “talking shit”, list all your footballing and sexual achievements, and then aggressively question what said man has ever done with his life, while preparing yourself for a possible fight.

 

7. Football is…

A. A wonderful pastime which brings people together and fosters togetherness and inclusion between different people.

B. Dunno. Never really thought about it. A good game, I suppose.

C. A great sport, and cracking banter with the lads.

D. Something to show your tekkers and pull the honeyz.

 

8. Your fairly serious girlfriend confesses to you that she has been seeing another man for a while but that it is over, she regrets and still loves you. Do you?

A. Thank her for her honesty and sincerity; state that you are disappointed she broke your trust; discuss reasonably what led to her to the cheating; suggest how, despite no allusions to such from her, her actions represent a statement against the  “oppressive and outdated societal norm of monogamy”; and explore the possibility of an open relationship.

B. Call her a bitch, walk out of the room and say you need some time to think.

C. Call her a slut, leave the room slamming the door, call the lads for an emergency booze up and hit the town, aiming to pull a girl and send your (now undeniably ex-) girlfriend a spiteful picture message of the conquest (if fit enough to prove a point) in the morning.

D. Call her a “fuckin’ money-grabbing whore”, leave the room slamming the door, mouth off about her on several tweets tagging her and her friends (who you have had an eye on anyway) hoping for moral vindication, with a view to bedding said friends and sending your (now undeniably ex-) girlfriend – and everyone else –pictorial evidence of the revenge on social media.

 

9. Which of the below most accurately describes your diet?

A. I like to cook a wide range of foods from across the globe, so long as there’s no meat. I’m cooking a lot of Lebanese food at present.

B. Just normal stuff really. Try to eat healthy because of the job obviously; pasta, chicken, fish and stuff and I must admit some pizza and ready meals and stuff sometimes.

C. Whatever the woman cooks – or takeaways.

D. “The Holy Trinity” – Maccy D’s, Burger King and KFC.

 

10. Which of the below most accurately describes your view of the FA?

A. A bit bureaucratic and hierarchical, but generally for a noble purpose.

B. Good, I suppose.

C. Some of ‘em are decent, but a load of bloody jumped-up bureaucrats intruding in our business because they’re jealous they never had any tekkers.

D. Wankers; always complaining about me and fining me cos I speaks my mind and live my life.

 

11. Which of the below most accurately describes your taste in music?

A. Nu-jazz, pyschadelica, post-funk. Don’t like too much in the charts. World music and classical.

B. A bit of everything really. You listen to Radio 1 on the way to training.

C. Dance and rap mostly.

D. Rap and grime. You do your own raps actually.

 

12. You have just come in to your club to have a meeting with the manager and are told to wait in the little room outside his office. There is a selection of papers on the table. Do you?

A. Pick up The Guardian and start reading it front to back.

B. Have a quick scan of the front pages, then turn to the back pages and see what takes your interest.

C. Pick up The Sun, have a look at pages 1 and 3, then turn to the back page.

D. You don’t read papers as you don’t “do all that political shit” and “journalists are lying c***s”. Instead you are playing Angry Birds and messaging some ‘honeyz’.

 

13. Your club offers you a new contract and you think you deserve more than the than they offered. Do you?

A. Consider that money is only a means to an end, you are in a very privileged position, and you are happy with your life, so accept the contract while politely asking if the club can pay an extra £5,000 a week, which you feel you ‘deserve’, to charity in your and their name.

B. Discuss with your agent that it is not great, but that you are otherwise happy at the club and therefore resolve to go into further negotiations reasonably, with the idea that you will ultimately take the contract regardless.

C. Immediately get on the blower to your agent and express your displeasure and get him to say the “bloody pen-pushers” that a lot of other clubs would pay more…

D. Immediately call up the manager and start abusing him for his “disgrace of an offer” and bragging about your talents, tweet about your anger under the hashtag #disgrace, call up that journo friend of yours at The Sun to get the story out to attract potential buyers, and call up Fergie to see what he can offer you…

 

The results

Mostly As – Obviously a very cultured, politically engaged individual, and likely to deal with the viccisitudes of top-level football, and all the crap that goes with it, with equanimity many don’t possess. Only problem is, he might just be a bit too cultured and intellectual to really get on with his teammates if he makes it to England level.

Mostly Bs – No issues here; balanced in his opinions, level-headed enough to deal with the responsibility and potential pitfalls of fame, but not averse to a few laughs. Normal lad, all in all.

Mostly Cs – A bit gauche for some people, perhaps, but not a bad bloke. Potentially a bit rash in his judgements and decision-making, so could lead to a bit of media trouble, but should be ok with a bit of intensive “media training”.

Mostly Ds – An Ashley Cole in the making. Lobotomise the moron.

Joel Durston