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Something For The Weekend (91)



By Steve Wade

I really like stuff about robots. From Hal to the Terminator, I am a sucker for the stuff. I liked I Robot with Will Smith and Westworld is pretty good too. Its only when I examine my objections to Star Wars, where the robots are rubbish and Luke Skywalker (Villa's new 'star' striker) is a better shot than his machine, that I understand why. All heroes have robotic qualities.
John Wayne mostly played a robot - despite the walk - and even Hannibal Lecter was a robot, albeit a robot who liked to eat. And I can't leave out Sherlock Holmes and Mr Spock - that just wouldn't be right. Even Lynn
Belvedere but you wouldn't remember him.

There seems to be a consensus that we generally prefer the flawed robot to the rest. Creatures who reflect our own inner struggle. The Christian struggles with his original sin; the Muslim with his inner jihad. Bertrand
Russell expressed it succinctly for the secular, when he said: 'Man is born in chains but can become free; not by being casual or uncontrolled but by subduing wayward impulses to a dominant purpose'. For the rest of us, all
this means is getting out of bed in the morning and not spending all your money on beer, porn and sports cars. If you don't know what the dominant purpose is, you should really listen to your missus more carefully.

So it seems that self-control is admired the world over and the miserable struggle of man's two natures, is universally acknowledged. While South American Indians chew on psychotropic roots somewhere in the Amazon basin
and test their will against its powers, British boozers (of a certain generation) do their best to avoid revealing the damage done by ten pints of brown and mild on a Saturday night. In both cases, a test of individual will is in play. Oh the shame of being branded, as one, who succumbs to the mere sniff of the barmaid's apron. What form the p**s-taking takes in the Amazon basin, I have no idea, but I bet it is just as hard to live down.

Alas, the younger generation have different rules but as they have more control imposed upon them at work, as they sit in their call-centres or offices under constant electronic scrutiny (now lacking even the right to strike as a safety-valve), it is not surprising that they have to demonstrate their freedom by mooning and puking, at every opportunity. But if they are willing to succumb to the demand, that they should never leave a telephone ringing for more than seventeen seconds, while reciting the company mantras that it is a good idea, then they too are all too well acquainted with the notion of self-control.

It usually turns out to be an unequal struggle and most of us lose the battle; we all succumb in the end. But you can't help but admire those who hang in there the longest.

Sport is an arena where self-control is tested under public gaze and there seems no tougher test than modern football with all its pressures and temptations. Those who seem to be admired the most in the game, seem to be
able to combine admirable execution of their skills, with astonishing self-control. Those, generally despised, are those most prone to giving in to the ignoble impulse or childish caprice, which makes them no more worthy of admiration or public acclaim, than the rest of us. They seem to negate the whole point of the professional game.

There's Robbie Savage for instance, who was back playing the other week, within two days after starring in his own tragedy, while being carried from the pitch, after he had successfully got Ferdinand sent-off. Quite a nice
piece of theatrics from Robbie but obviously not his best. But tucked-up under the blanket, on the stretcher, with his little teddy cradled in his arms, as he bravely fought back the tears, was a pretty good attempt. And I
am sure Oscars will be handed out this year for less convincing performances. I have to admit that Robbie is just not my kind of actor and United's Van the Man, gets all the plaudits for his ability to keep a poker-face, as far as I'm concerned. When it comes to Van, he can kick Ashley Cole or tread on Savage's head and keep his face so straight, he might have overdosed on botox.

Managers are something else again and I was pretty impressed with Wenger the other week, when he so sympathetically dealt with Sol Campbell's flounce. He
seemed to understand that his duty lay with the player and his club and totally refused to turn into Norma Desmond as soon as he heard the camera-man shout 'action'. I could not help but remember how John Gregory had dealt with Collymore and make a negative comparison. I was even impressed with Villa's David O'Leary this week, when he had the wherewithal to suggest his very own absconder, Djemba-Djemba, might get a game if he decided to turn up.

It was all the more impressive of O'Leary because he can't resist the blandishments of a man with a camera and a cuddly toy on the end of a long stick. And, you kind of expect him to say: 'Good night and God bless, you've been a lovely audience', at the end of a press conference. But for once, he swapped self-promotion for pragmatism and it served him rather better I thought - even if I didn't believe a word of it.

Football managers are really expected to behave like robots and while fans will forgive a player just about anything, as long as they perform, managers are judged by a different set of rules entirely. Take O'Leary and the afore mentioned Djemba-Djemba for instance, the fans' differing expectations could not be more glaring. Both the player and the manager get around a million a
year for their trouble (20k a week) but while this is a source of outrage for the fans and is the basis for demands of Champions League qualification, as regards David O'Leary and the license for no little amount of vitriol; they make no such demands, or offer no such vitriol to the player, who is obviously doing rather less for the club, in exchange for his million. Even
Doug Ellis does more for his money than Djemba-Djemba.

But come Saturday, I hope Villa's defence plays like robots, the midfield like artists and Luke Skywalker shoots better than the Psycho machine.

May the force be with him!
The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday February 17 2006

Time: 11:46PM

 

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