EDDIE JONES – ALAS – COPS SEVERAL MOUTHFULS FROM FOUR INEBRIATED SCOTS AT A MANCHESTER RAILWAY STATION POST ENGLAND’S CALCUTTA CUP DEFEAT. TIME – YET AGAIN – TO ASK WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF PUBLIC OPINION?
‘Baldy C**t’? Seriously? Is that really the best they could come up with? Yes, okay, in their defence they were (a) pissed and (b) pressed for time given Eddie was walking to his car and trying to drive away. But ‘Baldy C**t’? Here – clearly – are four oafs who don’t read a lot of Shakespeare. Truly, when the drink is in, the wit is out.
Presumably you’ve seen the video and – like the rest of us – winced at the unremitting ugliness of it. If you haven’t, the footage shows England Head Coach, Eddie Jones, being press-ganged into a photograph outside a Manchester railway station with a couple of young, drunk Scotsmen who’re then joined by two more young, drunk Scotsmen who, together, then jostle and abuse Jones as he gets into a car and drives off. ‘Baldy C**t’; ‘Baldy F**king C**t’. Well, yes, it was lovely to meet you, too.
Look, we can probably argue all night about whether Gavin Hastings is guilty of fanning the flames by personalising the Calcutta Cup confrontation – ‘rub Eddie Jones’ nose in the dirt’ – or whether Simon Berghan should’ve engaged his brain before he opened his mouth and talked about the ‘hate’ or – even – whether the Scottish rugby team should have Twittered a delirious, dressing room portrait entitled ‘Freeeeeedom’.
And, while we were there, we could also debate whether Eddie Jones – as forthright, on occasions, as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick – has the right to point the finger at any of the above. Hopefully, though, we’d all agree that – whatever your view of the prickly Australian – he has the right to take a train or walk from the station concourse to a car without being taunted by a gang of wasted rednecks.
But what definitely is worth discussing – preferably in the company of an expert in a long, crisply-laundered, white coat – is how you define this kind of behaviour. Jeering Jones, jostling Jones, yes, that’s abhorrent, it’s contemptible but at least it’s explicable; namely, drunken louts who urgently need a lesson in respect and manners. Alas, we’ve all come across them.
But they asked for a photograph. They handed their phones to Jones’ driver and draped their arms around him, literally, embracing both the man and the moment. ‘Look, look, it’s me and Eddie. It’s us and someone much more famous and successful than us.’ And Jones, being a regular kind of Aussie – and, let’s be honest, alone, outnumbered and probably thinking ‘what’s the easiest way out of here given these guys are as drunk as skunks?’ – politely, awkwardly obliges them before heading to his car.
Whereupon his new-found friends – suddenly, spectacularly and in the space of about five seconds – became his tormentors. I’m not a student of schizophrenic personality disorders – hence the need for some input from the expert in the long, crisply-laundered white coat – but, surely, this must be some sort of record? Five seconds from, ‘hoi, come here while we get a picture with ye, Big Man’ to ‘hoi, yer Baldy F**king C**t’? Granted, Special Brew is a heady concoction but surely we’re talking something beyond premium-strength lager and more akin to some kind of deep-rooted psychosis?
Or perhaps the simpler answer is that this is what the age of social media has spawned; a disaffected, dysfunctional, delusional class of people who can’t decide whether they love celebrity or loathe it. I aspire to be successful slash glamorous slash famous, I crave it, I admire it, I want to associate myself with it, have my picture taken standing next to it outside railway stations and yet, at the same time, I’m pointless, I’m talentless, I’m bitter, I’m drunk and I’ve as much chance of being Eddie Jones, or being someone as successful as Eddie Jones, or as talented as Eddie Jones as I have of driving to Jupiter in a Ford Cortina so, ‘oi, Eddie, yer a baldy f**cking c**t, f**k off.’
As Barbara Ellen pointed out in ‘The Guardian’ the other day, anybody who is anybody has had to deal with this kind of – as she described it – ‘mob malice’ either directly or, more often, indirectly online. Jennifer Lawrence, once upon a not-so-very-long-time-ago, was gorgeous, funny, hugely talented and a breath of fresh air. Personally, I don’t see what’s changed.
Except that she made an innocuous gag at Joanna Lumley’s expense at the BAFTAs – ‘stuck up brat’ – and then wore a Versace gown to an open-air photo-shoot in the middle of February for her latest film ‘Red Sparrow’ – ‘flashing her boobs instead of wearing a jumper’ – and was slated for doing both on so-called social media. What – I ask you – gives people the seemingly inalienable right to share their anonymous, unsolicited spite?
The irony was that Eddie Jones was in Manchester as a guest of a Scot, namely Sir Alex Ferguson who’d invited him to Old Trafford for the game against Chelsea. You wonder what Ferguson would have felt had he seen the footage of Jones’ reception in his adopted city. Acutely embarrassed, you’d imagine. But, then again, you don’t need to be a straight-thinking Scot to watch that video with curled toes; just a straight-thinking human being.
Eddie Jones says that’s the last time he’s using public transport and who can blame him? He was, he says, abused on the journey from Edinburgh to Manchester, again in Manchester – as we’ve seen – and yet again on the trip from Manchester to London, an assault that’s under investigation by the British Transport Police. Hopefully they’ll identify all these curs and churls and stick them in the stocks alongside large baskets of rotting greengroceries so the rest of us can wander past at our leisure and return the compliment. Please, form an orderly queue.
But in the wider context, what’s the solution? Accountability seems to be the obvious answer. You have an opinion? No problem. But be prepared to take ownership of it, to put your name and address to it, to sign for it on the dotted line and, if asked, to answer for it once you’ve sobered up. Otherwise, just keep quiet and leave Eddie alone. No one’s interested in what moral cowardice has to say.
04 MARCH 2018