As Terry Pratchett once noted, in the modern world cleanliness rarely appears next to godliness, except in the most severely-abridged of dictionaries, but there may still be one place where being keen to be clean will ensure your survival. In sport, the word can have a subtly different definition depending on the area it is being used for, but there are few if any areas these days that openly celebrate being ‘dirty’ or slovenly as the original sermon went. Wesley might not have meant to of course, but in coining his famous phrase (or at least purloined from what was apparently intended in Leviticus) he has given us a fun way to compare some of the most talked-about sportsmen over the last few weeks, and their relative levels of divinity.
The first man, who is so clean and godlike that he may as well be the bastard lovechild of Jesus and Mr Muscle, is Usain Bolt, recently crowned world champion and all-around saviour of the world of running, jumping, throwing and so on. Having not really set tracks on fire this year, he went to the World Championships in Beijing with two-time convicted doper Justin Gatlin between him and another title, and just about managed to squeeze past the chemically-enhanced American before the 100m were up, to the delight of almost everyone. We can assume whatever morally bankrupt person keeps selecting people like Gatlin and Tyson Gay to wear the stars and stripes was unhappy that his ‘man’ came second, but it was clear from the relief in Steve Cram’s voice and the eruption of noise that the rest of the world felt they really could only worship a man if he has not be sullied.
At the other end of the scale, and maybe in the ‘down below’ section of the afterlife in this metaphor, is Sepp Blatter, the suited Satan of Switzerland and man most likely to be called a slimy scumbag with no retort. Today, following proven allegations that show how Blatter has once again allowed the body he runs to become so mired in corruption that what once was an acronym is now a punchline, he declared himself ‘clean’. Cue laughter from the galleries, and probably a nice letter of support from Jack Warner, but the public view him as grubby like we mentioned, and as a result wants him out of the sport forever, right now, if not sooner.
These are only two examples really, but the thought can be stretched to include the likes of John Terry, Leo Messi or anyone else. When we were kids, the player you loved was just the one you thought best, even if it was Karl Malone, Ryan Giggs or some other person that was generally known to be black of heart, because all you understood was the game itself. Sadly though, as an adult you are bombarded with information about people that changes your perception regardless of their ability, and means people in sport have a stark truth to face, that they may be more loved for how they seem than how they perform, although in Bolt’s case he has the total package. For Blatter, sitting on massive FIFA profits and a booming game with record revenue, it must feel strange to have that success and still be condemned, but he may be so warm and content in his lair downstairs by this point that he can’t even hear the cries of the damned.
Image credit: Thor Matthiasson