x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Alleged slur by John Terry more stupid than hurtful

The racist sentiment behind his words for Anton Ferdinand itself defies logic but a trial to deliver justice does not, writes Chuck Culpepper.

Whether John Terry shows genuine disdain for racism or is disingenuous about it during the trial will determine whether he is a leader. Andrew Cowie / AFP
Whether John Terry shows genuine disdain for racism or is disingenuous about it during the trial will determine whether he is a leader. Andrew Cowie / AFP

It remains possible that John Terry was never really too much of a leader, but that he might have resembled a leader, so that people thought him a leader such that even new teammates believed him a leader, in which case he might have become somewhat a leader.

Repeatedly he has shown conspicuous aspects of a non-leader, but he might end up being a "leader" in the same way reality-show contestants are famous for being famous.

If everybody thinks it, maybe it's true.

It's an eternal puzzler.

If this sounds farcical, it would not be lonely there. Terry showed up yesterday for court in a softening pink tie that may or may not have stemmed from the recommendation of a PR handler. As he works a task humanity deems invaluable – preventing goals – some fans outside bleated their love, proving again the adage from the comedian Jerry Seinfeld that some fans cheer for "laundry" (blue, in this case) and don't much care who wears it.

Even if somehow the laundry could move around and prevent goals on its own, they would cheer for that.

Come to think of it, that would solve a lot of issues in sport.

According to photographs, one man held a life-sized Terry poster containing the words "World Loves You". Evidence of the untruth of that poster remain available in voluminous precincts, including most of Manchester, much of Liverpool, a lot of North London, the Sanchez household of Barcelona and the Bridge household of Brighton.

In testimony, Anton Ferdinand revealed to the earnest listeners that on the pitch, being called the ugliest word in the English language is OK by itself, not a problem. Nobody should faint over this revelation, and everybody knows it's probably pretty much Scorsese out there during matches, but it was good to get it on the august record.

At one point, Ferdinand said Terry "barged me in the back for no reason", and the Sanchez household plus a gigantic television viewing audience can attest to the plausibility of that even without video footage.

It also came out again that, after the match last October 23 between Chelsea and QPR, Ashley Cole said to Ferdinand, "You can't talk to JT like that", and it certainly does have its allure, living in a world with Ashley Cole as moralist. Why can't you talk to JT like that, about his past indiscretions of sleeping with a former teammate's former partner? Is it because you shouldn't, or is it because everybody says you shouldn't?

Still, the farce aspect does have its limits, for while you rationally might call it farcical to investigate so carefully an utterance in a free society, that argument loses under careful consideration.

And as a lighter byproduct of this important work, we might get fresh clues for the puzzle of whether Terry is a leader of men. To a libertarian, it might sound daunting that a guy gets hauled into court for saying something that hurts somebody else. People should expect, through life, to hear hurtful things, and people would be better off if they could learn to toughen themselves and manage the pain.

But even if you take the M25 around all considerations of political correctness here, you still arrive at a place where the British culture has respectable intentions. The charge of "racially aggravated public order offence" might carry a possible fine of only £2,500 (Dh14,000), but the culture clearly will stand to combat the deathless idiocy of racism.

Even if this winds up extending no effective example to the impressionable young, it remains worth a try with the impressionable young in mind.

For even if we bypass the hurtfulness of racism that Ferdinand described, we still get to the stunning inanity of it: its ludicrous caste system, its ignorance of merit, its built-in confession that any achievements by a person holding such views ring hollow because they clearly think they had a built-in advantage from the get-go. Their kind of thinking, in turn, has forged a long history of bloodshed.

We should hate the hurt and hate more the stupidity. If we're that dumb as a species, there's really no hope for us.

The cost of the trial fades next to the cost of the thinking examined in the trial.

That's where Ferdinand's assertion that the ugliest word in the English language is innocuous, but the infusion of race is not, finds its rationale.

In defence, Terry called his obvious, lip-read passage a "sarcastic exclamation" repeating Ferdinand's mistaken accusation that Terry had used the words.

Whether he is a leader might hinge upon whether he mounts this defence based upon a disdain for racism itself or a wish to preserve his name and future endorsements. We might never know, but there's a chance we might guess.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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