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The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

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Category: sport (page 2 of 2)

Rugger Buggers & Swinging Dicks

In the Middle Ages, sodomy was thought to be caused not by hair whorls, but by drunkenness. As this spornographic clip shows, they were absolutely right.

The post-match beery bonding of the lovely lads of Sandbach RUFC – which, be warned, includes very male nudity, heavy petting and male-on-male snogging – made me feel faint with jealousy. And also faintly redundant.

These straight lads’ eagerness to perform their manly love for one another in front of UK TV cameras (for an instalment of an ITV2 series last month called ‘Generation Xcess’) does away with the need for my:

  • essay on hazing, in which I argued that male bonding is deeply homoerotic, but that despite this it is not a ‘gay’ thing – it’s a ‘guy’ thing
  • pointing out the size queenery of straight men.
  • explaining how little purchase the Phalliban has in the UK – compared to the US where it has a tighter grip than Captain Tim’s team-mates have on his ‘massive cock’
  • arguing that homoerotic fantasy that Sporno advertising sells us is not entirely baseless
  • responding to those who adamantly refuse to believe that straight men could get naked with one another on camera and play with each other’s dangly bits when offered lots of cash. (These ones did it for a few beers.)

Instead of all my scribbling, I just needed to take a video camera to a pub in Sandbach on Saturday night and buy a few rounds. It would have been a lot more fun too.

Funny that this should have surfaced around the same time as this spornographic ad campaign for Paris – which after the salty mantics of Sandbach RUFC now looks like a slightly coy promotion for a copycat programme featuring a less attractive, less ballsy team. Perhaps the most ‘touching’ part of all this groping is the way this (highly successful) team of rugger buggers refuse to be embarrassed by the naughty clips the programme makers make them watch in the cold-sober light of day. Instead they seem quite proud.

But then, they have much to be proud of. Especially their Captain. Alas, I suspect that some – gay and straight – spiteful members of the Great British Public who saw the doc did their best to make these young men feel ashamed for being ‘gay’ with one another – to make them feel ashamed, in fact, for being fit, boisterous lads full of life, laughs, spunk and puppyish enthusiasm for masculinity.

Actually, the more I think about it – and what I’m missing – I’m beginning to feel spiteful too…. Criminally though, the clip ends before the programme does. Anyone have the final segment? Or a better quality version? As the completely unabashed grinning donkey-hung, bubble-butted Captain Tim says, ‘We should watch that again.’

Update: I’ve just been informed that a better quality clip is available, along with rather a lot of other athletes showing off their, er, sporting prowess, at the premium adult site: www.ruggerbugger.com

It's a Queer World

Deviant Adventures in Pop Culture

Saint Morrissey

The acclaimed ‘psycho-bio’ of England’s most charming – and alarming – pop star.

Metrosexy

A biography of the metrosexual.

By his dad.

End of Gays?

What’s left of gayness when the homophobia stops?

Male Impersonators

The book that changed the way the world looks at men.

Sex Terror

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

Arise, Sir David – and show us your legs

david_beckham-legs-up.jpg

The Times of London argues, in a lengthy and quite serious piece by Matthew Syed, that David Beckham deserves a knighthood not so much for being a great footballer but rather for being ‘the prime catalyst in the metrosexual revolution.’

So Becks deserves to be awarded the highest honour in the land and made a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter for preening, posing, and symbolically waving his legs in the air and showing an entire generation how to wave their legs in the air too?

Seems fair enough.

After all, unlike most knights he’ll look great in stockings.

England’s new sporno kit sensation

strettle.jpg

The new England rugby strip, launched for this year’s World Cup, somehow manages to be even tighter than the last, launched just four years ago to massed gasps. Are our lads going to be able to breath in? Are we going to be able to breathe out?

What’s more, it has an added sash/arrow plunging from armpit down to large, firm thigh, as demonstrated by the very lovely young David Strettle, pictured left (snapped dancing on a spotlit podium at Heaven nightclub). Is it just me, or does it seem to shout: ‘If You Wanna Score – Flip Me Over!’?

Apparently the new strip’s ‘asymmetric’ design will confuse opposing players. I could make the obvious joke that they won’t know whether to tackle them or kiss them. But then, why can’t you do both? (I certainly find this a very effective tactic with rugby players myself.) The way things are going it can only be a matter of time before this approach becomes compulsory.

So instead I’ll point out that if there’s any truth to the science of eye-tracking, which suggests that most men like to look at other men’s packets rather lingeringly, our opponents’ main confusion with that ‘dressing to the left’ pendulous arrow will be working out where to actually locate our boys’ tackle.

[See how the meaning of ‘rugby shirt’ has changed over the years from ‘baggy beer towel’ to ‘gay disco cocktail top’.]

Sulking caused England’s World Cup meltdown

david-beckham-11.jpgIt’s official: footballers really are Spice Girls now.

According to this report, it seems our lads’ disastrous World Cup performance was caused by the green eyed goddess.  Apparently they were upset that their captain David Beckham was getting all the attention – they were so distressed by this terrible injustice that they forgot to play football.  For their country.

Admittedly, thirty-something Becks is a little mutton-dressed-as-lamb now.  

Especially compared to some of the other tarty young(er) bucks on the England squad.  Fabulous Frankie ‘Legs’ Lampard, for instance, is more appetisiing, more edible, more melt-in-the-mouth, more pop-tastic.  I’d throw my knickers at him anytime.  lampard-legs.jpg

So I can understand why some of the boys feel hurt.

All the same, England’s Spice Boys should be patient and accept that in the world of showbiz there has to be one frontman – and Becks has the global fan-base and facial recognition.  And he is better looking than Geri.

Besides, everyone agrees that since he left the group England’s footballing boyband have been even more rubbish live.

Tip: Angophenia

England’s cricketers in snogging shocker!

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Yesterday’s Daily Mirror, Britain’s second most popular newspaper, and supposedly the ‘progressive’ tab compared to The Sun, carried a special treat for its readers. On the front page of thisfamily paper was a picture of hunky England cricketers Jon Lewis and Jimmy Anderson moving in for a tasty tongue sandwich.

The huge headline shrieked ‘CAUGHT‘ while the tantalising bold strapline below the image announced with historic signficance: ‘England World Cup Cricketers’ night of shame.’

This just gets hotter and hotter! God Bless the British tabs! They really know how to work up a man-love story.

So, pulse quickening, upper lip moistening, I flicked hurriedly to pages 4 and 5 for the ‘AMAZING EXCLUSIVE PICTURES AND FULL STORY’.

STREWTH! Imagine a nation’s disappointment! All the sods offered was a b/w snap of Anderson planting a wet one on Lewis’ cheek and some other snaps of bog-standard drunken lads behaviour, some involving random bimbos. WOT A FLOP!! England’s recent poor peformance on the pitch is as nothing compared to this.

Things were so bad I had to resort to reading the copy:

ENGLAND’s boozed-up cricket stars shamed themselves during an eight-hour bender just 24 hours before their World Cup match against Canada.

Fans watched appalled as Jimmy Anderson, Jon Lewis, Liam Plunkett and Ian Bell downed endless spirits and bottles of Piton beer, shouted and screamed, serenaded tourists and drunkenly kissed each other.

The disgraceful antics led to the four players being fined and Freddie Flintoff – who had to be rescued at sea after capsizing a pedalo – being stripped of the vice-captaincy.

Flintoff said last night: “To my team mates and the England supporters I’m extremely sorry.” Yesterday England put up a feeble performance against Canada, one of the weakest teams in the tournament.

No doubt the ‘feeble performance’ was down to all that snogging one another.

andrewflintoffheadshoulders.jpgFreddie, stripped or not, was not seen in the ‘appalling’ and ‘disgraceful’ antics which most preoccupied The Mirror. Which is a shame, because he looks like a good man-snogger to me.

Whether or not Freddie & Co. deserved to be punished for getting pissed up on a school night I can’t say, but I think the editor of the Mirror should definitely be fined for being such a shameless and ‘appalling’ pricktease.

I’m sure they must have snaps of the England cricketers snogging properly and manfully with tongues and everything, but they didn’t print them. (And if they didn’t snog one another properly then England really is in trouble.) Perhaps they were considered ‘too shocking’ for Mirror readers. But then, the same paper had no problems with printing colour pictures of Madonna implanting an Alien baby in Britney’s chest cavity at the MTV Awards.

Young English straight men can’t stop snogging one another when they get bladdered. It’s one of the main reasons for getting bladdered in the first place. Trust me, I’ve made a study of these things. I have stood in a bar watching rugby teams French kissing one another in a way that puts the heavy petting in gay bars to shame and wondering when I was going to self-combust. I’ve regularly seen battle-hardened squaddies snog one another in pubs in garrison towns, eyes closed, for longer than I can hold my breath, often in front of their bored girlfriends.

Next time, I’m taking pictures of these shameful antics so you too can be appalled.

Beckham the Virus (Goes To Hollywood)

So David Beckham, the uber-metrosexual, the photogenic English athlete who transfigured himself from mere professional soccer player into global me-dia, is leaving Real Madrid Football Club, his home for the past three years, and is now heading for the City of Signs.

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Beckham became a Hollywood footballer years ago (around about the time of my essay ‘Beckham the Virus’, posted below).  Certainly his bosses at Real Madrid seem to have found Becks more style than substance.

But in a metrosexualised world style is almost everything now.  Even and especially in the world of men’s sports. This is why his lack-lustre performance on the pitch during his time in Spain didn’t prevent his agent landing him a $1M a week salary at Los Angeles Galaxy – the biggest world sports deal ever.

Galaxy, like Real, have paid a hefty premium for Beckham’s unrivalled merchandising power. Galaxy also believe, to the tune of a million bucks a week, that Beckham can seduce America, so long peevishly resistant to the sweaty, clean-limbed – and increasingly coquettish – charms of soccer, and ‘open up’ a spectacularly lucrative new young male market in the US.

Whether or not he succeeds, America had better get ready for a little more soccer and a lot more metrosexuality and Sporno. It was back in 2002 that the US was introduced to metrosexuality and its poster-boy, David Beckham (by, erm, me: ‘Meet the metrosexual’), and look what happened then. With Becks actually residing and playing in the US the results could be climactic.

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America and Hollywood, so long at the cutting edge of commodifying masculinity, have fallen behind much of the rest of the world in that regard since the 1990s. Incredible as it may sound, American masculinity needs some tarty tips on how to tart it out more. Enter Becks, the tartiest tart in Tart-Town.

This is why Beck’s friendship with Hollywood’s box-office king/queen Tom Cruise is more than just another footballer going celebrity chumming.  Cruise, the all-American Dream-boy gone wrong, needs Becks more than Becks needs Cruise who is now globally rather less popular than Becks. Because this is about media power rather than political or military power, that’s to say the New Power, it’s the inverse relationship of Bush and Blair.

Britain meanwhile will enviously and resentfully watch his every move reflected across the pond, and start to feel like it’s missing out. And then Becks, currently out of favour here, partly because of last year’s World Cup disaster but mostly because we don’t forgive him for moving to Spain three years ago, will be back in vogue.

We Brits are fickle like that.

 —-

becks-3.jpgBECKHAM, THE VIRUS

He’s one of the most famous humans who has ever lived — even though he’s not that cute, not that smart and not that great a soccer player.

By Mark Simpson

(Originally appeared on Salon, June 28, 2003)

It hasn’t been like this since the death of Diana. Britain has been suffering from a national nervous breakdown ever since David Beckham, handsome icon of the Manchester United soccer team, announced last week that he was leaving to play for Real Madrid.

The Sun, the best-selling UK tabloid, set up a Beckham “grief helpline” and claims it has been swamped with calls from distressed fans. One caller said he was considering suicide, while several confessed that they were so upset they couldn’t perform in bed. A man who has “Beckham” tattooed on his arm threatened to cut if off. “I cried myself to sleep after hearing the awful news,” said grandmother Mary Richards, age 85. A London cabby, ever the voice of reason, asked, “Has the world gone mad? He’s only a footballer!” But he was mistaken. A footballer is now the least of what David Beckham is.

In the era of soccer that will come to be known as B.B. – Before Beckham – the sport was a team game. What mattered was the club, the team and the player in that order. Then in the mid-1990s, David Beckham — or “Becks” as he is known in that familiar, affectionately foreshortened form with which the British like to address their working class heroes — came along, flicked his (then) Diana-style blond fringe and changed the face of soccer. It wasn’t his legendary right foot that altered the game, but his photogenic face — and the fact that he used it to become one of the most recognizable, richest and valuable athletes in the world, receiving a salary of $8 million per year, earning at least $17 million more in endorsements and commanding a record transfer fee for his move to Real Madrid of $41.6 million.

Beckham’s greatest value is his crossover appeal – he interests not only those who have no interest in the club for which he plays, but those who have no interest in soccer. He is the most recognized sportsman in Asia, where soccer is still relatively new. Possibly only Buddha himself is better known – though Beckham is catching up there too: In Thailand someone has already fashioned a golden “Becks” Buddha. He’s even managed to interest Americans, for God’s sakes. The 27-year-old, tongue-tied, surprisingly shy working-class boy from London’s East End has succeeded in turning the mass, global sport of soccer into a mass, global promotional vehicle for himself, reproducing his image in countless countries. He has turned himself into a soccer virus, one that has infected the media, replicating him everywhere, all over the world, endlessly, making him one of the most famous men that has ever lived.

David Beckham, in other words, is a superbrand.

In recognition of this, Becks was the first footballer ever to receive “image rights” — payment for the earning potential his image provided his club — and got them, to the tune of $33,300 a week. In fact, image rights were the main issue at stake in the record-busting six weeks of contract renegotiations he had with Manchester United last year; his worth as a player was agreed at $116,500 a week almost immediately. Then there’s that $17 million a year for endorsing such brands as Castrol, Brylcreem, Coca Cola, Vodafone, Marks & Spencer and Adidas. And Becks just keeps getting bigger. His trusty lawyers have already registered his name for products as various as perfumes, deodorants, jewelry, purses, dolls and, oh yes, soccer jerseys. Such is the power of the Beckham brand that it’s hoped it can rescue the fortunes of Marks & Spencer’s clothing (a high-end British chain that has become a byword for “dowdy”).

But alas, the brand couldn’t save murdered Suffolk girls Holly and Jessica, poignantly pictured last year in police posters in matching replicas of his No. 7 red shirt. When it was still hoped that they might be runaways, the man himself made a broadcast appeal for their return. There was the Becks, eerily right at the heart of the nation’s hopes and fears again.

a_becks_festeja_htop.jpgBeckham has even managed to brand a numeral – 7 – the number on his soccer jersey. A clause in his Manchester United contract guaranteed him No. 7, he has 7 tattooed in Roman numerals on his right forearm, his black Ferrari’s registration plate is “D7 DVB,” and his Marks and Spencer’s clothing line is branded “DB07.” He even queues at No. 7 checkout when he goes shopping. This is often interpreted as a sign of his superstitiousness, but is more an indication of his very rational grasp of the magic of branding. (He may, however, have to settle for the number 77 when he moves to Real Madrid, as the coveted 7 is already taken by Spanish superstar Raul.)

But somehow, Beckham has not yet become a victim of his own success and has managed to remain officially “cool.” Europe’s largest survey into “cool” recently found that Beckham was the “coolest” male, according to both young women and men. Beckham’s status can be attributed to his diva-esque versatility and his superbrand power: “Like Madonna he is very versatile and able to radically change his image but not alienate his audience,” says professor Carl Rohde, head of the Dutch “cool hunting” firm Signs of the Time. “He remains authentic.” Each time he goes to the hairdresser’s and has a restyle – which is alarmingly often – he ends up on the cover of every tabloid in Britain. In other words, whatever Becks does, however he wears his hair or his clothes – or, crucially, whatever product he endorses – he is saying, as Rohde puts it, “this is just another aspect of me, David Beckham. Please love me.” And, it goes without saying, buy me. And millions do.

Becks’ greatest sales success, however, was actually on the football field – though less with the ball than with the camera. He’s the most famous footballer in the world, and considered by millions to be one of the greatest footballers of all time, but arguably he’s not even a world-class player. A very fine one, to be sure, but not nearly the footballer we are supposed to think he is — not nearly the footballer we want to think he is. Sport, you might imagine, is the one area of contemporary life where hype can’t win, where results, at the end of the day, are everything. But Beckham has disproved that, has vanquished that, and represents the triumph of P.R. over … well, everything. His contribution to Manchester United was debatable. On footballing skills alone, he is arguably not worthy of playing for the English national team, let alone being its captain. However, in the last decade soccer has become part of show business and advertising.

beckham.jpgBeckham is a hybrid of pop music and football, the Spice Girl of soccer – hence his marriage to one. He is – indisputably – the captain of a new generation of photogenic, pop-tastic young footballing laddies that added boy-band value to the merchandising and media profile of soccer clubs in the 1990s.

Beckham’s footballing forte is free kicks. This is entirely appropriate, since these are, after all, among the most individualistic – and aesthetic – moments in soccer. Unlike a goal, with a free kick there’s no one passing to you, no one to share the glory with. Instead there’s practically a spotlight and a drum roll. And how he kicks! “Goldenballs” (as his wife, Victoria, aka Posh Spice, reportedly likes to call him) has impressive accuracy and his range is breathtaking – along with his famous “bending” trajectory, his kicks also have style and grace. Long arms outstretched à la Fred Astaire, wrists bent delicately upward, forward leg angled, and then – contact – and a powerful, precise, elegant thwump! and follow-through.

An Englishman shouldn’t kick a ball like this. This is the way that Latins kick the ball. Beckham doesn’t just represent the aestheticization of soccer that has occurred in a media-tised world – he is the aestheticization of it. Like his silly hairdos, like his “arty” tattoos, like the extraordinarily elaborate post-goal celebrations he practices with the crowd, almost everything he does on the field is designed to remind you that No. 7 is anything but a number.

Off the soccer field Becks is able to use clothes and accessories to draw attention to himself. And does he. The Versace suits, the sarong, and the sequined track suit that opened the Commonwealth Games dazzled TV audiences and confused some foreign viewers who still thought the queen of England was a middle-aged woman. Essentially, Beckham’s visual style is “glam” – more Suede than Oasis (with a bit of contemporary R&B pop promo thrown in). And like glam rock, which was a British working-class style running riot in the decade of his birth, the 1970s, Beckham, the son of Leytonstone proletarians, has a clear image of himself as working-class royalty, the new People’s Princess (though his “superbrand” power has as yet been unable to sell us his wife, who, post-Spice Girls, remains unpopular and unsuccessful). Hence his wedding took place in a castle; at the reception afterward Posh and Becks were ensconced in matching His ‘n’ Hers thrones, and their Hertfordshire home was dubbed “Beckingham Palace” by the tabloids.

Soccer, like pop music, is one of the few ways the British are permitted any success — it is, after all, something both manual and aristocratic at the same time. Becks the football pop star represents and advertises a materialistic aspirationalism that doesn’t appear bourgeois.

Beckham’s tattoos – a literal form of branding – seem to epitomize this. What were once badges of male working-class identity are now ways of advertising the unique Becks brand. “Although it hurts to have them done, they’re there forever and so are the feelings behind them,” Becks has explained. But these are not the kind of “Mum & Dad Always” tattoos his plumber dad and his mates might have had. The huge, shaven-headed, open-armed, “guardian angel” with an alarmingly well-packed loincloth on his back looks more than a little like himself with a Jesus complex. Beneath, in gothic lettering, is his son’s name: Brooklyn. Once his uniform comes off at the end of a match – as it usually does, and before anyone else’s – the tattoos help him to stand out instantly, and mean that he is never naked: He’s always wearing something designer.

becks-the-virus.jpgBecks clearly enjoys getting his tits out for the lads and lasses — and oiling them up for the cover of Esquire and other laddie mags. While he may look strangely undernourished and fragile in a soccer uniform, as if his ghoulishly skinny wife has been taking away his fries, and all those injuries suggest he’s somewhat brittle, stripped down he looks as lithe and strong as a panther. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t do drugs. His body is a temple — to his own self-image — which he never ceases worshipping.

There is however a submissive photophilia to Becks. A certain passivity or even masochism about his displays for the camera, which seem to say “I’m here for you.” Hence perhaps the fondness for those Christ-like/James Dean-like poses with arms outstretched (the cover of Esquire had him “crucified” on the Cross of St. George). Even those free kicks seem to have the loping iconography of “Giant” or Calvary about them.  Truth be told, Becks is there for him, but it’s a nice thought nonetheless.

To some he is already a god – literally. In addition to the Thai Becks Buddha, a pair of Indian artists have painted him as Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. In the Far East, androgyny is seen as a feature of godhead – and so it has here in the West as well since the Rolling Stones. As Becks tells us himself: “I’m not scared of my feminine side and I think quite a lot of the things I do come from that side of my character. People have pointed that out as if it’s a criticism, but it doesn’t bother me.” It’s as if when he was a teenager he looked at those grainy black-and-white ’80s girlish bedroom shrine posters of smooth-skinned doe-ish male models holding babies and thought: I’d like to be like that when I grow up. Becks is the poster boy of what I have termed elsewhere metrosexuality.

His hero/role-model status combined with his out-of-the-closet narcissism and love of shopping and fashion and apparent indifference to being thought of as “faggoty” means that for corporations he is a pricelessly potent vector for persuading millions, if not billions, of young men around the world to express themselves “fearlessly,” to be “individuals” – by wearing exactly what he wears. Beckham is the über-metrosexual, not just because he rams metrosexuality down the throats of those men churlish enough to remain retrosexual and refuse to pluck their eyebrows, but also because he is a sportsman, a man of substance – a “real” man – who wishes to disappear into surface-ness in order to become ubiquitous – to become me-dia. Becks is The One, and slightly better looking than Keanu – but, be warned, he’s working for the Matrix.

Ultimately, though, it is his desire that makes him the superbrand that he is. Beckham has succeeded where previous British soccer heroes you’ve never heard of, such as George Best, Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona – a Frenchman who played for Manchester United and is John the Baptist to Beck’s Christ – have failed, and has become a truly global star. Partly because the world has changed but mostly because they didn’t want it as much as he did. Becks is transparently so much more needy – more needy than almost any of us is. The public, quite rightly, only lets itself love completely those who clearly depend on that love, because they don’t want to be rejected. Beckham’s neediness is literally bottomless. Like his image, it grows with what it feeds on. He’ll never reject our gaze.

It’s there in his hungry face. He isn’t actually that attractive. Blasphemy! No really, his face doesn’t have a proper symmetry. His mouth is froglike and bashfully off-center. But what is attractive, or at least hypnotizing in a democratic kinda way, which is to say mediagenic, is his neurotic-but-ordinary desire to be beautiful, and to use all the technology and voodoo of consumer culture and fame to achieve this. His apparent lack of an inner life, his submissive, high-pitched 14-year-old-boy voice that no one listens to, his beguiling blankness, only emphasize his success, his powerfulness in a world of superficiality. That oddly flat-but-friendly gaze that peers out from billboards and behind Police sunglasses looks to beckham-g.jpgmillions like the nearest thing to godliness in a godless world. People fall in love not with him – who knows what Beckham is really like, or cares – but with his multimedia neediness, his transmitted “viral” desire, which seems to spread and replicate itself everywhere, endorsing multiple products. Becks’ desire, via the giant shared toilet handle of advertising, infects us, inhabits us and becomes our own.

The British for their part, even those calling tabloid papers in tears to declare their lives ruined now that Beckham is moving to Real Madrid, will survive sharing him with the Spanish for a few years. After all, they’re already proudly sharing him with most of the rest of the world – and basking in his reflected glory. No one buys our pop music any more; our “Britpop” prime minister, Tony Blair, post-Iraq, is widely regarded abroad as a scoundrel; our royals, post Diana, are a dreary bunch of sods (even her sainted son William is beginning to lose some of his Spencer spark and glow to the tired, horsey blood of his “German” dad and grandmama); and our national soccer squad has difficulty beating countries with a population smaller than Southampton.

But “our Becks” on the other, perfectly manicured hand, is something British the world seems to actually want. Badly.

 

This essay is collected in Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story.

 

We’re Better at Everything, Mate: Australia’s Sports Complex

By Mark Simpson, Independent on Sunday (December 3, 2006)

We all know that Australians are better than us. Better looking, better at sport, better at partying, better at sex, better at reality TV shows. Mostly because they told us so. Very loudly.

Little wonder recent Government figures showed half the population of the UK is giving up on Britain and moving to Australia – while the other half is trying to become Australian by watching Neighbours or Kath and Kim or by wearing shorts and flip flops and drinking lager until they hurl. Even the UK’s version of Big Brother is clearly just a bunch of Brits pretending to be Australians living in a shared house in Willesden.  In this topsy-turvy, antipodean world, The Mother Country now wants nothing more than to be the Lucky Country. Mate.

But not everyone is completely open about their Ozspirations.  Richard Beard’s Manly Pursuits: beating the Australians (Yellow Jersey Press) is clearly about a nice, middle-class sporting Englishman’s quest to stop being English and become Australian – while pretending to research a book about why the Australians are so much better at sports than we are. But he doesn’t say this.  Instead he says he wants find out why the fifty-third most populated country is fourth in the medals table at the Athens Olympics – and always spanking our much more populous country’s puny, pale not-very-sporting bottom with a big, firm, sun-tanned hand.

So he travels to Manly, Australia (so named by Captain Arthur Philips because, Beard explains, of the manliness of the naked aborigines on the shore shouting ‘Go home whingeing Poms!’) and takes on the locals at bowls, shooting, golf, swimming, surfing, running and… pub quiz trivia. He mostly gets thrashed.  Even by pensioners and ladies. In between thrashings, he waxes lyrical about the strength and beauty of the sporting Australian male, compares and contrasts Oz and Brit culture (they’re great; we’re rubbish), and dips into some colonial history (they’re plucky; we’re just guilty). He of course, like most people, isn’t really interested in beating the Australians so much as joining them. Even if he hasn’t quite admitted it to himself.

I have to say that while Mr Beard is a good, thoughtful writer, and his book is certainly more fun than a game of rugby against Australians on steroids, I didn’t find his shameless Oz-worship something to smile about. But then, I’m very peculiar. You see, I don’t believe Australians are ‘better’ than us and certainly don’t want to become one.

Oh yes, I once shared Beard’s – and everyone else’s – enthusiasm for all things Australian. Raised on Skippy, Rolf Harris and swimwear catalogues I too yearned for a country where the sun shone all day everyday, where everyone was your mate, kangaroos could talk and ‘Speedos’ meant ‘Y-fronts’.

And then I visited Australia. And it quickly dawned on me that Australia, like Australian skin, is much better in long-shot. Australia is much more Australian from a distance. Close up, it’s just not really worth 24 hours of recirculated flu viruses, deep-vein thrombosis and Love Actually. It’s been left out in the sun too long.

There is though one thing that Australians are indubitably good at: selling Australia. Perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising since they run the world’s media. Oh, and, sorry, all the best-looking Australians we’ve seen already – either in their visiting rugby teams, their TV soaps, the Hollywood movies they hog, or in the Escort section at the back of gay mags. Leaving behind those hit with the ugly didgeridoo to mind the Barbie.

OK, so they are actually better at sport. Beard comes up with some reasons why. These are: the weather, booze (if you’re an Australian social club the easiest way to get a license is to organise ‘sporting activities’ – so playing sport in Oz is quite literally a way to get drunk), the weather again, all that meat in the diet, and the German Democratic Republic. Apparently Australia slavishly copied the GDR’s hugely successful centralised approach to Olympic sports in the 1970s. And, I’d like to think, for much the same reason: both were tiny countries that everyone was leaving that desperately needed some good PR.

Oh, and: homosexuality. ‘Sport allows men to stare, in detail, without homosexuality alleged or feared,’ Beard explains. ‘Especially in swimming, where in this all-male club bodies are straining, on their fronts, buttocks up, naked, except for tiny lycra Speedos. It’s surely nothing but coincidence that everyone’s favourite words are “mate” and “fuck”.’

Now, I’ve always wanted to believe that Australian sportsmen and their Speedo-clad butts are gagging for it – or rather me – but now I can cite Beard, someone I presume is happily heterosexual, in case any Oz sportsman dares to disagree.

I though have a crazy hunch that, lycra fetishism aside, the main reason why Australians are better than us at sport is because they don’t hate themselves.

Beard’s oh-so-English self-deprecation, amusing for a while, does end up sounding like self-hatred (though when he really lets rip, as he does at the cringeworthy Mike Atherton for example, he can rise to dazzlingly spiteful poetry). On the perennial Republican campaigns to redesign, i.e. de-Brit, the Australian flag he offers: ‘My own idea is to shrink the Union Jack in the corner of the existing flag by half a centimetre each year. No one will notice, and in twenty years it’ll be gone.’

This seems to be Beard’s and much of today’s English middle-class’ attitude towards their own identity. They hope their embarrassing, awkward, damp, guilt-ridden Englishness will just wither away unnoticed and one day they’ll wake up something innocent, tanned, laid-back and athletic with a swimming pool and actually be able to barbecue meat without sending people to hospital.

Sorry cobbers, it ain’t gonna happen. Australians have got not use for self-hating whingeing poms and their whimsical self-mutilating sense of humour.  They’re too busy telling the world how great it is to be Australian. And conquering it.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008

Sporno: where sport and porn meet and produce a spectacular money shot

Just in time for the World Cup the July issue of the re-launched OUT features an essay by yours truly on the post-metrosexual pornolization of sport – or what I dub ‘sporno’.  Here’s a (breathless) taster:

‘Sportsmen on this side of the Atlantic are increasingly openly acknowledging and flirting with their gay fans, a la David Beckham and Freddie Ljunberg (the man who actually looks the way Beckham thinks he looks). Both these thoroughbreds have posed for spreads in gay magazines and both have welcomed the attention of gay fans because they “have great taste”.

More than this, they and a whole new generation of young bucks, from twinky soccer players like Manchester United’s Alan Smith and Cristiano Ronaldo, to rougher prospects like Chelsea’s Joe Cole and AC Milan’s Kaka, keen to emulate their success, are actively pursuing sex-object status in a post-metrosexual, increasingly pornolized world.

In other words: they’re not just sports stars, but sporno stars’

You can read the full essay here.

Copyright © 1994 - 2016 Mark Simpson All Rights Reserved.