Skip to Content

Spectator sport

Spectator Sport: For the love of Barcelona

Fans of Robert Parker’s indispensable Spenser series of thrillers will be familiar with the character of Hawk.

28 May 2011

12:00 AM

28 May 2011

12:00 AM

Fans of Robert Parker’s indispensable Spenser series of thrillers will be familiar with the character of Hawk.

Fans of Robert Parker’s indispensable Spenser series of thrillers will be familiar with the character of Hawk. Big, bald, black, and always in shades, he is Spenser’s enforcer, an avenging angel of ineffable hardness. Now look at the wide angle shots of President Obama’s touring entourage and you will see Hawk made real in the shape of Reggie Love, the President’s go-to guy for a range of product from painkillers to iPod tunes to the best cheese for a burger. Love was a first-rate college basketball player who wanted to play pro football with Green Bay but didn’t quite make the grade.

So — well, why not? — he got an internship on Capitol Hill, and in the time it takes to clean a pair of Ray-Bans became the innermost member of Obama’s inner circle. When asked what he does, he says, ‘You just go out there and — Take. Care. Of. Stuff.’ But what a pity it’s so hard to imagine anything similar happening here: a dropout from the West Ham academy ending up as one of David Cameron’s most trusted aides? Unlikely.


Anyway, who will you be supporting at Wembley on Saturday night? I do hope that neither the Tebbit test nor any vestigial sympathy for that redoubtable master of the epee Ryan Giggs will mean you are shouting for Manchester United. For pure footballing skills alone, so well chronicled in other places in this journal, we should all be slipping into Barcelona’s agreeable jade change-strip before settling down with some cervezas in front of the telly .

But please don’t let’s over-romanticise Barcelona. It’s not as if they are a bunch of hippies sitting round the campfire singing Kumbaya, helping the poor and needy and occasionally breaking off for a bit of light football. They are one of the most efficient and ruthless money-making outfits in world sport, with a turnover of €400 million, fractionally behind Real Madrid’s. They used to have Unicef on their shirts: no money there but next season it will be the Qatar Foundation, a charitable trust indeed but with €150 million to spend over five years to get their names attached to the best-loved team in the world. That will be the Qatar, of course, that with few people, fewer football stadiums, no football culture, but loads of dosh, managed to secure the 2022 World Cup. Amazing. Still, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi et al — you’ve got to love ’em.

So poor old Ryan’s privates couldn’t be saved after all — and there are still a few days for the terrace wits to add to the songs they were chanting on Sunday. Press freedom issues aside, thoughts turn to the words of Peter Alliss, and his useful commentary on the Tiger Woods affair: ‘We’re supposed to feel sorry for his family. But I don’t know his family. She might be a cow to live with.’

Talking of Twitter, which we can’t of course, it was good to see another great icon of family life from the north-west, Wayne Rooney, inviting a fellow user of the social networking site to pop over to the training ground where he, Wayne, would put him to sleep in 10 seconds. Just a bit of banter, Wayne explained helpfully.

For rugby players banter is something else altogether: just have another look at Manu Tuilagi’s colossal haymaker on Chris Ashton during the Premiership semi-final. It’s worth catching, especially if you’re thinking of doing unarmed combat training or joining the Navy Seals. Ashton had made the cardinal mistake of giving the Leicester centre an effete push in the back. The Samoan then unleashed a series of blows on poor Ashton before delivering a colossal right to his cheek that would have brought down half of Canary Wharf. Both got sinbinned, Ashton presumably for being too girly.

Roger Alton is an executive editor at the Times.


Show comments
Close