Caroline Aherne’s comic creation Mrs Merton immediately sprang to mind when I read this pebbledash-as-writing* from Gordon Parks in the Daily Record today [* or did I mean balderdash?!].
I could call it ‘trolling’, but I suspect that would result in me receiving a stern letter from the Amalgamated Union of Trolls and Shark-Jumpers, so I won’t. But whatever you want to call it, it was a pretty blatant attempt to provoke ‘controversy’ which reminded me of the point in the Mrs Merton Show when she would seek the views of the audience with the (deliberately) unconvincing cry of “Let’s have a heated debate!”.
Although in this particular instance, it was more a case of:
“Ooh look at us, aren’t WE an edgy publication?!”
“We want to wind you up by being oh-so-controversial!”.
“We are so ‘dangerous’ to be around. You never know WHAT we might come up with next!”.
No doubt a few backs were slapped, and a few ‘pleased with ourselves’ chuckles could be heard.
Sadly the piece was so transparent you could have seen the sporting advantage conferred by EBT side-letters through it. It wasn’t so much ‘shock jock’ as ‘cunning stunt’. [Careful now, if you are prone to spoonerisms…].
I am sure that the Daily Record’s finest are perfectly aware of the joy of the Scottish Cup. For example:
- The random nature of the draw.
- The possibility of every team and its fans having a ‘day in the sun’ via an unlikely victory (even Hibs, who last won the Scottish Cup when the sun was black and white😉); and
- The chance to play at the national stadium [NB Mr Parks, it isn’t Hibs’ and Utd’s ‘fault’ that their game is being played at Hampden].
Then there is the history of the tournament. Everyone wants to have their names up alongside the past winners of a very old and very special competition.
There is also the possibility of playing in Europe (which I like, although some would rather award the qualifying spot via the Premiership). What a treat it was for Cup winners ICT and St Johnstone and their fans to have a European adventure in recent years. An adventure which they earned through their own efforts.
What’s more, we shouldn’t forget about the teams which Celtic and others have beaten en route to the semi-finals. Maybe the likes of Stranraer and their fans quite enjoyed the challenge, profile and revenue(?) that came from drawing higher-league opposition and being on TV?
It could just be that all of the above-mentioned things are part of the infinitely-variable combination of factors which make up “the magic of the Cup” [NB Yes it is a cliché, but it has merit].
Mr Parks doesn’t really have anything positive to say about this season’s Scottish Cup, and he therefore does it a great disservice. No matter what its flaws, or the failings of those organising it, the Scottish Cup remains a wonderful thing which other countries could justifiably envy. Perish the thought that it should become as devalued as the FA Cup, which is now often little more than an inconvenience to Premier League and many Championship teams.
Mr Parks completely fails to mention one of the four semi-finalists. I suspect the absence of Sevco from the piece isn’t because he thinks the rest of his paper has already massively overdosed on Sevco in recent times. Perhaps no one at the Record could bring themselves to suggest that a Scottish Cup win for the Warbolution should not result in European football, given the apparently lucky and unworthy teams lining up alongside them in the last four?
You could argue that a team newly-promoted from the second tier with no ranking or history in UEFA competition is nailed on to be cannon fodder in the early qualifying rounds next season. You could also query whether Sevco meet all the requirements to participate at all unless special exemptions are applied by UEFA. And you could also ask whether a tribute act claiming to be a creditor-stiffing dead club is an appropriate advert for Scottish football in Europe. All of these concerns could be used as reasons why a Scottish Cup-winning Sevco don’t deserve European football.
But – like Mr Parks – I am not going to argue in favour of any of that. If Sevco win the Cup and are allowed to participate in Europe, then I will say ‘good luck’ to them. Just as I would also wish Utd, Hibs and Celtic well.
So in conclusion, Mr Parks’ piece may well have been a gratuitous wind-up to get a reaction, but it wasn’t even a good one. And if that isn’t a concise summary of the entire Scottish sports media, I don’t know what is!
As for Mrs Merton, I hear that she plans to adapt another of her famous quotes when interviewing one of Mr Parks’ Daily Record colleagues on a future show:
“So Keith Jackson, what was it that first attracted you to the Motherwell-born billionaire Craig Whyte?”