The Plastic Hippo

March 15, 2010

Just enough education to perform

Filed under: Media,Sport — theplastichippo @ 1:43 pm

The hippo has never been an avid or regular reader of The Sun. However, the odd discarded copy is sometimes blown across Hatherton Lake and a headline or two will occasionally catch the eye. Setting aside the insensitive “Gotcha” splash over the sinking of the Belgrano, the poisonous “Truth” headline perpetrated by Kelvin MacKenzie following the Hillsborough disaster and a reputation for sexism, homophobia, jingoism and scant regard for facts, the sub-editors at the paper who write the headlines do a very good job.

When North Korea conducted a nuclear test, The Sun ran “How do you solve a problem like Korea?” and when Barack Obama recently met the Dalai Lama, they had “Obama Lama Ding Dong.” The current form of a Mr Wayne Rooney, a professional footballer from the North West of England who is enjoying a goal scoring bonanza, particularly using his head, provoked The Sun headline: “Wayne shots keep falling on his head.”

Rooney is undoubtedly a player with a rare natural talent and great tenacity but would be unlikely to trouble the scorers in an edition of celebrity mastermind. He is, however, very good at thinking with his feet and the current goal spree seems the perfect preparation for the World Cup in June. On the day that David Beckham limped out of the AC Milan game with a torn Achilles tendon, ending his hopes of playing in South Africa, Rooney banged in two more against Fulham. The danger now, for both Rooney and England, is that papers like The Sun will talk him up into a world beating God and make the national side a one player team.

There is some history between The Sun and Rooney. In 2006, the paper paid out £100,000 in libel damages after wrongly alleging that the player was a wife beater. After the disgraceful reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy, sales of The Sun on Merseyside plummeted as the result of a boycott and it`s not clear if Rooney is one of the many Scousers who use The Sun to keep warm by burning it outside newsagents every morning. The Sun has a schizophrenic approach to the England team; fiercely patriotic when they play well, witheringly critical when they play badly. The back pages report on performances on the pitch whilst the front pages luridly report very different kinds of performances taking place in nightclubs and hotel rooms.

It is very easy to dismiss The Sun as a tabloid tittle-tattle rag peddling sensation to the barely literate, but with a daily circulation of nearly 3 million copies and an estimated daily readership of nearly 8 million, the paper knows what it is doing. A quick scan through any edition will tell you more about the state of Britain in 2010 and what occupies the minds of its readership, than endless legions of politicians and pundits. The paper has come a long way since it was first produced in the 60`s as a replacement for the left-wing Daily Herald and although Rupert Murdoch and News International are criticised for attempting to sway the democratic process through editorial policy, defenders say that the paper holds up a mirror that reflects our society.

With 13 domestic and European games left, Wayne Rooney has every chance of adding to the 32 goals he has already scored in various competitions this season. If he avoids any indiscretions that might attract the attention of The Sun and, more importantly, ends the domestic season without being clogged off the pitch and into hospital by a clumsy tackle from a full back with Group C nationality, he could be the star of the World Cup.

However, with so much at stake at the top of the Premier League and in the Champions League, his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, will work him until he drops and, as a Scotsman, will not really care where Wayne and Colleen go for their summer holidays. With the Glazer brothers bleeding Manchester United dry with extraordinary levels of borrowing, every game means more pounds, Euros and dollars for the American owners and if you think Gordon Brown has a temper, half time team talks from Ferguson are said to be terrifying.

Meanwhile, sub-editors at The Sun will continue to write the headline and then think of the story. They must have wept bitter tears into their beer when Romania failed to qualify for South Africa. The prospect of a group match or better yet, a quarter-final with the guys from Bucharest would have given them a field day. Sadly, they will have to wait another four years to run the headline: “Roo Mania.”

Mr Rooney is a fan of the Stereophonics and carries a tattoo on his arm displaying the title of the bands third album.

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