News of Paul Wood's misfortune in the Grand Final has gone mainstream. All the dailies are carrying the story with the general air of awe and sympathy matched by Wood's own stoicism. But alongside that, there's a nasty undercurrent, the general gist being "if that was a footballer, he'd never have played on".
Has it come to this where the Rugby League public is so unsure of itself that it needs to exploit one man's testicular misfortune to make a petty point about... who knows what at the expense of players in a totally different code?
Yes, diving in football and feigning injury to gain an advantage are the hot topics du nos jour, but to suggest that footballers would act any differently to Wood is specious nonsense. It also paints fans of the thirteen-man game as the stereotype would have it; with a chip on both shoulders. It does the game no favours. Football has it's problems, but attempting to jump on those and seek to exploit them with a straw man argument about someone losing a part of their anatomy is downright bizarre.
It happened during the Olympics too, with athletes lauded for, ostensibly, not being footballers. It's difficult to know why or what point was trying to be made. The point is that footballers are under far more scrutiny than any other sportspeople. Their on-field and off-field conduct is pored over in excruciating detail in all the national dailies and while there are a number of deeply unpleasant characters in that game, so there are in others. By the same token, there are a much greater number of characters that aren't deeply unpleasant. Moreover, to laud an athlete from a different game simply for not being a footballer is an infantile argument that also undermines the actual achievement that one would be seeking to praise.
As far as Rugby League goes, talking up the positives is absolutely fine and Paul Wood's is a story that has universal appeal. While we're not as big a sport as football, we can get away with pushing that line rather than Ben Blackmore getting convicted of assaulting Father Christmas being the major talking point of the week. In football, both would be big news spread across a number of back pages. With limited room for Rugby League, it's lucky that Wood's misfortune, courage and good humour have bumped what would otherwise be an embarrassment to one side.
By all means, seek to push the good side of our game. There is much to celebrate. But having a needless and cheap shot at a different sport while doing so undermines the point and comes across badly. And neither should we ignore those issues that aren't so positive and get all uptight when they're reported. We can't have it both ways
Anyway, Phil Babb (from ages ago) and Lukas Piszczek (from last weekend) reckon anyone attempting to make a ludicrous point about footballers not carrying on after suffering a hugely painful blow is dead wrong.