Last weekend Chelsea’s English Premier League title hopes were dealt a severe blow when the side went down 2-1 at home to Sunderland.
There were a couple of controversial decisions – a penalty, a few denied penalty shouts here and here – but the most controversial was the fact that Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho, who literally never loses at home, lost at home.
Incensed by the result, Mourinho’s used the post-match press conference to vent his frustrations. And yet, Mourinho chose his words carefully. He did not insult, chastise or condemn the referees.
Instead, like a 11–year-old boy who has discovered Opposites Day* for the first time, he delivered a message about the referees that was dripping with sarcasm:
“(referee) Mike Dean’s performance was unbelievable and when referees have unbelievable performances it’s fair to congratulate him”.
When written down it seems quite innocuous, but when delivered with a smug, Portuguese smile, it takes on a more subversive, accusatory implication.
And while some commentators have accused Mourinho of immaturity for his comments, this is clearly an unfair attack, especially when you consider the context in which the comments were made.
In the professional televised sports era, we are living in a post-free-speech, highly censored world. Gone are the days of players and coaches talking candidly about their performances, or even god forbid, the performance of the man, or men, in the middle. For doing so would attract large monetary fines for bringing the game into disrepute.
Just ask Geoff Toovey, who after some high profile flare-ups has now resorted to grunting through press conference instead of speaking English, in fear he may accidentally accuse a referee of being shit (despite the fact the NRL referees are – right in this moment – shittier than ever).
When there is a $15,000 fine staring you in face for merely hinting the whistleblower made a mistake, there is a clear incentive to not say anything. And if you do speak, it’s safest to speak without saying anything. And hence viewers of Fox Sports News 513 can watch 24 hours of people talking in sporting clichés (of which TPA is quite fond, but that’s another story).
When Mourinho’s sarcastic comments are considered within their historical context, it’s quite clear they represent the natural progression of things. Rather than keeping schtum, or using inane, banal buzzwords to survive in a world that encourages dimwits, it makes sense for managers, coaches and players to employ the lowest form of wit – sarcasm.
And it seems old Jose has been somewhat vindicated, with latest reports suggesting he will not be punished for the sarcastic rant. By escaping sanctions for his bitter gibes, it sets a precedent for all sports folk fronting press conferences. Be as sarcastic as you want!
With this in mind, The Public Apology looks forward to the Melbourne Storm game this weekend, after which Craig Bellamy will no doubt praise the referees’ performance as “heroic”, despite his team losing 23-22 to a forward-pass, knock-on try scored by the opposition’s mascot in the 83rd minute.
By Ben Shine
*Opposite Day is an unofficial holiday, commonly observed whenever it is declared, where every action is modified so that its meaning is inverted. It is generally practised by people in grades 5-6, and can become quite confusing when practitioners discover double negatives: “I said you can’t not have my can of Dr Pepper!”