Sport has a funny way of producing heroes.
I’m not immune to the idolisation phenomenon, having my favourite personalities in a variety of disciplines. I’ve known my Sunday League teammates (my younger ones, at least) pretend to be players like most of us did in the playground.
I still can’t forget my brother jumping up and punching his low ceiling (by mistake) as Fernando Torres scored a late winner for Liverpool against Portsmouth. It was accompanied by an exclamation of, “I f*cking love that man!”
With that hero status confirmed comes a certain amount of defending unreasonable actions.
John Terry is known to Chelsea fans as “captain, leader, legend”. He has played 717 games for Chelsea having been with them from being a child, and won 15 trophies. He is the type of One Club Man who automatically falls beyond reproach, despite the fact he could be signing for Chelsea’s direct opposition next season.
He is also seen by opposing fans as a horrible player, always first to have his say to referee’s. He slipped to miss a penalty failing to keep his team in the European Cup Final. He had an affair made all the worse because it was with his teammate’s wife. You never stir your brother’s porridge. The affair led to him being stripped of the captaincy when representing his country.
And so he played his final game for Chelsea against Sunderland at the weekend. In the starting line-up, Terry was substituted in the 26th minute, the time designated at his own request to match his shirt number. He left the pitch to a guard of honour from his teammates.
Such hubris is typical of Terry. Terry sees himself as a brand and he is his own hero, treading the wrong side of the line between arrogance and self-confidence. He is very conscious of himself and how the fans see him.
The staged send off is a normal end of season occurrence – substituting on a player with a few minutes to go or taking them off the pitch at a similar time. With the game virtually over, it’s a time for fans to show appreciation for their efforts, if they so desire. For it to happen in the 26th minute though, with only a fraction of the game gone?
That is disrespectful. It implies a knowing that you’re not good enough to be playing which in itself should be seen as disrespectful enough to the opposition, but to then apparently ask them to agree to kick the ball out of play in the 26th minute to allow the stunt to happen is a disgrace. It is disrespectful to his own club, and to the game.
Of course, Chelsea fans don’t care. They also think that Terry doesn’t care – a player who they see as someone who gave everything in return for millions of pounds of salary. They see loyalty even if that loyalty has never been tried.
I think Terry might care, though. Sure, he’ll seek solace in those millions and the fans who idiolise him but true legend status is reserved for those sportsmen for whom tribal rivalries are put to one side, replaced by often grudging recognition of the both the player and, sometimes, the person that we only see on the pitch.
True heroes are humble and selfless; true sporting heroes can at least make people believe that they are. John Terry will never have that because he is so self-mythologising.
When I walk in the spot, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
I got passion in my pants
And I ain’t afraid to show it (show it, show it, show it)I’m sexy and I know it
I’m sexy and I know itCheck it out, check it out