No f**king apology needed – who was offended?

John Nicholson
Jos Buttler Vernon Philander sledging row


I see that Jos Buttler has apologised for swearing at Vernon Philander during the last Test.

He has been fined 15% of his match fee after he was heard on the stump microphone calling the pace bowler a f**king k**bhead. Was that 10% for the f**king and 5% for the k**bhead I wonder? Is there a menu of swear words you can dine from with a match fee percentage alongside?  If so I imagine a good c**t would be pricey but a solid a**ehole would be cheap.

Amusingly and utterly unnecessarily, Buttler went on to explain the situation by saying “In Test cricket there are lots of high emotions at times and things can be said that don’t necessarily mean anything.” All of which felt like we were being treated like silly little children. We do understand the nature of such a situation, it doesn’t need explaining, nor even apologising for.

We have a very strange relationship with swearing in our sport and in our media. This incident was reported in the press (and here) by using asterisks to take out a couple of letters from each word, leaving it quite clear what was said, so in effect actually stating the words. No-one is looking at f**king k**bhead and wondering what it actually means. You have to make the words in your head, so if the asterisks are there to protect the sensibilities of the easily offended, they have obviously de facto failed.

We do this on our websites as well, despite us all being grown-ups and well versed in the anglo-saxon expletives since an early age. This is likely more to do with getting past work and home security filters but it preserves a strange prudishness about swearing.

To keep swearing’s power, it is important not to be over exposed to it or to over use it. We probably all know someone who drops the ‘f’ bomb every third word, using it as a conjunctive in virtually every sentence. It quickly loses its impact and become rather wearing.

Footballers and their managers swear so much and so often that it barely even seems to be swearing at all now, so familiarised has it become.

However, the attack of the vapours that goes through a TV or radio studio when someone uses a ‘bad’ word ( I heard this after someone just said “bollocking” on 5live last week) and the instant apologies to “anyone who was offended” shows just how nervous broadcaster’s bosses still are about it, even at a time when mainstream podcasts such as the Guardian’s Football Weekly have contributors occasionally using the f-word, presumably because they know that their audience will not pass out in shock. In some regards, being offended by words is a bizarre notion to pander to. Surely it is the content of what is said that can be offensive, rather than isolated words?

But it’s a fine line to walk. Buttler’s match fee fine and subsequent apologia seemed unnecessary and childish and yet we don’t want our sporting or public lives to descend into a ceaseless moronic melange of swear words. And yet to exclude them entirely on the grounds of taste and decency is to deny full use of the language.

So who exactly are we protecting here? Who is putting their hand up to say how offended they were by Buttler’s two word outburst? The authorities seem to think someone is out there who is, but if there are, how come their notion of taste and decency gets to be enforced over and above the rest of us?

My favourite use of the f-word came one Saturday afternoon as Easter Road, Edinburgh. Hibernian were playing Hamilton and not doing a very good job of it. Half-time came and a local frustrated fan stood up and bellowed at the top of his Leith lungs, “f*ckin’… f*ckin’… f*ckin’ booooo!! Repeating “f*ckin’ booo!” three times for full effect.

I wasn’t the only one to find this perfect expression of exasperation funny. Life would be much less colourful without such incidents and I bet those who heard Buttler’s comment via the stump microphone got a wee frisson of excitement from it. No-one was hurt, no-one was offended and no f**king apology was needed.

 

Latest