It is customary for journalists to shout at convicted murderers, as they are ushered out of court, ‘Do you have anything to say to the victim’s family?’, before the offender is bundled into a blacked-out police wagon and whisked away to prison.
A journalist said the same to Jamie Carragher, as he was being ushered through a train station on Monday, ‘Gob-Gate’ having broken only a few hours earlier.
Never mind that Carragher had already apologised to the family in person, and again in public. Never mind that he seemed genuinely upset and remorseful. Never mind that Sky had already announced his suspension. Never mind that the bloke he spat at was a monumental chopper, baiting the Liverpool legend while simultaneously driving and filming, with his 14-year-old daughter in the passenger seat. It wasn’t enough for the mob on Twitter, where perspective went to die.
Frankly, I’m surprised a day goes by without a footballer lashing out at somebody, and who could blame them? We live in a world where people sincerely believe that footballers are fair game for dog’s abuse, because they earn a lot more money than them and have fabulous cars and girlfriends. And that’s because empathy lies in a grave next door to perspective, in Twitter's vast, bleak cemetery.
Carragher’s actions were disgusting, not to mention odd, for a couple of reasons - an irate llama has nothing on Jamie in terms of volume and aim. But if I was a famous person, constantly putting up with idiots baiting me, I imagine I’d have a snapping point, too. That moment when you think, ‘You know what, this bloke is really getting on my tits…’ What might happen next is anybody’s guess.
I might scream in their face, grab them by the neck, or boot them in the goolies. I might even flob at them. The point being, I’m not famous, so I don’t know what I’d do. But in the spitefully judgemental and sanctimonious age of social media, Carragher is an irredeemable villain, scum of the earth, a man for whom sacking is too good. “Cast that man out! And never let him back in!”
I wonder if these people have ever erred? I wonder if they have chums or family members who have messed up in life? I had a Twitter exchange with one chap who claimed he’d never had a friend who’d done anything as bad as Carragher. He declined to tell me where exactly in Utopia he lives.
And when you get Vinnie Jones – a man who finished players’ careers on the pitch, bit a man’s nose in a pub and threatened to kill the entire crew of a plane – calling Carragher “filth” and suggesting he be sacked, you've effectively been sucked into a satirical wormhole. Then again, there are those who seem to think spitting is up there with deliberately injuring someone, so there you go.
My father came of age in London’s East End in the 1950s, where and when it was almost impossible to avoid befriending every stripe of criminal, from petty thieves, to men who stole from the back of lorries, to bank robbers, to drug dealers, to violent gangsters. So I learned from a young age that humans are nuanced – just because people do bad things, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re shot with badness all the way through, like a stick of Brighton rock (pardon the criminal pun).
By comparison, my upbringing was soft, but I’ve known plenty of people who have made terrible mistakes – friends who got drunk and punched people, friends who got drunk and drove, friends who had affairs, friends who went rogue in the City, friends who served time in prison. They all have one thing in common – they’re still my friends, because I realise that people shouldn’t be defined by the odd mistake, they should be viewed as fundamentally good people who went a bit wonky.
Those who say Carragher should know better, because he’s in the public eye and has a position of responsibility – or some such nonsense – forget that he’s just a bloke like any other bloke, and apparently not too dissimilar to England cricketer Ben Stokes, another famous sportsman who was similarly castigated for reacting to what was no doubt “a bit of banter” and seeing the red mist.
Perhaps I’ve got it horribly wrong, and all these people saying Carragher deserves everything that’s thrown at him live in the saintliest of circles, from which all sinners are excluded. Or perhaps they’re just hypocrites. Accept the man’s apology, give him a slap on the wrist and get him back on our tellies. Or perhaps it would make you feel better about yourself if he was cast out for all eternity?