There are occasionally articles in the Scottish press so cringe inducing that I honestly read them with an open mouth, amazed that anyone ever thought they were of publishable standard.
Sometimes I laugh.
At other times I am aghast because I know there are good writers out there, kids coming up in the trade, who could do a real job at a national title but who can’t get a break because somebody thinks a gurning halfwit who can barely write in complete sentences is a better bet.
This is how national titles die.
This embrace of mediocrity.
Gary Ralston’s article today in The Record was not mediocre.
It fell so far below that standard, that line, that it almost defies belief.
Editors on blogs would have balked at publishing something so devoid of a single positive element. It was appalling.
I am a major film fan, as my vast collection of movies attests to. I have seen the greatest films in the history of the cinema, but I am a connoisseur of the art itself and to truly appreciate greatness you have to spend many, many, many hours watching dreck.
There are movies that are bad, and you can live with that because they find a way to be entertaining in their awfulness; one of the best films of recent years, The Disaster Artist, was about the making of just such a film, the notorious Hollywood cult hit The Room, made by a madcap figure named Tommy Wiseau, and so dreadful that there is a kind of demented brilliance about it.
I’ve seen both The Disaster Artist and The Room, and one is a masterpiece and the other, as the title of the better films suggests, is a disaster piece, but I have a place in my heart for them both, although one was made with enormous talent, wit and vision and the other is a shambles of epic proportions … but it was made with great passion and even love.
This is why it still has an audience today.
But there are films which are genuinely awful, and even having them on for five minutes is like an assault on your state of mind and those films insult me on a level deeper than mere frustration and anger can touch. They scream their badness in your face like a drunk idiot in a bar who’s trying to start a fight with everybody. Ralston’s article has the same effect.
The greatest film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, could have been writing about Ralston’s piece when he penned these excoriating words; “(It) doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. (It) isn’t the bottom of the barrel. (It) isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. (It) doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.”
Ralston’s article was written as if he nipped out for a pee or something and a rabid, gibbering Morelos fan-boy sat down at his computer and started to type.
Perhaps Ralston just failed to notice that his article was already written when he came back; perhaps he was grateful at not having to do any real work.
But how he missed the copious amounts of drool and saliva that must have coated his keyboard I do not know.
I hope he had it cleaned afterwards.
Entitled, “Alfredo Morelos and the disgusting Rangers abuse his rivals will dish out to rile him up” you can tell from the headline – which is like English translated into German into Swiss into Swahili and then back into English again – that this is not going to reach Ebert’s Pulitzer Prize winning standards.
It doesn’t pretend to have standards at all.
The sub-headline comes next; “If the Colombian striker was Scottish the Ibrox star would have a statue outside Hampden.”
And it’s there, right there, that you first feel the spittle hitting your face and smell something worse than curry and lager breath. Not only is this going to be bad, it is going to be offensive in a way that makes you want to hit something really hard.
I remember once writing a review for the picture The Grey, an excellent, dark movie about how the survivors of an air-crash try to escape from the territory of a pack of wolves. It’s an unforgettable film, but not a date movie by any manner of means.
I started the review thus. “The Grey opens with Liam Neeson in the snow, lost in grief over his dead wife and reciting an old poem. He has a shotgun with him and is planning to blow his own brains out. The mood of the film goes downhill from there.”
That’s the general tenor of Ralston’s article; it starts bad and gets worse.
In fact, it starts awful and somehow finds new depths the deeper into it you get.
“Alfredo Morelos can sleep easy as he heads into 2020 no matter the result at Celtic Park,” it starts. “One Scotland, many cultures? It’s unlikely the Colombian striker will be called up any time soon and asked to lend his endorsement to the Holyrood campaign.”
Right there, from the off, it establishes its argument; that Scotland – the whole country – has behaved appallingly towards Sevco’s resident ned. That claim, in itself, is pathetic, ridiculous beyond the remotest connection to reality … and Ralston’s only warming up.
“Scottish football can be a brutal, tribal business, but the civic nationalism espoused by Nicola Sturgeon was long ago exposed as a fallacy when it comes to the Rangers frontman.”
I read that this morning half asleep, and honestly for a moment thought that I still was.
It was like some deep dream hallucination; was I actually reading this, or was it some perverse construct of my imagination?
Because surely, no sane person would have written that?
I will skip over some of it and get to the gist; suffice to say he compares Morelos to a Spartan braving a hostile atmosphere and backs him to handle it. He then moves swiftly to his point, a banner held up by the Aberdeen fans earlier in the season, which he seems to want to hold all of Scottish society responsible for.
“That disgusting banner held up by Aberdeen fans at Pittodrie earlier this year, which crossed the line from naked hostility to blatant racism, represented a new low for the image of Scotland as a tolerant, welcoming nation.”
Where even to start? How about with the fact that Aberdeen fans have a reputation for engaging in some of the ugliest behaviour out there. I’ve written many times on this site that they have more in common with the Ibrox horde than they would ever care to admit.
They have brought child abuse banners to Parkhead; funny Ralston has never got in a flap over those?
What do they do for the reputation of our national game?
I have no love for the diseased element of the Aberdeen support, but to claim that the banner in question is racist is to stretch the facts to the point where you can hear the elastic snap.
It might not have been very nice – “your mother is a mattress” it read – but the act of translating those words into Morelos’ native tongue does not make it bigotry.
I find Ralston’s fury interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there is often bigotry in football stands around Scotland, and most notably at Ibrox itself. But he never pours such venom onto it or those who perpetrate it, and he certainly never tries to use it to paint a picture of Scotland as some kind of country steeped in racial hatred.
I do agree that Morelos has been subject to racism in Scotland.
So has Scott Sinclair.
But amazingly, the most egregious example of it that the Ibrox striker has had to endure came from someone who works at Ralston’s own newspaper, Keith Jackson, whose article on Morelos from last year, all filled with allusions to the Colombian drug wars and cocaine, was so staggeringly over the line that anti-racism organisations were fuming at it.
Ralston makes no mention of it in his piece. I wonder why.
The article then extols the virtues of Alfredo Morelos; Humanitarian, as if any of that matters a damn.
As if any of it were in any way relevant to how he behaves on the pitch, with his diving and snarking and elbowing and kicking and hacking.
This appeal for Morelos to be recognised for sainthood crawls so far up the player’s posterior that I won’t be surprised if the Colombian is interviewed before the game tomorrow and Ralston’s voice comes out of his mouth.
Morelos is not the first Scottish player to do stuff for charity.
Many of them do so every single day.
Some of them have set up charitable foundations.
I will say this; in the modern world it is a goddamned miracle to see privileged footballers giving something back to the communities they came from, but if every one of them deserved a “statue outside Hampden” you wouldn’t be able to get near that ground for stone figures commemorating them.
Morelos is not exceptional as a human being any more than he is exceptional as a footballer.
He is certainly far from the only player to have risen from humble beginings; the game itself is built on such legends.
If Morelos was playing for Motherwell he would get none of this adulation.
Ralston then reports that Kilmarnock players learned Spanish so that they could better abuse Morelos during the match in midweek.
Even if it’s true, what’s his point?
That gamesmanship goes on?
We know it does.
Morelos is not special in that regard either and this assertion that he is treated differently from other footballers is as dishonest as it is laughable.
The most ridiculous point comes late in the piece; “It’s worth pointing out Morelos was rarely booked and never red-carded during his time in Finnish football, but that’s only because rival players are far too gentlemanly in that corner of northern Europe, surely?”
Is he alleging a refereeing conspiracy here?
Because that would elevate the article into the realms of Sevco paranoid fantasy and it’s bad enough already.
He seems to have lost the thread of his own argument otherwise, by his sarcastic suggestion that perhaps Morelos got no abuse over there.
I have another explanation, and it’s supported at least partly by facts.
There are some players for whom the Ibrox environment and the media sycophancy which swirls around it has toxic effects.
Morelos is not the first player to be consumed by the arrogance, hatred and hostility that sweeps through that place.
He will not be the last.
Ralston follows that paragraph up with this one; “What do you mean nice guys come last? The Finns have already qualified for Euro 2020 so maybe we should take a leaf from their book and focus on bringing out the best in ourselves, rather than the worst in others.”
I don’t even know what that means in the context of his article, or in any other context either.
It’s an example of fingers and brain not being in sync; it happens to everyone who writes for a living, but a good editor is supposed to weed that stuff out before publication.
But if The Record had good editors none of Ralston’s piece would have seen the light of day.
His second to last paragraph puts the cherry on the cake; having established that rivals fans hate Morelos, rival players wind him up and refs are out to get him, Ralston goes all-in and accuses the broadcast media of pursuing an agenda as well.
“The cameras will follow his every move at Parkhead and every foul in which he is involved will be analysed to death in a bid to confirm a narrative of destruction on often spurious evidence.”
This asks us not even to believe the evidence of our own eyes.
For Morelos is an angel.
Morelos is pure in spirt and heart.
So if you do happen to see him throw an elbow or aim a kick or stamp on a fallen opponent’s leg, look deep into your heart and ask yourself this question; did that really happen or has the camera been made to lie?
Ask yourself another.
Did I really see it or are my own prejudices causing hallucinations?
Ralston starts out trying to make a case that Scotland is racist and the treatment of Morelos proves it.
But he never asks why Morelos would be different to the dozens of other foriegn nationals to play in our game down through the years and who have not been subjected to racism of any kind. He doesn’t even offer a single piece of evidence of racism directed at the player, although that should have been easy to do.
Instead he gives us an off-colour Aberdeen banner and Killie players learning Spanish so they can insult Morelos on the pitch.
And based on this he wants to blacken the reputation of a country.
Ralston is a complete moron.
When writing about one particular movie, Ebert wrote that “It’s so ludicrous in so many different ways it achieves a kind of forlorn grandeur. It’s in a category by itself.”
Ralston’s piece does not achieve grandeur of any kind, forlorn or otherwise.
And it fits into a very distinctive category, one that will be familiar to the readers of the rag for which he works.
It is diabolical, deplorable, fanboy gushing, which bears no resemblance to the art and form of journalism which that laughable rag allegedly exists for.
It should be filed under Utter Shite.
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