Some Celtic Fans Must Stop Defending The Indefensible.

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Yesterday I posted one of those pieces that I knew was going to annoy some people. I did it anyway because I don’t do this job worrying ever about how what I write is going to be received.

The minute you start doing that in this gig you’re finished.

Our club is not perfect. The people who work insides its walls are not perfect.

It’s supporters are not perfect.

I am a lifelong Celtic fan.

This club was my first great love and it will be the longest and most enduring of my life. I come from a family steeped in this club. Because I love Celtic I will defend Celtic, even from those who represent it,, when they fall below its standards.

We call this club an institution.

We say that it’s more than just a football club.

I have heard critics of Celtic decry those things. I have heard them do it even as they acclaim another club in the same city as ours. I don’t worry about what they think of the notion of Celtic as the thing at the centre of so many of our lives; they don’t get it and they never will.

As an institution, I think there are certain things which define us. I think Celtic is a genuine force for good in the Scottish game and in Scottish society. I am an internationalist, pro-European, pro-freedom and profoundly left wing. Those things did not bring me to Celtic, although I understand how they might have. I can only conclude that in some ways – and I can clearly define some of them – that Celtic brought me at least partly towards those outlooks.

Our club represents so many of the things that I care about. Its roots, its founding, its values, its social charter … when the directors fall below those standards, or the fans do, or the players, it is the duty of those of us who care about Celtic to comment on that and condemn it. I will never hesitate to do so, and as I do I’m fully aware that I do so through the prism of what I believe, personally, that those standards should be.

I do not claim to speak for anyone else.

There have been occasions on which I’ve posted stuff and got strong reactions to it where I’ve been accused of looking at issues which are quite complex in a binary, black and white way; I would dispute that at least some of the time. Even when I’m writing about the board and their lack of vision and imagination, I try to acknowledge that they run this club competently and that we only have to look across town to see what happens when directors don’t.

But there are issues I write about which are black and white. Issues which really don’t require nuance. There was an instance of this last week – one I didn’t write about because I thought that the journalist who did was engaging in a bit of attention seeking – where Celtic fans at Ross County were accused of singing horrific songs about deceased Ibrox staff and players.

Did it happen? Yeah I’m almost certain that it did happen; I didn’t refrain from writing about it because I thought Andrew Smith of The Scotsman lied about it, but because by his own admission it was, at most, “a few dozen fans” out of thousands …those guttersnipes aren’t representative of our support and he tried to make this our problem.

But I’ll tell you this; we do need to remove these people from our ranks, and I’ve written that before. As far as I’m concerned, these troglodytes don’t belong in the Celtic fan-base any more than right wing Nazi salute making fascists do, and I don’t believe there should be any more debate over that than there is over whether the earth is flat or round.

They don’t represent our values. They are not who we’re supposed to be. I’m sick of these people, sick writing about them, sick of knowing they self-define as part of our ranks, sick and tired of their flat refusal to get with the program as part of the human race.

And yet every time I write about that I get stick from certain people accusing me of doing the work of the enemy for them. Ridiculous. Shameful. Pig ignorance writ large. Those who respond like that are no better than those doing the chanting.

To me, there’s just no point in debating people like that at all. That they can’t see that something like that is just plain wrong, pure and simple, with no defence for it … it’s genuinely astonishing to me.

Astonishing. I won’t even try to see their “point of view.”

Yesterday’s article was a little more nuanced but not by much, because really, what nuance is required? If, as has been reported, our new left back got behind the wheel of his car drunk then what’s there to do but condemn that in the strongest terms?

But instead of that, people want to have a go at me? For stating the obvious?

Which is that Celtic will throw the proverbial book at this guy, and he’ll find it that much tougher to impress a manager who himself insists on the higher standards of behaviour on and off the pitch?

None of that ought to be controversial, far less to provoke outrage.

Outrage I can just about take, because there’s a section of our fan-base which does respond to every criticism of the club, no matter how slight, well aimed or deserved, as though it were the act of a heretic.

You can tell them by the way their whole method of debate is represented in insults and highly personal language. I don’t bother with them.

If that were all the negative response that piece yesterday got, there would be no need for this one. I’ve been getting that stuff since I posted my first article over a decade ago now.

It’s the rationalisations I find most troubling. It’s the whatabouttery, its the excuses … they bother me because this is a serious matter and it troubles me to see that some folk don’t seem to have grasped that in their rush to defend him simply because he’s one of our players.

First off, let me deal with the allegation that I’ve jumped the gun and this is all about innocent until proven guilty.

This isn’t going to a jury trial; this is going in front of a judge to decide the level of punishment and that’s all it is.

This a road traffic offence; whether that’s drunk driving, reckless driving, speeding or whatever it is your guilt is established the minute you are pulled over and found to be behind the wheel.

Folks might occasionally offer a mitigation argument but “not me guv, you’re looking for someone else” isn’t sustainable in the least. A defence of “I did nothing wrong” is doomed in an era of speed-guns, dash-cam and breathalysers.

He was taken into custody, which means he’s bang to rights.

As to the nature of the charge, I think we can take that one to the bank as well. I’ve been active in politics and I’ve been studying that arena even longer than I’ve been doing this and the first rule of reputation management is that you correct – immediately – anything in the public record which you are able to contest. What do people think footballer’s agents do? This is part of their job, and so if this wasn’t what every outlet is reporting that would have been challenged and refuted before now.

You don’t get taken into custody for speeding.

There are things that were in some of those articles which had no business being in there, innuendos instead of specific allegations, and I said in my piece that not only should we ignore all of them but that nobody should be allowed to get away with spreading them.

So if I’ve rushed to judgement I’ve stopped somewhat short of digging a hole before a funeral.

Like I said, I’ve been doing this a while. Mistakes are one thing, but I like to think I am more sensible than to resort to tabloidesque condemnation without cause.

I’ve also refuted any suggestion that Celtic should tear up his contract or any of that other nonsense.

This was an incredibly irresponsible and stupid act … but let’s try, at least, to give the guy a chance to own it, and make amends.

That only leaves us with what all the accounts suggest happened here, which is that this guy got behind the wheel somewhat worse for wear and got a pull for it.

Now, again, I can take those who shout me down for “not waiting for the full facts.” I get that argument, I accept that argument, but I’ve laid out my reasons why I don’t think it is valid.

I think we have the facts we need to make a judgement.

Other arguments … no, I don’t accept those at all.

“He’s a kid in a new country,” is a familiar one, and really?

Those are mitigating factors? His age and his nationality?

In what countries around the world is it no big deal to drive whilst pissed? Even if there were dozens and Argentina was one of them, he lives here now … and in this one a glass of wine is considered over the limit and you still get done for it.

He posted a social media image of himself outside a pub hours before he got pulled over by the cops … who also, by the way, need a damned good reason to pull you over and give you a breath-test in the first place. See my point?

I shouldn’t even need to debate the point about his age, because if we don’t know stories about people younger than him – but old enough to get behind the wheel legally – who’ve actually killed people doing what he’s done here then I suggest that some folk have short memories and should refresh them right quick.

What he did was not just reckless and embarrassing to this club, it was staggeringly, mind-bendingly dangerous not just to himself but to other people.

What more needs to be said? Those in charge of our club know this very well and I would expect that someone from our HR department had a long chat with this guy earlier in the week and clued him into a few things, and if that wasn’t the most sobering – no pun intended – discussion of his life then I dread to think of what else he’s heard in it.

The law classes Bernabei as an adult, because he is. And he knows right from wrong as well as anyone reading this article, and I find it pathetic that some would treat this as if it were the act of a child who simply doesn’t know any better.

Age and “lack of experience” is used as an excuse these days for everything from this stuff to outright racism. Nothing time and a little “education” won’t sort out, some folk, and in particular on the other side of the city, would have you believe.

But I’m with Ange. How much education do you need to not be an arsehole? To be a good and decent person? To not hate someone on the basis of their religion or their skin colour? And since it’s very much on point, how old do you have to be to not do what anyone wet behind the ears knows is stupid and dangerous shit?

A footballer does not put on a halo the minute he poses for a snap-shot as a new signing in a Celtic strip, any more than a person becomes a better human being the minute they drape a Celtic scarf around their neck.

Living up to the standards this club deserves sometimes requires a bit of self awareness and the willingness to moderate your worst impulses. Some can do it. Some fall below those standards and feel enormous regret for it.

Some don’t give a shit either way.

I expect that our new boy is going to be one of those people who, once some facts are made known to him, once he gets a little local history, he’ll get it instantly and wise up faster than at any other point in his life, just as happened to Callum McGregor when he did the same thing.

For him, it was a formative experience because he felt that shame, and took the right lesson from it.

Callum would have been personally offended by anyone trying to rationalise what he did or put it down to high-jinx and boys will be boys.

His realisation was real precisely because he didn’t let anyone do that or to minimise what had happened or – God forbid – what might have.

If you read my piece earlier in the week about how Scottish football hasn’t learned from the Ibrox war with the SPFL because it’s not done any specific harm yet you might remember the analogy in there from a statistician who worked on the US government’s response to swine flu, and saw all sorts of reasons to be scared by the right’s assertion that it hadn’t been a real crisis because very few people actually died of it.

He framed it as a lesson about dangerous driving, namely someone looking at their phone whilst behind the wheel of a car.

Imagine you do that and you lose concentration for a moment and drift towards the hard shoulder.

Wow. You correct your mistake and drive on.

There are no consequences.

Imagine instead though you veer off the road and hit something, and dent your car.

A different experience, one you’re more likely to take something away from.

Imagine instead though you run slap bang into a tree or a wall and that seriously damages your car and perhaps you walk away with a modest injury.

Different consequences, different experience, and your response to it would certainly not be the same as if no harm was done and you walked away without a scratch on either you or your sweet ride.

Imagine instead of that you’d hit a person.

Injuries. Perhaps death to another human being.

Would you even get behind the wheel of a car again, provided you even had the choice to?

You know what the guy’s point was?

The lesson is the same.

The fundamental error, the utterly stupid act, is the same one no matter which of those scenarios unfolds.

Move on, yes, and we will … this club, this support, this player.

But before we do we ought to condemn, just so that there are consequences, just so the lesson is learned.

That’s what Callum grasped and took from his experience.

It’ almost certainly what Bernabei will.

Some of our fans should think that over and do the same, and stop defending the indefensible.

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  • Pan says:

    I don’t think you have the facts at all.
    I do think you have jumped the gun and this post suggests you are a bit touchy about it.
    The incident should not have been commented upon until the full story has emerged.

  • Jimmy R says:

    Bernabie’s actions are indefensible. When Dziekanowski was slaloming his way around Glasgow, he had the advantage of no social media / camera phones. The result was lots of rumour and innuendo. Jackie never fulfilled his potential at Celtic, more than likely owing to his penchant for a swallie. The fans, his team mates and the club who paid his wages were all short changed. If senor Bernabei doesn’t change his ways, the danger is that he goes down the same road.
    Hopefully he can be headed off at the pass and brought back on to the straight and narrow because from what I have seen, there is a decent player there. I hate seeing talent go to waste.

  • Seppington says:

    Sorry James but I have to agree with Pan. I didn’t see anyone say that he did nothing wrong or that drink driving wasn’t a big deal, most folk were just saying you were jumping the gun…which you were, or that you were rabidly over-frothing about it…which you rather were.
    You really are looking at this in a black and white way but even those have various shades let alone the greys in-between. I’m not trying to hand-wave away this misbehaviour but I’ll wait until we have the full facts before setting off the full arsenal of condemnation cannons. You seemed to be going by vague news reports (which, of course, were taking great glee in telling this sordid tale) about a “road traffic incident”. There had been no confirmation of it actually being for drink-driving so regardless of your “political experience” or the lack of public denial you were being hasty with the outrage and the above rant does make you seem a little thin-skinned over it.
    There are indeed many lessons the young lad will need to learn about what it really means to play for our club but there’s a lesson for you here James; by all means write about an incident with caveats but keep your most explosive powder dry until all the facts are known!

    I’d say the same if this exact incident had featured a Sevco player.

    Righteous indignation really should be righteous…if you don’t have all the correct information then it can’t truly be righteous.

  • Mike Mcg says:

    Over defensive,over rationalised, over sensitive but, essentially very true.well done!

  • John Gow says:

    There’s a lot I could say about your article James but I won’t. Simply because, by your own admission, you don’t have time to read replies. However, seems like you may have read replies to your summary execution of the youngster going by this article so maybe you do.
    So, tell me James, do you read replies or not? Seems to me there is no point in following this blog if it’s sole purpose is to bombard the reader with your ads, regularly, rather than have a meaningful dialogue with those who spend the time to comment.

    • Roonsa says:

      One of the many things I like about the Celtic blog is that the comments are uncensored (as far as I am aware). I swear like absolute fuck on here and got pelters for using the word “spastic” (that’s a direct quote, offended bus passengers … I know it offends you so I won’t use it again which offends me).

      Anyway, this blog isn’t about me or anyone else on here. People say what they have to say and we move on. I applaud this blog entry and the people who are digging their heels in by calling out James. But kudos to the man for never spitting out the dummy. Free speech fucking rules. More power to all your elbows.

      For the record, I agree with the blog author on this one and said as much in the comments section of the original blog entry.

      • Sophie Johnstone says:

        No one uses The S word anymore mate,because it doesn’t belong in today’s ones being precious about it were just being decent human beings,and no I’m not an easily offended bus passenger

  • Mark b says:

    I heard those songs at Ross County and the IRA chants at Killie. And the dirty Orange B****** chant at Derek McInnes. All of them. Total disgrace and those who sing shame our club and I do not want to be associated with them or them with or club. Stay away you have no place in the club I want to be part of. You shame us, you disgrace us and make us less than we should be.

  • Biffo67 says:

    Bernabie’s actions clearly were wrong. With his money he doesn’t need to use a car at all if he’s going to have a drink when he’s out. Surprisingly, the alcohol limits in Argentina are the same as Scotland. Remember the rest of UK have limits about 50% higher than either Argentina or Scotland.
    Wait till the details emerge. Calum was almost four times the limit. Bernabie’s situation may have been caused by the police seeing bad driving or even by a phone call to the police from a “concerned citizen of the peepul” who saw him have a glass of wine with his meal.
    Yesterdays calls for him to be sacked were a lot worse than just over the top but there is an element of our support that just likes to take every opportunity to over react and vilify any new player.

  • Conor says:

    Spot on with everything you’ve just said. Those fans that were singing at Ross County are only lowering themselves to the level of those they criticise themselves. Bringing down the names of all of us. Celtic fans are the best around. Every club though has a % of support that disappoints the rest. Unfortunately Celtic are included. The rest of us just keep our chins up & support the Bhoys no matter what.
    HAIL HAIL bud

  • Jimhearns says:

    What a long story to get to calum mcgregor a mistake happened if the boy doesn’t learn from this he won’t be here simple

  • Michael McCartney says:

    I agree that some of the sectarian chanting by a minority of our supporters shames us all. They obviously don’t know the history of this great club of ours. Keep up the good work of calling these people out James.
    As far as the case of our young left back goes, I think we should just let the wheels of justice turn and I would hope that behind the scenes our club would be acting as responsible employers and helping the young player face up to his responsibilities as a Celtic player and as an individual.

  • Tom Foolery says:

    That’s a long winded way of saying that some of yesterdays comments in the article in question hurt you some. An article where you didn’t and still don’t have all the facts yet you acted and are still acting like judge, jury and executioner.

  • Johnny Green says:

    Apart from the police and the player himself the only one with all the facts will be Celtic FC. It is therefore Celtic who should be assessing the situation, coming to a conclusion, and acting accordingly. They should be proceeding sagely in both the interests of the player and the Club, but first and foremost the Club should be their main concern. i hope the player is suitably remorseful and the player/club relationship can survive this unfortunate event. I am sure they will be handling it tactfully and we will all find out the details in due course. Until then it should really be a moot subject for all of us.

  • Bob (original) says:

    Must admit, I cringe at the IRA chants when they are made at Celtic Park.
    But, they are made by a clear, small minority – who are quickly booed by the majority.

    We complain about the clear, vast majority at Ibrox singing dodgy songs,
    yet we lose the moral high ground when we can’t sort out our own dodgy singing.

    Our club is better than that.

  • Tim Buffy says:

    I’m not condoning the player’s actions in any way but, as i wrote yesterday, there’s a massive difference between driving while drunk and driving while over the limit and it’s very difficult to prove in court. You’ve put a lot of “what if” scenarios into today’s piece, none of which have been mentioned in the police statement so you’re just as guilty as the rag which mentioned alleged incidents outside a night club. And, by the way, you can be breathalysed when you’ve not had a drink. I was among a group of motorists stopped at a routine road check and when they refused to believe that I was test driving the car for a newspaper ad feature the machine came out. Nothing came of it but I had some explaining to do to several passers by who witnessed the incident and couldn’t help spreading the tale,
    Let’s wait for the court case.

  • somehow says:

    totally OTT reaction.

  • S thomas says:

    It’s not an over the top reaction at all. Drink driving is a disgrace. If this was a ibrox player, oh jail him, and throw away the key. This hypocrisy is scandalous. If he was deemed to be pissed driving, then Celtic should sack him. All this stuff about being a young boy, tell that to the unfortunate families who have lost a loved one. And yes the ira songs are embaressing.

    • Roonsa says:

      A bit mawkish but I agree with this to a point. You can’t sweep these things under the carpet. However. I don’t think Celtic should sack him. What Celtic need to do is handle this situation well, deal with the media, guide the lad and make a positive out a negative.

  • Brian Cavanagh says:

    You are spot on James on all counts. If these ‘fans’ really cared for the club they wouldn’t indulge themselves at our expense.

    Our new player – should be focusing on getting into the team – not taking out his temper tantrums – and as a professional player should know better.

  • Martin says:

    You were jumping the gun and basing it on opinion rather than fact. Which is fine. But it leaves room for criticism.

    And where do you get this nonsense about police needing a reason to stop and breathalyse you? I’ve been stopped 6 times in the last 10 years. On each occasion it has been a “random stop” where every car on the road was being stopped, not the ones driving dangerously. If a cop wants to breathalyse you they’ll stop you. They don’t need you to be driving badly or for a witness to say you’re drunk.

    Nobody I saw was defending drink driving, they were saying it’s too early to comment and condemn.

  • Tim Buffy says:

    Temper tantrums?
    Can we all just settle down now and remember that this matter is now sub judice and should not be commented upon?

  • CC says:

    You remind me of Millie Tant out of Viz with this blood pressure bursting outrage. If the boy got himself in trouble, then he will have to deal with it. If fannies want to sing songs which most people would find unpalatable, that’s up to them. Nobody’s forcing you to be linked to them. If you see a piss-stained alky shouting at a telegraph pole are you going to be frothing with self righteousness at how he’s embarrassing other white, European heterosexual males with his behaviour?

    It seems like, as is the current trend in European society, you would welcome the establishment of some kind of standardised, deindividuated drone race who only acts within the boundaries of what you think is acceptable or not. Good luck with that. You can’t have the good guy without the prick. There’s no right without wrong. I shudder to think how much steam must have come out of your ears when Souness said it was a man’s game! Haha!

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