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.