Friday, September 21, 2007

French sport

Theoretically, France should be able to defeat Ireland in this evening's pool D match of the Rugby World Cup. But theory doesn't amount to much in rugby, where all kinds of unexpected factors come into play. Theoretically, France should have been able to defeat Argentina in the opening match of the Cup, but it didn't. And, since then, the French have been haunted by the possibility that their team could get kicked out of the Cup during the pool matches, before the start of the real action. This evening, we'll see. It's a do or die thing. If Ireland were to win, France would be definitely out.

Evil-minded observers [Who isn't, when it's a matter of commenting upon a major sporting defeat?] would say that the bald-headed French trainer, Bernard Laporte, didn't get his act together before France's opening match. Or rather, he got his act together a little bit too well. Problems and criticism stem from the fact that loud-mouthed charismatic Laporte has become more of a popular star in France than any of the national players. He has a delightful south-western accent, and TV viewers love to see and hear him getting excited and screaming like a distraught dad at his hefty kids. Besides, we come upon Laporte all the time on TV, because smart companies have hired him to sell all kinds of wares and services. And many viewers have ended up wondering how the hell this video star could possibly find time to train the French rugby team.

Above all, Bernard Laporte has friends in high places... including one sports-minded friend in a particularly high place: Nicolas Sarkozy. Poorly-planned public relations enabled French citizens—not to mention the members of France's rugby team—to learn that Laporte has already accepted a golden job that has been offered him by his mate, the president. After the Rugby World Cup, Bernard Laporte—who knows next to nothing about politics—is destined to assume a senior governmental role in the French sporting domain. So, if ever France were to fail this evening, it would look a little like Sarkozy has signed up a lame duck to look after French sport. Let's hope this doesn't happen...

Meanwhile, French sport reached a summit with the victory in heavy-weight judo of Teddy Riner: a splendid young black-skinned clone of the great David Douillet. Although I know almost nothing about judo, I love to think that a young French Black, bursting over with personality and friendliness, has become—in a sense—the most powerful man on the planet, even more so than any of the rugby giants. Teddy Riner is truly the sort of quiet and beautiful guy [like Yannick Noah] whom you would like to invite to a home barbecue, to talk about anything and everything with the kids. Is there any better criterion of human excellence?

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