17 December 2009 ~ If there was only one thing to take from the puffed up and self-congratulatory ceremony that is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, it was surely the affirmation of that age-old truism that despite their fabulous wealth, athleticism and natural talent, most footballers are inherently dull. While Ryan Giggs's glittering career is, of course, worthy of nothing less than our full admiration, his lacklustre and faltering effort at an acceptance speech nevertheless made something of a mockery of the personality element of the award. Viewers gained little insight into the inner-workings of the man himself.

In fact, it is fair to say that much of his success can actually be attributed to his innate blandness. Practically teetotal, domesticated and a yoga enthusiast, Giggs himself admitted in a recent interview that he "leads a bit of a boring life". This is, of course, the time of year when such lifestyle differences really come to the fore. For while the rest of the nation splits its time between spending too much, eating too much and drinking too much, the modern footballer has to train harder than ever. Whereas most continental leagues now afford their players a break, Boxing Day and New Year's Day fixtures mean that for the Premier League star the festive period is essentially a write off. Long periods are spent away from families and friends in impersonal hotel rooms. Strict dieting and training regimes are adhered to. Moreover, the recent crackdown on the customary Christmas party by managers fearful of bad publicity has even deprived them of the right to dress up, harass strippers and stub cigars out in one another's eyes.

Yet the significance of this lies in more than the fact that we get to slob out in front of the television and indulge in more mince pies than the standard Premier League footballer. Such festivities provide us with the opportunity to escape, at least temporarily, the grinding and mundane reality that is everyday life. As the prominent Russian anthropologist Mikhail Bakhtin saw it, such occasions were nothing less than the realisation of an alternate way of life, "organised on the basis of laughter". Social conventions that shackle us in day-to-day life can be thrown off, as we indulge in the customary festive silliness. We forget the demands that our bosses make of us. We temporarily put out of our mind those unpaid bills. Instead, we are provided a brief opportunity to indulge in an "atmosphere of freedom, frankness and familiarity".

At such moments we are able to step outside of the humdrum routines that normally order our daily existence. We experience different sensations. We establish new friendships. We let ourselves relax. So in this season of goodwill and merriment let us revel in the fact that despite all their wealth, fame and glory, the modern professional footballer is truly much less well off than us at this time of year. It affirms once and for all that money really can't buy you everything (or at least not a personality). Matthew Hollow

Comments (3)
Comment by manandvans 2009-12-17 13:42:55

In October, the company I worked for went bust resulting in me not getting 2 months pay. As a consequence I'm working over the holiday period at 6 quid an hour to pay the rent. There are several million worse off than me who will also have to work over Xmas, maybe just to stop their house being repossessed.
I couldn't give a flying f*uck whether some footballers are slightly inconvenienced. If they don't like it they could always try an alternative career.

Comment by Lucy Waterman 2009-12-17 16:41:07

[quote] made something of a mockery of the personality element of the award [/quote]

There isn't one, though. That isn't what the word personality means in this context.

Comment by Dalef65 2009-12-19 11:40:27

The award is a bit of an anachronistic joke isnt it?
I still cant beleive,11 years on,that Michael Owen won the award in 1998 essentially for diving for a penalty and then scoring a goal in a world cup game that England "lost".
As for Ryan giggs,and other players we dont need to feel too sympathetic if they miss out on the xmas festivities.As they keep reminding us its a short career,so when they finish playing they will still be young men and they can do what they like then.
And they will have enough cash in the bank to facilitate whatever lifestyle they want to lead..............

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