Not sinners, not Saints: Roger Moore scores

Last updated : 16 October 2008 By Roger Moore
There are times when I despair of the cynicism attributed to the people of this country, once rightly lauded for their tolerance and compassion. This week, my concern was bought sharply into focus by the treatment dished out to two of our leading sportsmen.

Ashley Cole is the footballer fans love to hate. Guilty of crass stupidity undoubtedly, he is a product of the equation 'cash plus agent minus education and skilled PR equals brainless comments from Premiership footballer'.

He is not the first, nor last, of the nouveau riche to flaunt his wealth inappropriately, but perhaps he is the first to voice openly what every member of the current England squad is thinking - "£50,000 a week IS an insult."

That Cole chose to voice his opinion doesn't make him a worse man than Steven Gerrard, just not so well advised. I doubt Gerrard would be too impressed if his next contract from Liverpool wasn't at least double, maybe even treble, what Arsenal felt they could get away with paying Cole. Would he say so? Probably not. Would his PR let him? No chance!

Alternatively, if we're pillorying Cole for his treatment of the gorgeous Cheryl - well, people in glass houses and all that. I wonder how many of our millionaire footballers could genuinely claim monogamy with a straight face; step forward David Beckham?

How many men can stand proud of all their actions throughout married life I wonder? And how many wives for that matter?

To my mind anyone who jeered Ashley Cole is an idiot. Not because I don't find the guy utterly unlikeable, far from it. But to fund his lavish lifestyle and then show displeasure at his one-fault performance is just plain bonkers.

If you don't want to support the modern footballer's riches, don't pay to see them play, live or televised - that much is surely beyond even the simpleton's understanding. And if you do pay, do the remainder of the crowd the courtesy of supporting the team you paid to watch, not using the opportunity to make a hypocritical observation on wealth and behaviour.

If we're going to condemn footballers for stupidity, then we'd better accelerate that gaol-building programme countless governments have promised.

But then, there's also a model sportsman being hammered in this week's press as well.

Away from football, I confess to being among that near-extinct group of predominantly males classed as 'petrol-heads'. I love cars and I love motorsport. I do not love the sanitised version of wheel-to-wheel combat that passes for Formula One, but even I can see Lewis Hamilton is a sensation.

Like him or loathe him, the guy has the ability to drive, and then some. This is not public relations hyperbole or a bandwagon of marketing spin, Hamilton, unlike Britain, has got real talent.

Anyone who saw his drive on slick tyres in the wet at the Belgian Grand Prix must conclude the same. Not yet a rival for his hero Ayrton Senna, but not far off. As more experienced drivers slithered into gravel traps and one another, Hamilton fair scorched around in an incredible display of bravery and skill - frankly I haven't seen a drive like it since Senna and Prost diced and duelled at two hundred miles per hour over two decades ago.

Moreover, Hamilton's behaviour on and off the track is almost perfect. Impeccably attired, suave and confident, his only crime appears to be youth and moving to Switzerland to avoid our crippling tax regime - and there's a reason I submit this column from Geneva, so I can't fault him on that!

Yet, in the wake of some youthful exuberance, the Wapping knives are out for Hamilton. Is he cracking under the pressure, they ask excitedly. Will his youth be his downfall? Can he cope with the prospect of winning the World Championship?

The boy, let us not forget, is 23 years of age. And while Damon Hill was dishing out advice of the caring kind - "stay calm and do what you do best, Lewis" - why were our press not doing likewise? Where's the support a young, black British driver driving for a British team based ten miles from my home deserves?

Where are the headlines crying 'You can do it Lewis' as opposed to those appearing hopeful that he'll blow the main chance?

The press are often criticised for their idolising and demonising, but the reality is we buy it. If we didn't, they wouldn't print it. We, friends, are to blame for the press and politics of cynicism and envy.

Hamilton apologised this week if he hadn't always communicated clearly. Why should he? He's young. No doubt Cole has done the same. Why should he? We cannot set standards for others that we cannot live up to. I've done some things in my time I'm not proud of and stupidity is high among them.

Do I forgive Cole? I shouldn't have to. What if he scores the winning goal in the World Cup final? How quickly might his faux pas be forgotten then, I wonder? I need only judge him on his performances - I don't have to live with him or his beautiful wife.

Like you, I suspect, I would dearly love my heroes to be accessible and responsible. I want role models to whom my children can aspire - not for wealth or celebrity, but for their commitment and passion, their drive and determination. I want sportsmen who communicate through their performances and not the press. I forgive easily in the knowledge that all too often, there but for the grace of God…

Right now, however, I am thankful; thankful, because this week I can deliver my children some sporting role models who exhibit all the passion and commitment, drive and determination I so admire. And heaven's blessing, guess what?

They're wearing red and white.

Come along and enjoy them this Saturday before their trophy wives and your envy kicks in!