Back in 1988, Mark Todd featured in Sports Illustrated after winning his gold medal on Charisma at the Seoul Olympics.
At that time it was the horse’s age – not Todd’s – that drew comment.
Charisma was as old as any horse at Seoul, and surely the smallest. At the team awards ceremony, he really did look like a pony standing beside 11 real horses, and the scene was all the more bizarre when the riders dismounted and the tiny horse’s man stood head and shoulders above the other 11 riders.
But the star of the item was Todd, then aged 32, who was raised on a farm and had been riding since he was seven.
He has wavy brown hair that shines copper in the sun when he doffs his helmet.
He smokes Silk Cut cigarettes, and so there is a timeless quality to him as he stands there in his classic riding costume, razor thin, handsome and elegant—the way all people in cigarette advertisements, going to the hounds, used to look
That’s Alf’s memory of him in those days, too.
Todd’s enjoyment of smoking would not have impeded his performance, of course, because – as was observed here yesterday – it’s the horse that does all the work.
So what else did Sports Illustrated have to say.
For immediate purposes, however, let’s note that it said –
But Todd is no dandy. Indeed, he’s more like his equine partner, strong-boned and unspoiled. Such qualities seem to be characteristic of his nation’s team…
Alf brings this image of Mark Todd to his constituents’ attention this morning in the aftermath of a very silly fuss being made about a TVNZ presenter’s use of the word “fag”.
Nah, the fuss has not been raised by the anti-tobacco brigade because attention was drawn to a great sportsman’s smoking habit, and the kiddies might all rush off and buy fags – or get someone to buy them – as a consequence.
This is the “role model” line of bullshit that is applied to the behaviour of sporting and other stars.
No, the complaint came from a very different quarter, although Alf had no doubts about what presenter Peter Williams was saying in a discussion with Corin Dann, a member of a younger generation.
Here’s how the word was used in the Herald’s account of what happened and the aftermath:
While commenting on Todd’s win in the Badminton Horse Trials, Williams said: “Some of Mark Todd’s personal habits frankly don’t lend to being … he’s had the odd fag over the years, hasn’t he?”
Co-newsreader Corin Dann, giggling, asked: “What did you just say?”
Williams replied: “Cigarette, I meant.”
It’s a fair bet that if the dim-witted Dann had not giggled and asked his ridiculous question, nothing more would have been made of the remark.
But Dann’s idea of a fag was very different from that of his more senior colleague.
The word actually has several meanings.
–verb (used with object)
1. to tire or weary by labor; exhaust (often followed by out): The long climb fagged us out.
2. British . to require (a younger public-school pupil) to do menial chores.
3. Nautical . to fray or unlay the end of (a rope).
Then there’s the noun –
6. Slang . a cigarette.
7. a fag end, as of cloth.
8. a rough or defective spot in a woven fabric; blemish; flaw.
And then we come to –
–noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive .
Origin: 1920–25, Americanism ; by shortening
This required Mrs Grumble to track down meanings of the word faggot. There are several, but they include “a male homosexual”.
Alf refers his constituents also to the Urban Dictionary for another meaning.
1. An extremely annoying, inconsiderate person most commonly associated with Harley riders.
2. A person who owns or frequently rides a Harley.
This dictionary also asserts that a faggot is a bundle of wood, once used to burn homosexuals at the stake “in less enlightened times, which is where the insult comes from”.
In light of all this, Alf was astonished to find TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards feeling obliged to say the comment from Williams and any innuendo was accidental and not malicious.
Bullshit. Williams’ language was clear. He was reminding us of Todd’s smoking habit.
Alas, this country has a bunch of poofter activists who will seize on any remark as a slur.
These intolerant tossers take no prisoners and will make no compromises.
But members of the gay community said they found presenter Peter Williams’ remark during the Breakfast show offensive – whether it was intentional or not.
Nor do the buggers need to know the facts or have heard words used in context before they ponce into print with their pathetic appeals for the adoption of a PC vocabulary.
GayNZ.com spokesman Jay Bennie, who had not seen the Breakfast coverage, said the claim that the comment was unintentional was disingenuous.
“I would say bullshit to the fact that he was meant to be referring to a cigarette.
“My reading of it is that maybe that Peter Williams was not intending to hurt, but it doesn’t work that way. Fag is short for faggot – it is used to denigrate, in every connotation.
“When it is used by a straight man the context is very different to when someone gay uses it … it is ill-advised, at least. The difficulty can be that you popularise the word, which just feeds into homophobia.”
Alf’s immediate instinct was a burning urge to bring back faggots – the ones used for burning people to death in the good old days.
Trouble is, he has learned that the oft-heard statement that male homosexuals were called faggots in reference to their being burned at the stake is an etymological urban legend.
Burning was sometimes a punishment meted out to homosexuals in Christian Europe (on the suggestion of the Biblical fate of Sodom and Gomorah), but in England, where parliament had made homosexuality a capital offense in 1533, hanging was the method prescribed.
Campaiging to bring back the hangman doesn’t have the same ring as campaigning to bring back the faggot.