Aging Lions maul coach Warren Gatland

June 19, 2017

Warren Gatland

 

In advance of Saturday’s test match against New Zealand’s All Blacks, [scheduled 24 June 2017] Warren Gatland, the coach of the British and Irish Lions is mauled in a bitter attack by Rugby Union pundits around the world, including former Lion players

Gatland’s heinous blunder

His crime? Dealing with a series of injuries to his squad, Gatland made the decision to call up additional support from members of the Welsh and Scottish teams, touring in the region.

A storm of protest burst out, led by England coach Eddie Jones, whose team is touring in Argentina, half way around the world. The headline Eddie Jones says what we have all been thinking about Gatland’s supposed call-ups sums up the nature of the ‘debate’.

Revenge attacks?

I was struck by both the ferocity and uniformity of the attacks. Gatland had triggered an avalanche of criticism. In some ways, this can be traced to disenchantment with Gatland, who will resume his role as coach to the Welsh national team after the tour.  Accusations of bias have followed Gatland from the outset of this tour against the world champions, who are odds-on favourites to win the three-test series.

His original selections were viewed as biased in favour of players he knew and trusted from Wales, and why strong candidates from England were omitted. The objections were mostly from the English media. Garland was criticized for Nationalistic bias, an ironic charge for someone of New Zealand not Newport Gwent roots.

Players omitted from the England squad were outspoken.

During the few weeks of the tour in June, tour criticism of Gatland built up. The coach was put on the defensive.

The emotional argument

So, returning the six replacements, the emotional argument against the extra six players can be summarized simply. Commentator after commentator echoed it:

 

“The decision devalues the Lions’ shirt

 

Few seemed to find it necessary to add (as Gatland found it necessary to point out) that the decision was reached  after long discussions by the international management coaching team of the Lions. Nor was there comment on how these players the pundits dismissed as not fit to wear the shirt might react, if their team mates on their arrival treated them as second-class citizens.

Historical baggage?

There seemed a lot of historical baggage about the media treatment of the story. For example:

England’s former Lion Jeremy Guscott found headlines in a half-time roasting of the Welsh team against Japan in the last World Cup. In particular, he blasted the Lions on the pitch.  Ironically, Wales upped their game against Japan, and Japan contributed to a display which led to the humiliation of England on home soil and the eventual appointment of new coach Eddie Jones.

Returning to the present controversy, even a Welsh rugby great has weighed in.

Jonathan Davies is a much-loved national figure who has suffered hardships and tragedy in his personal life with fortitude and public grace. His views are generally forthright and honest. He again took the devaluing the Lion shirt line.

Putting my frayed academic nightcap and bed socks on, and supping my Ovaltine, I suspect each player is demonstrating the core issue of social identity. Pundit Guscott now preserves his aura of greatness earned as a Lion through the symbolism of the brand. Davies never achieved the honour of playing for the Lions, as he made the painful decision to leave the amateur game of Rugby Union to support his family as a rugby league player, returning later as professionalism entered the Union code.

Gatland’s stubborn streak

There is a well-known streak of stubbornness about Gatland, although no more than the one apparent in the public pronouncements of Eddie Jones.

The test series may well be lost to the mighty All Blacks. If so, it would be helpful to conduct post-mortems in a more clinical fashion than the ‘expert’ diagnoses to date.


Why Boris is remembered for introducing congestion charges and Boris bikes

August 22, 2014

Charismatic leaders attract myths which help constitute their public persona. A case in point is that of Boris Johnsonboris bikes

I was reminded of the myth-making process phenomenon after a meeting yesterday [August 22nd] with two LWD contributors. We were discussing the final draft for a post about Boris Johnson being planned for the near future.

They seek him here, they seek him there

But how to pin down the Boris effect? One instructive episode at the meeting was when we began listing what Boris was known for. Bendy busses. Public gaffs. Teflon-like survival of public gaffs. Boris Bikes. London’s congestion change.

London’s congestion charge?

Well, no not really, but they were added to the list of Boris’s political achievements. Only later did a little research reveal the historical fact that they were introduced by Ken Livingstone, Boris’s predecessor as Mayor of London.

An explanation?

Charisma operates by inducing a state of suspended disbelief. Boris is believed to do big bold controversial things. The congestion change is a big bold controversial thing. I don’t think Boris has tried to abolish it. We assumed he had invented it.

The Guinness effect

A possibly unrelated effect? Some years ago I attended a meeting at which new ideas were being discussed for the drinks company then known as Guinness. A rather nice idea was suggested by a colleague, someone we will call Susan. The idea was hardly greeted with enthusiasm, but at the end of the meeting two unexpected things happened. The idea was accepted as worth further testing.

“That’s a nice idea you had” one of the Guinness executives told me, to general agreement.

Did I insist Susan got credit for the idea? Not loud enough to make a difference to the myth being built. I could argue that the ‘creative ideas’ meeting was structured so that ideas were deliberately left unclaimed and not associated with any one team member. That is hardly the point. I had accrued the social credit for something I hadn’t done. It happened to fit my (then) social identity as the outsider brought in because of his creative skills.

Susan became known in her own right as a successful creative leader. The idea (which involved a re-branding of a well-known product) was followed through. The incident has remained with us as a reminder of what we think of as The Guinness Effect.

Postscript

Even the Boris Bikes are technically branded as Barclays cycle hire scheme for the moment (but a new sponsor is likely) . And even the Barclays/Boris bikes were proposed by Ken Livingstone and implemented during the reign of king Boris …


An Idiot Abroad 2 and Life’s Too Short: ‘No better than a Victorian freak show?’

December 6, 2011

Terence Blacker in The Independent described the BBC comedy Life’s Too Short as “Comedy no better than a Victorian freak show”. The story raises questions about creativity, culture, social identity and thought leadership

Tudor Rickards

I had already written a Not a Review for An Idiot Abroad 2 which is reissued below. My post explored the emerging themes within the comedy of Ricky Gervase and Stephen Merchant. Blacker’s article suggests that its discussion points remain pertinent to their subsequent series Life’s Too Short.

It was hard to avoid information about An Idiot Abroad (second series) showing on Sky2. The programme had received extensive advance advertising on Sky as innovative comedy within a travel-show format. Its co-founder Ricky Gervase had been tireless in his enthusiastic plugging of it on the chat show circuit, supported by. At the time, Gervase and Merchant had become internationally acclaimed for their achievements first in the cultish British TV series The Office, and later in American media ventures of varying degrees of success.

The big idea

The big idea in the Sky programme was that Gervase and his creative partner Steve Merchant had stumbled upon a remarkable non-celebrity whose gnomic observations blew their minds. Said non-celebrity became a challenge, a project to bring to the attention of a wider audience who would share their delight in getting to know him. The title may have been inspired by Mark Twain’s once-famous book An Innocent Abroad which also had its share of disingenuousness built in to its humour.

Or as Sky puts it

The man with the spherical head is back! An Idiot Abroad returns this autumn as Karl attempts to tick things off his bucket list [unfulfilled dreams]…. Having struggled to find much to do since returning from 2010’s adventure – as he likes to put it, “when you’ve been in a programme called An Idiot Abroad, other job offers aren’t going to be flying in, are they?” intrepid misanthrope Karl Pilkington sets off for a second time in September.

As usual, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pull the strings from the comfort of their office, as Karl journeys further from his comfort zone and
encounters more confused locals and cultural differences.

Karl’s adventures

The result is part travel show, part improvisational art. Carl gets to visit touristy places and comment in ways which are more touristy than the accepted tourist show genre. Individual scenes make great U-tube materials: Carl on a camel; Carl and the not so great wall of China; Carl reacting to the non- Mancunian cultures of a tribe whose members worship Prince Philip; Carl in space. [Only one of the above is made up by me].

Carl Pilkington and the making of celebrity

Carl Pilkington was taken up by Gervase and Merchant after working together on a professional assignment. They related to him as a person of unusual quirky personality and saw the potential for celebrity-making. Their undoubted creative talents, so acclaimed in The Office, are evident in the structuring of this project. It shares part of its success with that of celebrity shows and the complex dynamics of social identity including vicarious enjoyment in both the success and the humiliation of ordinary people.

Carl Pilkington is presented as someone who has celebrity thrust upon him. It the background, the programme supplies the ingredients of humiliation and bullying of an ordinary bloke. The structure is neatly summed up in the blurb above. There’s a big brother somewhere operating in comfort as fools and horses prance for their entertainment.

Creativity trumps cruelty

Creativity trumps cruelty. There are various psychological defences to protect social identity. It is uncool to object to a bit of light-hearted fun. The charge of political correctness gone mad can be wheeled out. And Ricky Gervais can continue to plug this and his next project which involves yet more light-hearted fun involving a gifted artist, Warwick Davies, who becomes the chosen one to benefit from the Gervase treatment. The focal characteristic of the artist in question is indicated in the title “Life’s too short”

Footnote

The issue is far from unambiguous, but you would not think so from the maedia treatment. Warwick Davis makes the ethical case for the programme by noting that critics of the programmes “just don’t get it”.


An Idiot Abroad 2 : Not a Review

September 26, 2011


An Idiot Abroad had begun its second series on Sky 2 TV before I had overcome my aversion to its title and pre-publicity. Its back story raises disturbing questions about creativity, social identity and thought leadership

It was hard to avoid information about An Idiot Abroad (second series) showing on Sky2 TV. The programme had received extensive advance advertising on Sky as innovative comedy within a travel-show format. Its co-founder Ricky Gervase had been tireless in his enthusiastic plugging of it on the chat show circuit. Gervase and collaborator Steve Merchant had become internationally acclaimed for their achievements first in the cultish British TV series The Office, and later in American media ventures.

The big idea

The big idea in the Sky programme was that Gervase and Merchant had stumbled upon a remarkable non-celebrity whose gnomic observations blew their minds. Said non-celebrity became a challenge, a project to bring to the attention of a wider audience who would share their delight in getting to know him. The title may have been inspired by Mark Twain’s once-famous book An Innocent Abroad which also had its share of disingenuousness built in to its humour.

The idiot Abroad, as Sky puts it:

The man with the spherical head is back! An Idiot Abroad returns this autumn as Karl attempts to tick things off his bucket list [unfulfilled dreams]…. Having struggled to find much to do since returning from 2010’s adventure – as he likes to put it, “when you’ve been in a programme called An Idiot Abroad, other job offers aren’t going to be flying in, are they?” intrepid misanthrope Karl Pilkington sets off for a second time in September. As usual, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pull the strings from the comfort of their office, as Karl journeys further from his comfort zone and encounters more confused locals and cultural differences.

Karl’s adventures

The result is an imaginative programme which is part travel show, part improvisational art. Carl gets to visit touristy places and comment in ways which are more touristy than the accepted genre. Individual scenes make great U-tube materials: Carl on a camel; Carl and the not so great wall of China; Carl reacting to the non-Mancunian culture of a tribe whose members worship Prince Philip; Carl in space [I might have made up that one].

Carl Pilkington and the making of celebrity

Carl Pilkington was taken up by Gervase and Merchant after working together on a professional assignment. They related to him as a person of unusual quirky personality and saw the potential for celebrity-making. Their undoubted creative talents, so acclaimed in The Office, are evident in the structuring of this project. It shares part of its success with that of celebrity shows and the complex dynamics of social identity including vicarious enjoyment in both the success and the humiliation of ordinary people.

Carl is presented as someone who has celebrity thrust upon him. It the background, the programme supplies the ingredients of humiliation and bullying of an ordinary bloke. The structure is neatly summed up in the blurb above. There’s a big brother somewhere operating in comfort as fools and horses prance for their entertainment.

Creativity trumps cruelty

There are various psychological defences to protect social identity. Creativity trumps cruelty. Art transcends moral values. It is uncool to object to a bit of light-hearted fun. The charge of political correctness gone mad can be wheeled out. And Ricky Gervais can continue to plug this and his next project. It seems this will involves yet more light-hearted fun involving a gifted artist who becomes the chosen one to benefit from the Gervase celebrity makeover treatment. Parallels with shows orchestrated by ringmasters such as Simon Cowell are clear.