THE BUZZ word this week seems to be apology, but just like that little word IF, you can read a lot into apologies.
Are they sincere? Are they forced? Are they said between gritted teeth? Are they a cover up?
In the case of Theo Walcott, the Arsenal and England forward who owned up to trying to con referee Phil Dowd by taking a dive in the Leeds United penalty area, I think he was genuinely contrite.
"I was trying to win the penalty. I am not the sort of player to do it, but I own up to it and apologise," said Walcott immediately after the game.
Why do I think he is truly sorry? Most of all because he didn’t need to say anything.
Few had detected the dive, it wasn’t one of those cringe inducing swallow dives as perfected by Ronaldo, Drogba, Pires etc, and from what I’ve heard on the grapevine Walcott is a very decent level headed type.
That in itself doesn’t make him innocent, but I think he intelligently nipped the situation in the bud by coming out with his statement, and by saying sorry probably averted the ignominy of an FA charge.
Now take the case of Liverpool’s Ryan Babel who went to the trouble of imposing a Manchester United shirt on a picture of referee Howard Webb and tweeting to the world: "And they call him one of the best referees. That’s a joke".
The fact that Babel got up to skullduggery in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s defeat to enemies Manchester United might explain his foolishness, but in no way can it be excused.
His apology was less convincing than Walcott’s. The Dutchman merely said: "Sorry Howard Webb."
Babel claimed it was an emotional reaction to losing an important game, but it revealed incredible immaturity, and yet again acts as a warning to sportsmen that using this form of technology can get them into hot water.
England cricketers Kevin Pietersen, Tim Bresnan and Azeem Rafiq know all about that.
Babel can expect to be hearing from the FA and rightly so.
AFTER his heroics in Australia, it could well be that Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan will join Kevin Pietersen and the rest in kneeling before the Queen to receive an MBE, but before that there’s a little matter of nine one-day internationals and then the World Cup.
Am I alone in thinking there’s too much international cricket?
It’s only five days since we won the Ashes for Pete’s sake, yet today England take on Australia in the first of the limited overs games in Adelaide, then off on another air miles collecting jaunt around Hobart, Melbourne etc until the final game in Perth on February 6.
I’m a bit of a jet-setter myself, but I’m exhausted just thinking about this itinerary.
They’ll barely draw breath before the World Cup is upon us in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – and by the way the next domestic season begins in the second week of April.
The gloss of retaining the Ashes is taken away by too many meaningless games.
We’ll all remember those gripping Test matches in Melbourne and Sydney, but I guarantee no-one will be able to recall the results of these bish-bash affairs even a week after they’ve taken place.
WHAT A disastrous FA Cup it’s been for the North East.
Newcastle, spectacularly at Stevenage, Middlesbrough miserably at Burton, and Sunderland embarrassingly at home to Notts County, all fell at the first hurdle.
Yet somehow we should not be surprised.
I love going up the A1.
It’s inhabited by real people, nice folk, totally passionate about not just football, but everything in life.
Yet somehow they have an almost macabre sense of humour, almost a deathwish when it comes to sport.
Newcastle United fans are paranoid about winning absolutely nothing since 1969, Sunderland are hung up about living in Newcastle’s shadow, and Middlesbrough don’t really expect to win anything, which isn’t quite true because they did claim the League Cup in 2004, the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1976, and two amateur cups in the 1890’s.
There have been hundreds of false dawns, heroes aplenty (Milburn, Shackleton, Mannion, Keegan, MacDonald) but somehow they just can’t get it right when it comes to winning things.
Saturday’s capitulations virtually spelled the end of the seasons for all three clubs, notwithstanding a Sunderland tilt at getting into Europe, but life will never be dull in the area they call the hotbed of soccer.