The Cold Fingers of Hard Men

Much to-do and hoopla has been made recently about the four centimetres of snow that have shut down the UK and sent the EPL season into a shambles of cancellations and rescheduling, and amidst the chaos commentators and fans still seem anxious to find out one important question: which players are so wussified by the sub-zero temperatures that they’ve lowered themselves to wearing gloves.

Forgive me for being naive, but I don’t understand the determination that covering one’s hands for the duration of an hour and a half spent running around in the snow, otherwise clad only in shorts and a T-shirt means you’re a weakling and unworthy of respect. It makes about as much sense as saying that wearing comfortable shoes is a sign that you drink herbal tea and can’t take a punch. It’s nonsense.

To my mind it’s roughly equivalent to the “visor-no visor” debate in hockey, expect that at least the hockey argument involves choosing to forgo actual protection against life-long eyeball problems. Not that I’m supporting the Don Cherry, tough-guy idiocy behind not wearing a visor, but consider:

“Yeah, I’ve got a reputation for being a tough guy. I opt not to protect my face against thrashing sticks, sharpened steel blades and hurtling chunks of frozen rubber.”

“I also have a hard man reputation: When it’s chilly, I don’t wear gloves to play a sport that forbids you using your hands anyway.”

Now, as you may have noticed, I’m a fan of soccer. I’m not trying to play the inane “soccer is a game for wussies” card that all-to-many hockey and (American) football fans pull out all the time. That said, as hard man credentials go, naked fingers just don’t measure up.

Worse, soccer is a tough game, with tough players. No one needs to resort to the glove/no glove fussiness to prove anything: players run, nonstop, for 90 minutes (that’s hard – I can’t run for 90 seconds); they smash into one another while wearing no padding (shins aside); they play through driving sleet and rain (baseball, I’m looking at you); they routinely kick each other as hard as they can; and, gloves or no gloves, they’re out there in the snow wearing shorts.

So all I’m asking is why, when all that is going on, are chilly fingers the mark of soccer’s hard men?

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