August 23, 2016

Hey, EU! Two can play this silly medal total game!

Filed under: Europe, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one variant of this bit of EU self-puffery going around:

EU fake 2016 Olympic medal ranking

As Guido Fawkes points out, under those rules the British Empire completely eclipses the medal total of all the EU states:

The former countries of the British Empire won 396 medals – 138 more medals than a post-Brexit EU. While the European Parliament invents an EU state to “win” the Olympics, the medal tally of a one-time actual supra-state leaves Brussels for dust. Former member countries of the British Empire accrued 76 more medals than the rest of the world (24%). In all, the Empire’s score of 137 gold medals trounces the EU’s, which after removing Great Britain sits at just 79.

Looking at other alliances NATO countries took a stunning 443 out of the 974 medals on offer (45%), while Anglosphere countries grabbed a whopping 288 – 30% of the world total. This is compared to Francophone states’ measly 87 (9%), even with Canada’s 22 (2%) generously included. Hoisting the colours appears to have been good luck; countries with Union Jacks in their flags took a massive 115 medals, of which 40 were gold!

August 22, 2016

For newspapers, paywalls are (not) the answer

Filed under: Business, Football, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Techdirt, Mike Masnick uses small, easily understood words to explain why your local newspaper is cutting its own financial throat by implementing a paywall:

For many years, while some journalists (and newspaper execs) have been insisting that a paywall is “the answer” for the declining news business, we’ve been pointing out how fundamentally stupid paywalls are for the news. Without going into all of the arguments again, the short version is this: the business of newspapers has never really been “the news business” (no matter how much they insist otherwise). It’s always been the community and attention business. And in the past they were able to command such attention and build a community around news because they didn’t have much competition. But the competitive landscape for community and attention has changed (massively) thanks to the internet. And putting up a paywall makes it worse. In most cases, it’s limiting the ability of these newspapers to build communities or get attention, and actively pushing people away.

And, yes, sure, people will point to the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times as proof that “paywalls work.” But earth to basically every other publication: you’re not one of those publications. The paywalls there only work because of the unique content they have, and even then they don’t work as well as most people think.

Not surprisingly, more and more newspapers that bet on paywalls are discovering that they don’t really work that well and were a waste of time and effort — and may have driven away even more readers.

In my case, I look at various newspapers for links to share with my tiny audience of regular readers. Once upon a time, I’d frequently link to the two big Minnesota newspapers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, mostly because I was reading their sports pages for information about my favourite football team, but fairly often when they carried other news of interest, I’d share the link with my readers. When the Star Tribune implemented a paywall, I pretty much stopped going there (they allow 10 free articles per month, and even if I only read the odd Jim Souhan column, I’d already be beyond my limit). Given the thriving fan community for the Vikings, I barely miss the mainstream coverage (but I suspect they miss me and the thousands of other out-of-state visitors they used to get in the pre-paywall days).

August 19, 2016

Vikings beat Seahawks 18-11 in second preseason game, without Teddy Bridgewater

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

Perhaps the oddest thing about watching last night’s Vikings-Seahawks matchup was seeing Shaun Hill take the start instead of Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy wasn’t hurt, but head coach Mike Zimmer “explained” it as being his decision not to play Teddy. No additional information was provided. Quite odd, but it did show what the backup and third string quarterbacks could do in real game situations. At 1500ESPN, Judd Zulgad describes the press conference exchange after the game:

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer surprised everyone on Thursday night by not starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and instead giving the assignment to veteran Shaun Hill.

Asked why Bridgewater did not start in the Vikings’ 18-11 preseason victory in Seattle, Zimmer said, “because I sat him.” Asked why he made the move, Zimmer responded, “because I wanted to.”

While Zimmer would not go into any detail, he did make it clear the move wasn’t for disciplinary reasons. “Teddy Bridgewater’s the nicest kid in the world,” Zimmer said, “there’s no disciplinary action ever with Teddy so it had nothing to do with discipline, it had to do with my decision.”

Zimmer became annoyed with follow up questions during his press conference. “It was my decision,” he said. “How many times are we going to go through this? It was my decision. Good enough?”


August 13, 2016

Vikings beat Bengals 17-16 in first preseason game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:51

Football is finally back in town … well, preseason football is back, with its usual assortment of splashy plays and mistakes/miscues/pratfalls. Last night’s game in Cincinnati wasn’t broadcast in my area, so I had to depend on Twitter updates and the game summary at Vikings.com to keep up with the action.

The first quarter didn’t follow the script from the inter-team practices earlier in the week (where the Vikings clearly dominated the scrimmages) as the Bengals kept the Vikings off the field except for a brief and inglorious three-and-out featuring the very worst characteristics of last year’s offensive line. Three snaps and three pressures on Teddy Bridgewater, including a sack by Geno Atkins, and the Vikings were done for the remainder of the first quarter. The Bengals took advantage of the Vikings defense, moving the ball with relative ease but not quite being able to turn that into points. No score at the end of the first quarter with a huge disproportion in yards and time of possession for Cincinnati.

Late in the first half, the Vikings finally got the ball back and Teddy Bridgewater and the first team offence did a much more creditable job of moving the ball and recorded the first points of the night on a 49-yard pass to Charles Johnson (but the Bengals had been pulling their starters by this point). Bridgewater ended the night completing 6 of 7 passes for 92 yards and the TD.

The Vikings extended their scoring after the Bengals tied it up with a 51-yard field goal from Blair Walsh and a rushing TD from C.J. Ham.

Mike Nugent brought the score to 17-10 with a field goal for the home team, and some terrible tackling on a punt return allowed Alex Erickson to run 80 yards for the TD. The Bengals elected to try for two points to win (and avoid an overtime period on a hot, steamy preseason night), but the attempt failed to keep the score at 17-16.

Update: One nice thing from that otherwise forgettable first offensive series was Teddy Bridgewater keeping a play alive by stiff-arming Geno Atkins and completing the (short) pass:

July 31, 2016

The Film Room Ep 16: Harrison Smith is the new Troy Polamalu

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 28 Jul 2016

With episode 16, I wanted to take a look at one of the more “overlooked” elite defenses in the NFL up in Minnesota. The Vikings are absolutely LOADED with talent on every single level of their defense, with perhaps the crown jewel of them all being their incredible young box safety, Harrison Smith. The fifth-year star plays a “do it all” role in Mike Zimmer’s pressure-filled defense, and as a result he’s often seen doing literally everything from enforcing his will down on the line of scrimmage, to covering slot receivers man to man, to even bracketing wideouts deep down field as a center fielder. With my beloved Texans slated to have an absolute brawl with Smith and company early in the season, there’s no better time to get acquainted with this ultra-talented beast that awaits them in week five.

July 29, 2016

Can the Vikings repeat last year’s success?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

To be a Vikings fan is to know just how fickle the fates can be. Here’s Jim Souhan with his patented Debby Downer take on the Vikings’ chances of equalling or exceeding last year’s 11-5 record and a playoff appearance:

The perception within and outside the organization is that the 2015 season was the first major step on a ladder that will stretch to the Super Bowl, perhaps when Minneapolis plays host to the big game following the 2017 season.

The optimism is justified by analyses of a talented young roster and Zimmer’s coaching chops.

The optimism is not supported by Vikings history.

Since the franchise was born, the Vikings have won 11 games in a season 12 times, including last year. Ten of the 11 previous times, the team’s win total dropped the next season — the Vikings won 12 games in 1969 and again in 1970.

There are circumstantial reasons to wonder if the Vikings fan base may be setting itself up for another dose of chronic disappointment.

Winning NFL teams sometimes assume their success is caused by tangible, controllable factors, but luck plays a major role in a league where parity is promoted, if not always attained.

The health and availability of key players can be pivotal — especially the health of quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater started 16 games last season. His backup, veteran journeyman Shaun Hill, did not perform well when called upon. The Vikings might be one injury away from wishing they had Christian Ponder.

Referees wield great power, especially when asked to make difficult decisions on what is a reception and what is pass interference.

Then there is human nature. The Vikings are a confident bunch. They also are playing in a division featuring Chicago Bears coach John Fox, known as a fixer of struggling franchises, and the perpetually dangerous Green Bay Packers, who may again have the services of star receiver Jordy Nelson.

So, in summary, since the Vikings have never won the Superbowl, there’s no chance they ever will. Because nothing ever happens for the first time.


July 26, 2016

The “international sporting event” in “a major city in Brazil”

Filed under: Americas, Law, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Every four years, the world’s media turn en masse to a new location for the summer Olympic Games. This time around the games event is in Rio de Janeiro a major city in Brazil. I’d give more details, but the IOC is determined to reserve as much of that information to themselves and their official sponsoring media partners:

As the Olympic Games approach, the tension between athletes and non-sponsors with the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee has ratcheted up once again.

In recent weeks, the United States Olympic Committee sent letters to those who sponsor athletes but don’t have any sponsorship designation with the USOC or International Olympic Committee, warning them about stealing intellectual property.

“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.

The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.

This isn’t really a new or surprising thing, as we had warnings about any discussion of the “‘international sporting event’ in ‘the capital of the United Kingdom'” back in 2012. More recently, Toronto’s Pan Am Games organizers did the same sort of trademarks-out-the-wazoo-and-lawyers-on-speed-dial stuff over their 2015 international sporting event in ‘a large city in Ontario’.

If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to not blog anything about those every-four-years international corruption championships…

July 23, 2016

Former Vikings head coach Denny Green, RIP

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

Yesterday’s grand opening of the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium in Minneapolis was unfortunately also when the news came in that former head coach Dennis Green had passed away that morning.

Former Vikings head coach Dennis Green (photo from the team website)

Former Vikings head coach Dennis Green (photo from the team website)

Many former players, including Randy Moss, Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer shared their respects for Green.

Green became the third African-American head coach in NFL history and the second in the modern era when he was hired by the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 10, 1992. A decade earlier, Green became the second African-American head coach in NCAA Division I-A at Northwestern in 1981.

When Vikings.com interviewed Green for the “Celebrate Perseverance” Black History Month content series that launched in February 2015, he spoke about the appreciation he had for being “born at the right time.” He said he witnessed a period of substantial change that allowed him greater opportunities than generations before him were able to enjoy. He wanted to do well so that others would be extended opportunities.

“My generation laid a certain foundation,” Green said, “It’s up to the next generation to be able to recognize that really, it’s all about equal access and equal opportunity and all of us operating on the same and playing on the same earth.”

May 27, 2016

The secret to Mike Zimmer’s popularity in Minnesota

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jim Souhan analyzes the phenomenon of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s popularity:

Mike Zimmer is becoming so popular that someday he may be able to charge Vikings fans to clean out his garage.

It’s worked for Bud Grant. He holds an annual “garage sale” that is the modern-day equivalent of (Warning: Old-guy reference coming up) Tom Sawyer tricking kids into paying him to paint a fence for him.

Grant and Zimmer are of a like mind, and a like kind. Grant is a Minnesota hero because he wore short sleeves in freezing temps and used a subzero glare as his primary form of communication. Zimmer’s personality is a hybrid of Grant’s bluntness and Jerry Burns’ creative use of blue language.

Ask a Minnesota sports fan what they care about, and they’ll say “championships.” Yet Grant’s image survived four Super Bowl losses, and Zimmer seems to be the most popular Vikings coach since Grant even though he has yet to win a playoff game.

Grant and Zimmer are proof that when it comes to Minnesota sports fans, bluntness is revered above all else.

Zimmer is not a Minnesota native and did not attend a Minnesota college. He had no ties to the state until he took a job here. Anecdotal evidence suggests he’s wildly popular, and yet he has not established that he is one of us.

In our highly-provincial state, where being local is prized above all else, where natives spend most of their time with their former high school or college classmates, how did an outsider who cusses a lot and has yet to win big become so well-liked?

The answer: By not trying.

Minnesotans are highly suspicious of slickness, and salespeople. They mistrusted Norwood Teague long before they had evidence he was evil, because he always sounded as if he was telling people what they wanted to hear.

Minnesotans don’t want to be told what they want to hear. In our state, the best public relations tactic is not sounding as if you’re engaging in public relations.

Zimmer has become popular with Zen PR. By not telling people what they want to hear, he has given them what they want to hear.

May 1, 2016

Minnesota Vikings 2016 draft – third day

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:53

Coming into the third and final day of the 2016 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings started the day holding the following picks:

  • Fourth round: 23rd (121st overall)
  • Fifth round: 23rd (160th overall)
  • Sixth round: 5th (180th overall, from San Francisco)
  • Sixth round: 11th (186th overall, from Miami)
  • Seventh round: 19th (240th overall, from Buffalo)
  • Seventh round: 23rd (244th overall)

And here’s how the last day of the draft played out for Minnesota:


April 30, 2016

Minnesota Vikings 2016 draft – second day

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:20

After Thursday’s rather undramatic and non-suspense-filled first round pick, where the team did the predictable thing and selected the best remaining wide receiver, day two of the draft promised to be a bit more exciting. “Trader Rick” Spielman must have been just itching to do some wheeling and dealing by this stage of the draft. And yet…

With their actual second round pick (I can’t believe I’m typing this), the Vikings selected Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander. No slick trading. No fancy up-or-down-swapping. Almost like someone has forced “Trader Rick” to act completely out-of-character and use yet another draft pick in the original order …

Mackensie Alexander

Sorry, still in shock that we actually picked at the original spots consecutively…

Here’s what Sports Illustrated had to say about the Vikings’ second round pick:

Alexander has the best mirroring and transition speed of any cornerback in this class. Takes his receiver seamlessly from the first step throughout the route, and turns and flips on a dime to stay with them through quick-breaking and option routes. Has the chase and recovery speed to close in and deflect passes with good timing. Understands his movement in the deep routes, and gets his hand on the receiver and tracks the ball well throughout the throw. Great with angles and will use his body to cut routes to the quick. Transitions between man and bail coverage seamlessly, which is a process that many NFL cornerbacks find tough to handle. Excellent economy of motion allows him to play the entire field well.

Very contentious, competitive player who keeps the fight going all the way through—his battle against Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard last season is a must-watch. Plays wide and tall coverage as an outside corner out of necessity; Clemson’s schemes left him without help in curl/flat routes and over the top at times. Good musculature for the position and will throw his body around against the run. Takes it upon himself to bring his game to a different level.

Some see this pick as creating competition at the nickel corner position for Captain Munnerlyn. Including Munnerlyn:

In the third round of the draft, Trader Rick finally managed to throw off the restraints and swapped Minnesota’s pick (at 86th overall) to Miami, in exchange for Miami’s 6th round pick (186th overall) plus Miami’s 2017 third and fourth round picks. I’d say that was a good exchange for the Vikings. The Dolphins used the pick acquired from Minnesota to select Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Caroo. ESPN‘s Ben Goessling explains the logic of the trade:

“There were a couple guys that we liked — we had two guys targeted,” Spielman said. “But then as I kept staring at the board — which we have a tendency to do a lot — I saw there were still a lot of good football players that we can potentially pick up tomorrow. There was enough depth in the draft this year that you’re going to get quality players. So to still be able to get quality players tomorrow, and kind of look into the future, potentially where your roster’s going to be in ’17 and how valuable those picks are going to become, I felt the trade was the right move for us.”

The Vikings now have six picks in the first four rounds of next year’s draft, when they could have some spots to fill after possibly parting with players due to hit free agency after 2016. The offensive line, for example, has five players set to hit free agency after the season, and the Vikings could have more use for those picks next year. Considering how many of their in-house free agents the Vikings retained, it sounds as though they know this year’s roster might be harder to crack. That would inherently depress the value of draft picks this year, and the Vikings chose to parlay a third-rounder into more high picks next season.

“I think you just look at where your current roster is, but that’s also why we try to plan for the future as well,” Spielman said. “I want to make sure that we always keep a competitive roster. Depending on what happens in 2017, just projecting what our roster could look like, just to have those draft picks next year is going to be valuable.”

April 29, 2016

Minnesota Vikings 2016 draft – first round

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:45

At the start of the first round of the draft, the Minnesota Vikings held the #23 pick. Given how frequently the team has depended on the wheeling-and-dealing skills of general manager “Trader Rick” Spielman, few of us were anticipating that the team would actually use that pick (although the Vikings actually did use their original first round pick in 2015).

Laquon Treadwell

The most frequently mentioned wide receiver to be drafted by the Vikings was Josh Doctson, but he went to the Washington Redskins just ahead of Minnesota’s pick, so Laquon Treadwell ended up being the team’s first round pick at the #23 slot. Before the draft began, ESPN’s Ben Goessling had bucked the trend by selecting Treadwell in the NFL Nation mock draft, saying:

The Vikings brought both Treadwell and Doctson to their top 30 event earlier this month, and either one would fit a need for a big receiver on the roster. Either could be a viable option for the Vikings on Thursday night. But I leaned toward Treadwell for a couple of reasons.

First, while the Ole Miss receiver has slipped in mock drafts after his slow 40 time (4.63 seconds at his pro day), he still brings much of what the Vikings need for their offense. At 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, he has plenty of size to deal with press coverage, and he has shown an ability to both be physical with cornerbacks and separate from them with his footwork. His size and mentality also should help him as a run blocker — no small part of playing wide receiver in the Vikings’ offense — and he has displayed an impressive understanding of positioning while competing against cornerbacks in the SEC.

Doctson is the better deep threat, and he’ll do a better job of plucking balls over the top of defensive backs. But Teddy Bridgewater might benefit more from a receiver who can box out defenders and present a reliable target in the red zone.

It’s also worth noting that Treadwell doesn’t turn 21 until June, while Doctson will be 24 in December. They typically haven’t taken players as old as Doctson in the first round; in fact, he’d be the Vikings’ oldest first-round selection since Todd Steussie in 1994. That doesn’t rule him out, but especially when the Vikings are looking for a receiver who can grow with their 23-year-old quarterback, it shouldn’t be discounted.


April 28, 2016

Vikings draft needs for 2016

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

As I say every year at around this time, I don’t know who the Vikings are planning to draft this year (because I don’t follow college football), but there are some positional needs that the team will probably address between Thursday and Saturday as the 2016 NFL draft unfolds. One position we can confidently predict won’t be high on the list is quarterback: the 32nd pick of the 2014 draft is still the incumbent starting quarterback and (most of us hope) Teddy Bridgewater will continue to develop in his third season in the league. Which leads to the first few draft needs most fans can readily identify:

  • Wide receiver. The Greg Jennings experiment didn’t yield the results the team had hoped for in 2014 (even though Greg Jennings is always open). The Mike Wallace experiment likewise failed to live up to eleven-million-dollars-worth of expectations in 2015. Will the (fill-in-the-blank) experiment finally energize the Vikings’ passing attack in 2016? The mock drafts this year are pretty insistent that the Vikings will draft TCU receiver Josh Doctson with the 23rd pick, unless Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) is still available … or (fill-in-the-blank).
  • Offensive line. Teddy Bridgewater apologists can reasonably point to the fact that the Vikings’ offensive line was … sub-optimal in 2015, which translated into Bridgewater being pressured more than any other NFL quarterback last season. Shoring up the line is a pretty good way to give the QB enough time to finally find his downfield receivers. Veteran center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt should be back from serious injuries that kept them off the field for the entire 2015 regular season. Free agent additions of guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith provide depth and flexibility (particularly in allowing Brandon Fusco to return to his natural right guard position after a terrible season at left guard). It wouldn’t be surprising to see the team add a high draft pick to the OL group this year.
  • Safety. While Harrison Smith has been establishing himself as one of the best safeties in the league, the team hasn’t been able to provide him with a complementary player to allow Smith to fully exploit his opportunities. While there’s still a chance that the “other” safety is already on the roster (Andrew Sendejo?, Antone Exum?, Anthony Harris? free agent addition Michael Griffin?), a number of players have rotated through that position without really establishing a legitimate claim. According to several stories, this isn’t a draft that is deep in potential safety help, it wouldn’t be surprising to find the Vikings drafting a safety during the first three rounds this week.
  • Linebacker. Much has been written over the last few months about the Vikings’ need for another linebacker, but with the team having used a first (Anthony Barr, 2014) and a second round pick (Eric Kendricks, 2015) on the linebacker position in the last two years, it would have to be a phenomenal player falling unexpectedly to tempt Spielman and company to draft yet another linebacker this high.
  • Defensive tackle. On first glance, this is a strength of the team, but injuries exposed some unexpected weaknesses in the depth chart in 2015 (Linval Joseph’s turf toe, Shamar Stephan went to IR, Sharif Floyd had multiple injuries, and Tom Johnson turns 32 this year). Adding a developmental player here makes a good deal of sense in this year’s draft.
  • Punter. It would not be a huge surprise to see the Vikings draft a punter this year. It would be a surprise to see them draft one before the sixth round, however. Incumbent Jeff Locke hasn’t been covering himself in glory since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft.

April 15, 2016

Jared Allen returns to the Vikings

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

On Thursday, former Viking great Jared Allen signed a new contract to return to Minnesota. For one day, anyway:

Crediting the team for the fondest memories of his career and reflecting on the life changes that happened in six years with the Minnesota Vikings, Jared Allen signed a one-day contract with the team so he could officially retire as a member of the organization.

Allen, who played in Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers and announced his retirement two weeks after the Panthers’ loss, will finalize his retirement on Friday.

“In my heart, when it was all said and done, I knew I wanted to retire as a Viking,” Allen said in a conference call. “I’ve always kept in contact with [general manager] Rick [Spielman] and [vice president of football operations] Rob [Brzezinski]. It was one of those mutual things.”


“You go through life, and there’s a maturation process,” Allen said. “I made some mistakes early in my career, and you learn from those and you grow from them. Minnesota was a place that helped me grow as a man. … When I got there, I was in the process of changing some habits and growing up. To have guys that are doing it right around you is phenomenal.”

Allen left the Vikings following the 2013 season, when the team shifted its defensive scheme and began the search for a new quarterback under coach Mike Zimmer. After a difficult 2014 season with the Bears, Allen was traded to the Panthers last fall, and became a regular contributor to the league’s sixth-ranked defense. Allen has praised the atmosphere created by Panthers coach Ron Rivera — a former teammate of Frazier’s in Chicago — but said it would have been sweeter had he made a Super Bowl appearance with the Vikings, who lost the 2010 NFC Championship Game to the New Orleans Saints in overtime.

February 27, 2016

In Scotland, singing a song can get you sent to jail

Filed under: Britain, Liberty, Religion, Soccer — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Spiked, Kevin Rooney tells the tale of a young soccer fan who faces jail time for joining hundreds of other fans in singing a song:

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’

Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise — the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.

H/T to Natalie Solent for the link.

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