Apparently there were a few inadequates in the Twickenham crowd at the England-All Blacks match who shouted homophobic abuse at the referee Nigel Owens.
I am profoundly uninterested in Mr Owens’ sexuality. It matters not a jot to his professional competence.
I was kind of surprised by the story, though, because I had no idea that he had come out back in 2007. And when you follow a sport closely you soak up the personal back stories of the personalities, such as SBW becoming a dad yesterday, which add to the overall colour. But Owens being gay had completely passed me by, which I take as a generally positive sign that the media thought it essentially unimportant. Which it is, except to Mr Owens.
But I was also, sadly, not surprised that there were some orcs in a sports crowd. There are usually orcs and dorks in any gathering of humanity. What’s important is that the people around them should not let them get away with it through silence. Politely and firmly let them know that they are fools.
As it happens, I think Owens has become a very good referee. ‘Become’, because when he first started whistling tests I thought he was too pedantic, and often too visible. In that sense he was following the style of another Welshman, Derek Bevan, whose theatrical gestures were often very ‘look at me everyone’. For a penalty or try he would blow the pea out of his whistle, arch his back and throw his arm in the air. Lordy, what a performance.
That, to my mind, is the opposite of the invisibility that the best refs are aiming for. Think Craig Joubert: calm, unruffled, quiet. Or Glenn Jackson, so po-faced that he almost looks bored. I like that they are obviously working to stay above the partisan emotions of the moment. That helps the players stay focused.
In recent years Owens has toned down the pedantry, and his game management, accuracy and authority is usually very good. Usually, but not always, because in the Twickenham match he lost the plot a couple of times.
Refs, like players, have good matches and bad matches. C’est la vie, c’est le sport. Learn, move on.
Having said all of the above and my disinterest in the sexuality of the individuals, we still do not know of a homosexual All Black which, given the law of averages over 125 years, seems highly improbable.
I’m kind of looking forward to the time when a top New Zealand rugby player comes out, just so the ‘first’ can be done and dusted and we can put it in the ‘whatever’ basket, and move on to the actually important stuff.
Like how well they can run, pass, tackle, kick, scrummage or referee.