Cautiously stepping onto Stephen Pinker’s ‘euphemism treadmill’ for a moment, I was wondering if you have ever watched the 1979 motion picture ‘Being There’.
If not, you should. It’s a wonderfully black comedy; a sort of verbal version of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.
‘Being There’ tells the story of a middle-aged gardener, called Chauncey (brilliantly played by Peter Sellers). Chauncey suffers from severe learning difficulties and has the mental age of a child, but is looked after by an extremely wealthy man who allows him to work in his extensive garden; it proves to be an environment where the otherwise intellectually disabled Chauncey excels.
From his earliest years, and on into middle-age, all the vulnerable and inoffensive Chauncey has known is that garden and his room in the main house, but when the old man dies he is left to fend for himself.
For Chauncey the future looks bleak. With his gardening job gone, and the old man’s house put up for sale, he is reduced to wandering the streets in search of ‘a new garden to tend’. However, as luck has it, he then meets an extremely influential billionaire who mistakes his simple and childish comments, about gardening and the passing seasons, as profound political and economic wisdom.
The billionaire’s mistake remains undetected throughout the film, and as Chauncey (Gardener) works his way through the ranks of the Washington elite we are treated to a litany of inane comments from our simple-minded hero, with each mistakenly interpreted as deeply insightful financial and political wisdom.
One of the most hilarious scenes, sees the billionaires’ younger wife (played by Shirley MacLaine) attempting to seduce Chauncey (with her aged husband’s blessing). The naïve and oblivious Chauncey remarks on his love of watching television, and yet another deliciously wicked misinterpretation leaves our Shirley feeling both liberated and satisfied.
Chauncey’s undeserved fame goes before him. He becomes the darling of the media, and even appears on political television shows, where he continues to spout his childish inanity, but still the pretentious and supercilious Washington elite fail to realise that he is just a simple-minded gardener. Even when he reaches The White House, and greets The President, the mistake remains undetected.
It is not until the housekeeper, from his first house, sees Chauncey on television and calls the billionaire’s family doctor that the mistake is finally realised. Even then the doctor keeps his own council, as he doesn’t want the truth to out and leave so many important and influential people to be seen as the fools they undoubtedly are.
And that brings me, rather nicely, to Chelsea Football Club’s very own Jose Mourinho. . .
I can understand their fascination with him, because Jose Mourinho is undoubtedly a colourful character, but when they hang on to his every utterance, dissect his every word, and interpret his every sentence, as if in some way searching for deep-seated significance, I do feel they are assigning a profoundness and intelligence to his verbiage that simply doesn’t exist?
And the parallels between Mourinho and Chauncey the gardener don’t end there.
I have watched Mourinho’s career evolve as a succession of seriously wealthy and influential men, controlling some of Europe’s most revered footballing institutions, each learn too late that there is less to him than meets the eye. I have looked on in astonishment, as a bunch of pretentious and self-obsessed television ‘experts’ mistakenly interpret his infantile ramblings as pearls of wisdom. I have sat open-mouthed before my T.V. set as the rest of the illuminati of the football media assign hidden depth and meaning to his every puerile remark.
I am left to wonder how long will it be before the football world comes to collectively realise that, although Jose Mourinho is a fine coach who organises and drills his teams well, he is about as close to being football’s equivalent of the burning bush as his club captain John Terry is to being the ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign’s man of the year?
And I am also left to wonder how long will it be before the remainder of football’s punditry, who eulogise one day and castigate the next, are similarly seen as the political chameleons and feeble-minded sycophants they undoubtedly are?
Somehow, given the sporting media’s ability to invisibly mend its own patent stupidity, I think I can guess the answer.