Today's FA verdict in the John Terry case has enough controversy that the verdict and sentence might well break the internet with all that is being written and commented about it.
What we may think of the trial and the evidence isn't all that concerning to me, I look instead to first assess the verdict along with its sentence and then discuss what it all says about John Terry, the FA, and what the armband says about the English people.
Much will be said about the ruling and about the court itself, but what I have seen and thought boils down to two competing views...
Too stringent - He was acquitted of the same charge in an actual court of law. Charging him at all is at worst double jeopardy and is at best redundant and grandstanding. To punish him at all is a farce when he was acquitted in real courts with the highest standard of evidence and jurisprudence and the whole masquerade makes a farce of the FA.
Too lax - He was charged with the same charge as Luis Suarez and found guilty. That he got half the sentence flies in the face of precedent and makes a farce of the FA.
The difference is that western jurisprudence requires guilt beyond the shadow of doubt. The FA allows conviction "on the balance of probability" (which was the decision in the Suarez case). I will let the legalistic arguments be made by barristers and attorneys. I am more interested in what all of this says about the English people.
Basically, by even hearing the case at all - bringing attention to their inanely subjective protocols - makes a farce of the FA.
1) John Terry is Indeed a Flawed Human Being
Aren't we all?
Perhaps John Terrry is more flawed than others, maybe, but he's still just human and all of this is occurring because he said something he should not have.
Do I think he is a racist? Absolutely not.
Would any unbiased observer think he is racist? Also, no.
To understand this dimension of JT one need only look at his friendships, his history and the affection he has always garnered from his teammates of both club and country. He has worn the armband because players respect him and that gives him legitimate authority to marshal a squad, organize a team and call out a fellow footballer who is giving less than maximum focus or effort.
Though he might be past his prime, no unbiased party should ever doubt that he has been one of the world's best defenders for the last 10 years. Though he is a hell of a player, but he often gets himself in trouble. As a supporter I adore him for his resolve, his toughness, his total commitment and his continual selfless sacrifices on the pitch.
Despite this he, as a man, has proven time and again that he’s got a vein of prick in him. Hey may be our prick, but a guy with prick-like tendencies nonetheless. Either way he is still a flawed human being just like the rest of us, but shouldn't we hold the office of Captain of England to a higher standard?
2) The England Captaincy is Something Different than It Used to Be
In the days of Bobby Moore, England Captain was the paragon of the adroit, stoic, gentleman Englishman. He was a figure the whole nation looked up to. In the late 70's and early 80's, while the common man struggled just to keep food on the table and wood in the fireplace, Bryan Robson was a hero of the blue collar ethic. In the 90's Alan Shearer's tough doggedness and attitude went hand in hand with the hard hardheadedness and determination of the time. Beckham captained after that and was a beacon of glamour and culture.
JT's place in the office seemed a fitting successor to Beckham. JT played like Shearer and captained like Robson, but also wore the armband for a fashionable and newly trendy West London club which was grabbing trophies all over the place.
So why did things go so differently for John Terry?
What has changed dramatically in English culture during his time has been the ever more rapacious cannibalizing of the English tabloids and the English appetite for them. The press are now hunting public heroes in order to deconstruct and tear them down for the voyeuristic sadism of it. Whoever wears the armband for England is a target of the English sense of self-righteousness. Whatever infractions he may have committed will be amplified tenfold for the sake of selling a paper that allows an average Englishman to feel better about himself.
This does not exactly make a victim of John Terry, it merely makes the position of England captain untenable. Were I Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard or any other England International I don't think I'd want that armband any longer.
The Captaincy is functionally about one thing: a single player's capacity to inspire, orchestrate and focus his teammates. If sleeping with the ex-girlfriend of one such teammate will cause him to lose the respect of the others then he should not be captain. If, however as the case turned out, that act does not affect that respect, then he should remain captain. If losing his cool in a match and saying stupid things out loud to an opponent causes the other 10 squad mates to lose their focus as well, then he should not be captain.
However, this is fundamentally a calculation that we cannot make as spectators and which FA board members should not presume to interfere with. The Captaincy, like any elevated position in any hierarchy, is an office that derives its legitimacy from the authority bestowed solely by those being led.
The tabloids and the culture police count for nothing.
The FA higher ups and their moral high ground count for nothing.
If the England footballers and the England manager would still have John Terry as their captain then captain he should be.
3) I Wanted JT to Quit England, Just Not Like This
As a supporter I selfishly want another 5 years of John Terry for Chelsea.
Due to the fact that he is still England's best CB he never really gets an honest rest. Now that he's on the wrong side of 30 and has chronic back pain I really feel he should seek more of it.
To boot, there are some powerful people in the FA who simply don't like him (see point #1). When traveling with England, the FA officials generally go with the team. When a player wins an English competition (which JT has won a whopping 12 times) they shake hands and they rub elbows with these officials at the parties afterwards. These officials are a part of the apparatus that employs them and they frequently share spaces and social circles.
I too would feel a profound sense of anger and betrayal when they pat me on the back and smile in my face and then do this.
John Terry should have quit after they pulled the armband off him a second time - against the will of their expensive and roundly respected manager, Fabio Capello, who subsequently quit over this - and did it before the conviction of guilt in any kind of court. Then would have been the appropriate "so you don't like me - fine I don't need this" kind of moment.
It is another matter to quit while being tried and before an inevitable punishment, and it smacks of petulance. At this point, he should have taken his punishment, served it, and after quietly informing Roy Hodgson, he could have announced that he will be quitting the team because he is still playing in the tail end of his prime and that he wants to stretch that prime out for the club which has cradled and supported him since the infancy of his footballing days - that he owes it to Chelsea.
That would have played much better, could have been honest, and would have gone a long ways in rehabbing his image in the eyes of the neutral and in the hearts of ardent Chelsea supporters such as myself.
In the end we are all humans, we all make mistakes, and we all ought to strive to show accountability in the face of those mistakes.
What has been proven most starkly by all involved - John Terry, his English and Chelsea teammates who still adore and respect him, and the English media and FA who are so quick to crucify him - is that the English people are fundamentally confused about what they want, expect, and will idealize in their leaders.
I do not feel John Terry necessarily tarnished his armband with either the Wayne-Bridge-Baby-Momma-Gate or the He-Said-He-Said controversy surrounding Anton Ferdinand; that is a measure which can only be made by his teammates and managers.
This current squad of Chelsea players, whom I invest with all of my confidence, still embraces him as the flawed man that he is. I'll trust their judgement.
Captain, Leader, Legend, Human
Win or Lose, Up the Blues!