Watson’s Words on - Stokes and Cipriani

Ben Stokes If you’re a fan of booze-fuelled tabloid headlines starring idiotic sporting celebrities, then you’ve enjoyed a pleasurable week’s reading.

The acquittal of Ben Stokes at the High Court, having been charged with affray, did little to supress the notion that throwing late night hay-makers whilst tanked up outside a Bristol nightclub was a little inadvisable for a star of his stature.

And then came Danny Cipriani, a supremely talented yet much-maligned individual, and as far as his detractors are concerned, the gift that keeps on giving.

The latest chequered chapter of his career was cemented with 24 hours in a cell - before pleading guilty to assault and resisting arrest following a fracas in a Jersey nightclub.

Personal confession!

Now, looking at the incidents in isolation, whilst I don’t condone either, I’m not going to jump on my high horse about either Stokes or Cipriani.

Admittedly, staying out past 10pm for me these days borders on wild behaviour - but I won’t pretend I’ve never behaved stupidly after one too many. I won’t claim I’ve not participated in a needless drunken quarrel, or ever acted like a cocky young upstart. And if you’re reading this and can honestly lay claim to being clean in all three of the afore-mentioned charges – then best ask Santa for a halo for Christmas.

I guess unlike Messrs Stokes and Cipriani, misdemeanours from us mere mortals aren’t so intensely scrutinised. We don’t get filmed on camera phones every second step, our mistakes don’t amount to threats on Twitter, and we’re rarely exposed to widespread calls for us to be sacked from our jobs.

Culture change for the famous

Danny CiprianiBut then I suppose that’s the point.

Every man or woman, regardless of their standing in society, is allowed some down time. But rightly or wrongly, like it or not, with increased wealth and fame comes increased accountability.

For sporting ‘celebrities’ the game has changed, and so has the culture. Old school tales like David Boon downing 52 cans of a beer on a long-haul flight without sanctions are legendary – but they are old school tales for a reason.

Back in 1989, if you subtract about 32 cans from the alleged total, behaviour like Boon’s was not illogical amongst international athletes. Drinking formed an acceptable social fragment of professional or international sport. I’m not saying the talent and skill levels were any less, but bodies weren’t temples. Society didn’t judge Gareth Edwards if he enjoyed a pint of bitter in his local.

Not socialising quietly these days

Where problems now arise, such socialising amongst the sporting elite is rare. For many, the opportunity to let off steam is a signal to bung a bank card at the bar man and order copious trays of shots.

The end results? Jonny Bairstow head butting opposition players in bars. Andy Powell driving down the M4 in a golf buggy. Gavin Henson taking a right hook off then team mate Carl Fearns.

Ched Evans may have been wrongly imprisoned for rape, but I’ll risk an unpopular opinion here. Had he not been drunk and desperately trying to cheat on his girlfriend on that notorious night in Rhyl, he would never have been in the predicament in the first place.

Stokes silly suffering

From Stokes’ court case this week, we learnt he had ‘at least 10 drinks’ in the hours before the incident, including a ‘bottle of beer, two or three pints of lager, five or six vodka and lemonades and some jagerbombs’.

Given that seldom few truly submit their full alcohol intake to a doctor or officer of the law, what actually went down probably resembled a University initiation. Small wonder then, Stokes had more than a headache to brush off the following morning.

Without delving into the obvious physiological effects of excess drinking on performance, where Stokes, Cipriani, and numerous others so often fall down is the failure to realise that to be the best means sacrifices.

And finally . . .

Yes, they deserve private lives; yes, the occasional drink won’t kill them, and yes, we don’t want robots afraid to converse with the public or socialise. But when you enjoy the rewards and acclaim they do, regardless of age, holding back when you’d rather be swinging your top around in a club until sunrise is a withdrawal you must endure.

In short, I guess any sporting star can enjoy some off time now and again, even if it is in a pub or club.
The trick is, just not to be a d**khead about it.