By Brian Phillips, Run Of Play
I can still remember the day I first asked myself the question. Accrington Stanley had gone down to Leyton Orient in an early-round Carling Cup match, and like all other football fans everywhere in the world, I immediately logged on to the website of The Sun in order to jot down the relevant statistics and learn why I ought to be furious.
There, to my surprise, I noticed in the corner of the screen a thumbnail image of a woman so astonishingly curvaceous it was if she’d been formed from the line left on the paper when Joey Barton tried to spell the word “curvaceous.” “Does she play centerback?” I asked myself, confused. Yes, as it happened, she did.
I hesitated. My mouse pointer quivered faintly, like a military barber being introduced to Robbie Savage. On the one hand, I had come to this website to read about the Carling Cup. On the other hand, her name was Amandalheinlandala, and her swimsuit was made out of a nickel. The anchor text said she was dating Johan Elmander. There was only one choice here. I clicked the picture.
I wasn’t alone. In the years since that fateful day, the Carling Cup has slumped further and further down the list of priorities of the average football fan, while WAGs have inexorably risen up it, with a firmness that nothing, not even the multiplication table, appears to have the power to stop. The case can be made that despite not being organized into a coherent league structure or being handled (yet) by foreign billionaires, WAGs now represent the third most important footballing ritual in England, behind the Premier League and the annual end-of-season paddle-slap-fight between Chelsea and Manchester United.
There’s something vaguely embarrassing about this, like the continued existence of the Strokes. With all the diversions available to the modern man in the era between the last internet bubble and the imminent resolution of one or two outstanding wars, was it really necessary for a medium-sized segment of the media to devote itself to helping us imagine what it’s like to occupy Cristiano Ronaldo’s body when he’s not just scoring, but scoring? The Carling Cup may occasionally force us to think about Leeds United, but at least it isn’t out-and-out pathetic.
At the same time, we’ve clearly embraced our fate. There are blogs devoted to WAGs, books devoted to WAGs, TV shows about WAGs; the word “WAG” has even, despite its etymological recency, been inducted into the OED. (“Inducted into the OED” might also be the most improbable sexual euphemism ever to enter the relationship of Wayne and Coleen Rooney.) How many magazines, by contrast, do you think are sold every year on the back of the Carling Cup? If you’re a tree, who makes you more nervous, Cheryl Cole or Dimitar Berbatov? And I don’t just mean because of upper-body strength.
I was going to end this post by arguing that the Carling Cup ought to be abolished so that all the space traditionally wasted on it could be given over to WAGs. But why take half-measures? Football itself should be abolished, and replaced with dedicated 24-hour coverage of Jamie Redknapp talking about Aida Yespica’s body parts. Let’s forget about the men, those tortured, mincing killjoys, and devote all our attention to the light-of-resume but full-of-heart models, singers, and actresses who so obviously seem to crave it.
Who knows, maybe eventually we’ll begin to take a casual interest in the men in their lives. Maybe, after a few years of standing around scowling during fashion shoots and carrying shopping bags mid-entourage down the sidewalk, these trophy boyfriends, or “HABs”, will start forming relationships of their own. Maybe they’ll start getting together on the weekends to play a little sport. Hey, that’s Flinka’s fiance! Maybe we should watch!
Brian Phillips can be found every day at The Run of Play.