Ah, what a weekend for British sport. A home-grown Premier League record breaker, signed for just £1million in this era of big-money foreign imports, plus a new English world heavyweight champion. Front and back pages plastered with their pictures.
You barely have to scratch the surface for the story to change drastically, though. Tyson Fury's recent reprehensible comments about gay people have been well documented, and you don't have to go very far back to find the video of Jamie Vardy racially abusing a casino-goer. Neither of these are ancient history - they both happened in the last six months.
Front and back pages. Plastered with their pictures. In wild celebration.
Neither man has said or done pleasant things, but since this is a football column, it's probably best to focus on Leicester's Vardy.
It's hard to move online for all the chat of Vardy's 'brilliant story' at the moment, of him coming up through non-league football in his mid-20s, how his work-rate and pace are ripping defences apart and obviously, general praise of his goalscoring form. It's also quite hard not to have a gut reaction to those pieces, involving a physiologically unlikely combination of eye-rolling and bile production.
Jamie Vardy shouldn't be playing Premier League football. In an ideal world, we'd have a nice, blanket ban on racists being paid to be cheered on by tens of thousands of people. We wouldn't employ commentators to talk about how brilliant they are and how fantastic the narrative is. There are enough people with a pair of legs and some talent that we can afford to lose the racists. Honestly.
Given that we're never going to see this utopia, the least we can do, both as people who write about football and more generally, people who watch the game, is to keep digging at players like Vardy and keep the issue in the forefront of people's minds. What on earth has Jamie Vardy done to earn any kind of redemption? What has Jamie Vardy done to be worthy of any more respect than an unwanted rat that's snuck its way into your living room from the garden? This rat might be able to do backflips and juggle a bit, but it's still not welcome. You're still putting a trap out and getting rid of the little sod.
Vardy's been welcomed back into top-flight football about as easily as anybody in history. Jack Grealish just went out and got drunk - didn't racially abuse anyone, just got drunk - after a hard day of work and he got punished by his club more than Vardy did. What was the punishment for Vardy's racial abuse? A fine (for well-paid footballers, hardly the greatest burden) and a public half-apology. The worst kind of apology. The "I'm sorry for the offence I caused" 'apology'.
That is not an apology. That's the exact opposite of taking responsibility for your actions. That isn't saying "I'm sorry that I did this dreadful thing, I'm going to work, try to learn from this mistake I've made, and undo some of the damage I've done," it's saying "I'm sorry that I was caught." At best, it's "I'm sorry that YOU don't think what I did is acceptable."
If Vardy had actually done a single thing to make amends for what he did, and actually work as a positive role model rather than "that guy who said some racist things but got away without any real consequences," then it'd be easier to accept the reception he's getting in the press now. As it is, he's just another poster child for the complete lack of consequences for being a big ol' racist.
The Telegraph's Jonathan Liew wrote, the morning after Vardy broke Van Nistelrooy's record: "Vardy should be out of work right now. But seeing as he's not, he can use his platform. He should be speaking out against racism at every opportunity. He should be working tirelessly with charities, doing talks in schools, educating young players on diversity and tolerance."
He's absolutely right. But the message doesn't seem to have got through to Vardy. He very publicly either doesn't know or doesn't care about the severity of what he's done, and seems to see it more as a hassle to move past than a mistake to make up for. And you know what? It's working. He's not "noted racist, Jamie Vardy," he's "record-breaking striker Jamie Vardy."
It's up to us as football fans to keep poking, prodding and nudging. To keep reminding. To not let him move past it. Forgiveness? What's he done to deserve it?
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