One of the silliest controversies of the summer may be over, though given the zealotry behind some’s criticism of Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder may have to wear a scarlet cigarette butt until we can trust him to stop being a 22-year-old. Though it’s common for a 22-year-old to enjoy a random cigarette outside a club, for a England international, it’s a sin, one that requires you to make an apology when paparazzi catch you enjoying a smoke.
“I regret it. I’ve been seen before doing it. I said then I made a mistake and I made a mistake again,” Wilshere said from New York, where Arsenal face the New York Red Bulls this afternoon. “It’s unacceptable and I will accept the consequences and move on.”
Beyond the public ridicule that’s been enacted through the press, are there consequences? Because that alone seems excessive.
While everybody should learn about the dangers of cigarette smoking, this public shaming has become excessive. It also holds soccer players to a standard we don’t extend to other celebrities, one that doesn’t apply to alcohol conception, eating fast food, or reckless behavior behind the wheel. All those acts can hurt your career, but only smoking makes the front pages of London’s broadsheets.
“I’m young, I’ll learn from it,” Wilshere explained, from reporting by The Guardian. “I realize the consequences it has and the effect on kids growing up. I have kids and I don’t want them growing up to think their dad smokes and it’s OK for a footballer to smoke because it’s not.”
It feel strange typing something that could be misconstrued as pro-smoking, but given where we are in this conversation, it’s worth saying: While it’s nice Wilshere realizes his potential influence, he doesn’t need to take this much responsibility. Most people are capable of distinguishing between others’ poor choices and behaviors they should replicate, and while we constantly hear “what about the children” arguments, anybody beyond their parents’ influence is consuming much worse via television and the internet. Jack Wilshere smoking outside a club is a non-issue.
If Wilshere wants to apologize to anybody, he should apologize to himself. Obviously, smoking is not good for him. For everybody else, the media furor is more interesting than the act itself.
If the subtext is about the hypocrisy of a world-class athlete doing something so destructive, why is smoking singled out while other vices never get a second thought?