Tuesday, June 15, 2004

a race of Gazzas

Thinking about yesterday's post on the ugliness of England footballers, it occurs to me that this tends to prove the point made by Matt Ridley in Nature via Nurture that humanity's genetic component is malleable while it's environment is often fixed.

Consider English football and the skills it values: speed in short power surges, strength and tenacity, both in the tackle and in holding on to the ball. It's a combination that tends to favour homo gazzientus - short legs, so that the centre of gravity is low, and a thick, powerful body, to hold off the tackles of others and get some weight behind the player's own. Additionally, this configuration gives players speed over short distances and power in the shot. Moon pie faces and slab foreheads tend to go along with this physical type. The environment of English football selects and rewards ugliness.

Continental football, by contrast, places the emphasis on ball skills, vision and endurance. This puts a premium on height and a tall, spare build - a slightly beefier version of the East African long distance runner. That's why it was gazelles versus warthogs out there on Sunday.

It gets worse. Stumpy they may be, but English footballers are also rich and successful (bearing in mind that "success" and "English football" are highly relative terms). If it's true that women are programmed to find these qualities attractive, then Wayne Rooney is going to become even more of a characteristic English type than he is already.