Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Stolen - fifteen minutes of fame

A worthy role-model for our times has emerged in the story of Rob Sloan, who came in third in the Kielder Marathon last weekend.

Mr Sloan, who clocked up an impressive 2 hours 51 minutes, told TV reporters he had given it 'everything he could' as he posed with his medal for the cameras.

All was not as it seemed, however. At the 20-mile mark, Sloan had flagged down a passing spectator bus and hitched a lift for the remaining six miles, hiding behind a tree near the finish line until the other runners came into view.

Waiting until two had passed him - presumably coming first would have led to too much scrutiny - he simply joined the race in their wake, coming in ahead of the runner who had been in third place since the start.

There is something familiar about this for us in the Tavern; the Urchin's school has an annual cross-country competition in which his ability to get soaked, mud-encrusted or completely lost while attempting illicit short-cuts has become legendary.

Had a bus been available, I am certain the Urchin would have flagged it down at once, though I doubt Sloan was also equipped with the Urchin's running accessory of choice - a large packet of Kettle Chips hidden in his tracksuit hood (also useful for bribing staff at checkpoints).

But it is not Rob Sloan, lazy and deceitful as his behaviour was, who embodies the spirit of 21st-century Britain. Consider the order of priorities in this quote from the man who actually came third:

‘At the end of the day, as funny as it seems, he’s stolen my spot on the podium, my TV interview and my third place medal.’

When Warhol predicted that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes, he didn't foresee that people would come to regard those minutes on TV as their personal property - indeed as a right.

It's not, these days, the winning that counts; it's the TV interview afterwards.

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