As a cricketer I’m subjected every summer to six months of ribbing and sledging, mostly good-natured, from colleagues and opposing players alike. Comments can be expected to revolve around my beard, my accent or my batting, most of which are generally deserving of sarcasm or outright contempt.
There’s a strong culture, in cricket and in Liverpool, of edgy humour that’s either part of the day-to-day banter or fairly threatening, depending on your point of view.
As one of the few people to be ever sent off a cricket pitch, it should come as no surprise that I’m not averse to a spot of piss-taking myself, but I generally know when to rein it in. When people don’t the line between what’s honest banter and what’s downright viciousness gets blurred, and I’ve played in many a cricket match that has turned nasty.
In cricket the practice, known as sledging, is widespread and is generally all in good fooling. In life scousers are the best in the world at it, probably along with Aussies, and certainly the biggest exponents.
Coming from the North-East, where it’s also rife, it was water off a duck’s back to me but I’ve noticed a few people new to the city struggling with this sort of chat. If you’re not used to it it can be confusing and intimidating, and which side of the fence you’re on probably depends on whether you’re in on the joke.
Scousers are famed for their humour, and proud of it. They’re quick-witted, generally funny, and usually pleased to find sparring partners in these unique contests. Frankly, though, there’s a minority that are simply unpleasant and cover their nastiness with the veneer of ‘am-I-or-aren’t-I-joking?’ humour.
This brings me to Stuart Slann, a man destined to wearily type his name into search engines to confirm the bad news he fully expects to find there. Stuart has fallen prey to a particularly elaborate and particularly Scouse practical joke. It’s cruel, skilfully executed and very, very funny.
Stuart had managed to annoy a pair of holidaying Liverpudlians in Mexico. Taking offence at his unwillingness, as a Manchester United fan, to sing some Anfield chants they threw him in a pool. Slann may or may not have broken his ankle during his dunking, according to conflicting reports.
This, apparently, was insufficient payback for the scousers, who spent six weeks grooming Stuart over the internet with the promise of sex with a hottie called Emma. So besotted with Emma was Stuart that he videod himself sucking a pink dildo and then drove for ten hours to a remote Scottish outpost to meet ‘Emma’.
In a phone call the Liverpool lads drop the bombshell that Emma does not exist, and Stuart presumably gets a creeping sense of dread when he’s reminded of his fellating of a vibrator. “You’ve been framed!” shout the Liverpool lads, though it seems unlikely that this video will ever turn up on ITV’s programme of the same name.
It also transpires that Stuart has a wife and kid, who have now left him as a result of the prank going public.
I have to confess that I find this hilarious, but that’s tempered by the fact that this is an astonishingly cruel prank. The power of social media is likely to see this video spread like wildfire around the world and Slann will realise that everyone from friends, relatives, future girlfriends and future employers might have come across his very public, and very embarrassing, pranking.
Slann, clearly, is not in on this joke, though he appears to have taken it on the chin. In the matey, blokey environment of sports changing room or the pitch such behaviour is common and a even sign of affection. When the victim is a bloke you briefly met on holiday, and the vid then goes very public leading to end of his relationship, it’s another thing entirely.
So, I’m reminded of scouse humour. Cheeky, funny and driven by a vague sense of righteousness. To a point. Beyond that it’s increasingly hard to separate from cruelty and bullying.
• You can watch the video below, but it contains strong language.