Neil Humphreys: Footballers are easy targets for the world's problems
Premier League footballers seem unfairly picked on in Covid-19 crisis
Tiger Woods didn't fork out for ventilators. Lewis Hamilton missed a chance to supply masks and Serena Williams failed to provide enough testing kits.
Name them. Shame them. Ridicule and reject them. Tear down their posters. Trash their merchandise and throw out their apparel.
When Covid-19 called, they didn't answer. They locked their doors, self-isolated and hid behind their protected social media accounts.
Such arrogance. Such conceit. How dare they not push the politicians aside and carry this global pandemic upon their shoulders, arriving as one outside every major hospital like that portal scene in Avengers: Endgame?
Well, they can't, obviously. It's utterly preposterous to expect a handful of athletes to fix a plague of Biblical proportions during a break in play.
That's the job of Troy Deeney.
The amiable Watford striker - picked entirely at random for comical effect - and his English Premier League colleagues are usually expected to solve the world's ills. If nothing else, this farcical narrative lets us tear them to shreds once they inevitably fail.
This week, it's Covid-19.
In recent years, it's been British society's moral decay (whenever a footballer got a tattoo), or the rise of materialism, (whenever a footballer showed off jewellery) or the damaging rich-poor divide (whenever a footballer bought a house for a loved one).
Taking aim at working-class men sitting in mansions the size of an HDB housing estate has long been an engaging pastime.
There's something almost reassuring in pointing a finger and screaming, "he's the real villain, hiding behind his ludicrous salary and doing nothing to stop this virus, apart from juggling toilet rolls in his grotesquely large living room".
British politicians and pundits are taking turns to accuse EPL footballers of letting down their country in its darkest hour (it's essentially a UK law now to dress up all mentions of Covid-19 in imperialistic war rhetoric).
The Health Minister, Matt Hancock, expressed his disappointment that footballers had failed to do their bit for the National Health Service, which was perhaps an unwise criticism. The last thing anyone needs right now is Kyle Walker doing his bit with nurses.
While a Conservative MP, Julian Knight, insisted that players needed to contribute more - which was a tad hypocritical considering Knight has written a book on tax avoidance, showing how the rich could contribute less.
JEDI MIND TRICK
It was hardly Machiavellian misdirection, but so many fell for the feeble Jedi mind trick, like kindergarten kids sitting wide-eyed through a terrible magic act.
Radio shows and online forums gleefully went after their trusty scapegoats. Why won't footballers take a pay cut? Why won't they give some of their millions to the most vulnerable in the Covid-19 crisis?
After all, a Mesut Oezil salary is worth thousands of nurses' salaries. A Marcus Rashford buys a million facemasks and a Kyle Walker pays for a pair of sex workers.
While folks calculated futile sums, the focus drifted from numbers that mattered. The shortage of Covid-19 tests and ventilators were the figures to fuss over.
But, no, let's blame Jordan Henderson for not corralling his co-workers into organising an overnight pay cut for hundreds of players at different clubs. Understandably, they seek reassurances first that the cost-cutting exercise benefits essential services, rather than billionaire club owners.
In the meantime, they'll continue to pay more tax towards those essential services in a week than the vast majority contribute in a year.
Unlike several, prominent Formula 1 drivers and golfers, for instance, EPL footballers are not tax exiles. But when was the last time Hamilton was dragged across the coals for not doing his bit for NHS workers? Has anyone taken Rory McIlroy to task? He's got to be worth at least 20 Troy Deeneys, surely.
But it's easier to score points with those currently unable to score points, the most visible targets in a culture still obsessed with a rigid class structure. Working-class footballers with limited education but seemingly limitless wealth offend those with fixed beliefs about one's position in society.
Any chance to put a footballer, his bling and his Ferrari collection back in their place is often seized upon. Covid-19 is just the latest opportunity.
Sports that are typically more agreeable among the privileged classes - golf, tennis and Formula 1 - have been largely spared such intense scrutiny. Go figure.
But footballers are being summoned yet again to showcase their generosity, while club owners and stars in other sports slip away to their tax havens.
Once footballers reach a salary agreement - and they will - it'll be time to blow the whistle on such a vindictive blame game.