Most of you remember where you were on September 11, 2001. Frank Lampard does too, although you might wonder how solid his recollection is:
Some team members went on a five-hour drinking binge - culminating in their stripping naked and vomiting in public. The players, who were said to have been ejected from the third pub they had visited, shouted, laughed, threw peanuts and reportedly abused other guests.
Many of the guests were Americans whose planes were grounded following the terrorist attacks two weeks ago.
Following complaints, the players have been fined two weeks' wages for the incident, which took place the day after the attack on September 11.
A manager at Heathrow's Post House hotel said: "They were utterly disgusting. They just didn't seem to care about what had happened.
He added: "We had a lot of Americans here and were simply trying to comfort them in their hour of need. Meanwhile these men were laughing and joking, taking off their clothes and abusing our guests."
One witness said: "One of them was walking around laughing with everything hanging out while on TV there were crying firemen searching for bodies. It was sick."
Those team members included John Terry, Jody Morris, and...um, someone else...tip of my tongue, forget my own head next....
Anyway, Chelsea did try to throw the book at the miscreants, and all may or may not have been forgotten had not then-Chairman and forever-dirtbag Ken Bates decided to blame the Chelsea Village debts on American fans not travelling after 9/11: "Experience shows that after a disaster it is particularly difficult with the Americans, who appear to be quite cowardly despite their Rambo films."
Well, at least NYCFC hasn't signed Bates as club president.
Lampard was 23 at the time, and had no one to tell him "For God's sake, put some clothes on! You might one day sign for a Manchester City satellite in New York!" But the author of Frankie's Magic Football (well, "bits of it") does acknowledge his errors:
"I made mistakes along the way and I think a lot of kids do too, who go to work in a bank, and it obviously doesn't get put in a newspaper."
His sincerity fairly flies off the screen.
You would think that people starting a multi-megajillion dollar business in New York would have been reasonably satisfied with this, or perhaps the Yankees and City were banking on some short memories. Killjoy Brian Lewis of the New York Post helped ruin the fun, though it was perhaps a copy editor who insisted on referring to Lampard as "9/11 Lout." Lewis did write this, though:
Lampard was one of four Chelsea players who reportedly verbally abused American tourists who had been stranded at a Heathrow Airport hotel in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. The drunken midfielder, then 23, and his teammates mocked them, stripped, swore and vomited in front of the group of Americans.
If you would like to read Lewis' article from yesterday, it is handily linked to the left of Lewis' article from today.
“My regret would be that I was a naïve young boy to be out on that day. If you ask me the same question if it was now, I wouldn’t be doing that at all and putting myself in a spot to get shot at,’’ Lampard said. “What I can say for sure and categorically is I didn’t insult anybody. I didn’t behave in an insulting way around people. That’s not me. Unfortunately it was misreported to that extent.
“I’d love to tell New Yorkers that because I’d love to think in my time at Chelsea, I’ve built up a reputation not just as a player but as a person off the pitch. Being a captain, being a leader, trying to be responsible and now a father – I’ve got two kids – and I want to show New York that side of me. I’ve got to explain it in the right way because it’s a big deal to me. I’m that sort of sensitive person, and that picture painted there in some way wasn’t right.’’
Lewis is indeed aware of the discrepancy between the two reports, and helpfully reminded us:
Lampard ... would not go into detail about what was inaccurate about the reports that claim the then-23-year-old and three other teammates mocked the American travelers, stripped, swore and vomited in front of them.
He was fined, suspended and publicly chastised by Chelsea at the time.
Lampard is not only sticking by his guns, but rolling in some new ones:
Another source close to the player claimed Lampard had been out with the three other players, but actually left and wasn’t present at the time of the incident, but out of loyalty accepted the fine that Chelsea handed down.
This is probably the least plausible thing I've read all month, and I read official FIFA reports.
“[It was misreported], that’s for sure. I was naïve, and that’s my biggest regret, to be out. But I can categorically say it’s not me, the type of person to insult anyone, and that was difficult to me,’’ Lampard said.
It's a terrible shame how Frank Lampard will always associate 9/11 with something difficult.
David Kent of the Daily Mail adds some other helpful details:
Lampard said: ‘I categorically did not set out to insult anyone or behave badly in front of the Americans and this is an excellent chance to say that. I’m very sensitive to the issue and the tragedy.
‘I have some regrets. I was naive and a young boy at the time. I was out on a day I shouldn’t have been - I certainly wouldn’t do it today, put it that way.
‘I’ve tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to be a good man – not just a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch.’
I'm sure Kieron Dyer and Rio Ferdinand would be the very first to testify to Lampard's goodness off the pitch. (In a related topic, you probably should be a tiny bit careful of clicking every single link that comes up when you run an Internet search for those three at the same time.)
Asked if he would go the permanent memorial at what was once Ground Zero, Lampard replied: ‘It’s very important to pay respect. It’s a huge memorial and I will certainly go there to pay my respects.’
What Lampard has not said, but might consider saying in the extremely near future, are sentences that contain words such as "sorry" and "apologize." Perhaps I'm a cynical person in cynical times, but there aren't too many flattering ways to read non-specific regrets, conveniently anonymous alibis, and "categorical" statements that are anything but. No one suggested he "set out" to antagonize anyone that morning, as if "In case of terror attack, mock those affected" was in his day planner.
In fact, what he was accused of being was, in the end, young(ish) and (very) drunk. Millions have forgotten the incident, millions might be willing to leave it at that, and dozens - well, maybe some - will believe that he left early and quietly took a decade of slander for the sake of loyalty to John Freaking Terry. Perhaps the number of those who have forgiven include the vast majority of new NYCFC fans, let alone its target audience.
But he's here to play soccer, not lawyerball. "I was drunk, it was a long time ago, I was stupid, I'm very sorry." That's all it would take. I wonder why he won't say it.