By Mark Paulette
Here in New England, we are rather familiar with our fair share of asinine scandals. Deflated footballs, peeping coaches, you know the basic things that need to be handled with the harshest fists of justice to protect the sacred ‘integrity’ of sport. (The same integrity that domestic abuse, drug abuse and other violent crimes has no bearing on, but I digress.) Though, just when we thought we’ve seen the pettiest of scandals, the Motherland has given us a truly scrumptious treat; Pie-Gate.
The F.A. Cup is a competition like no other in world football (a.k.a., soccer…I know, it’s very confusing to refer to a sport played with the feet as football). It provides the possibility of semi-pro sides made up of men who spend their weeks working in factories, nights drinking in pubs, and weekends playing on muddy park fields to go up against some of the ‘giants’ of Europe. This situation unfolded Monday evening, in a highly publicized matchup between Sutton United F.C. and Arsenal. While S.U.F.C. is slightly more than a semi-pro outfit, with a market valuation just north of $2-million dollars, Arsenal is the fifth-richest soccer club, and 23rd wealthiest sports franchise on the planet with an estimated value of $2.02 billion dollars. It’s a difficult contrast to put in perspective, but it’s like when someone attempts to explain the vastness of the solar system, and says a human in the cosmic scale is the size of an atom, while the distance between the Earth and the Sun is almost two (American) football fields apart. That’s basically the distance between S.U.F.C. and Arsenal, with 104 teams separating the two clubs in the English football pyramid.
This David versus Goliath meeting lived up to the billing in all its glory, though few are talking about the game itself, which ended in a 2-0 Arsenal win. Within 15 minutes of kickoff, a streaker donning the head of a giraffe, made his way past the guards, hurdled the sideboards, and frantically ran around the field in his skivvies until being apprehended by security personnel. The only thing missing was Kevin Harlan to narrate the pitch-invader’s dash to incarceration. But the real action came in the second half, when a Goliath character in his own right took center stage.
Wayne Shaw, a 45-year-old reserve keeper/goalkeeping coach/club grounds man for S.U.F.C., a job which requires him to sleep on a sofa three nights a week at the team’s facility, has become an internet sensation during the club’s five-week fairytale run in the F.A. Cup. If you’ve seen a picture of the man, you’d know exactly why. Nicknamed the “Rolie Polie Goalie,” Shaw weighs in at a cool 280lbs and bulges through his skin-tight goalie kit as though he’s part Jared “the Pillsbury Throwboy” Lorenzen, part Pablo Sandoval with a dash of late 90’s John Daly.
Shaw’s day began innocent enough on Monday, as the “Swiss Army Man” was photographed vacuuming the player’s tunnel, tidying up before Arsene Wegner and Arsenal arrived at Gander Green Lane, (take that name, corporate sponsors). Once the match began, Shaw, who’s only played in one match since 2013, took his place on the bench. His antics took a questionable turn at halftime with his side trailing 1-0. Shaw was spotted in the stadium’s bar, snapping selfies with fans and singing along with the boisterous and slightly inebriated supporters rather than being in the dressing room with the rest of the team.
Then, with 70 minutes gone in the contest, and S.U.F.C. having already used their three substitutes, cementing Shaw’s spot on the bench for the game’s final 20 minutes, the cameras zoomed in on the burly keeper as he gobbled down a pie while standing at the edge of the dugout. 12 hours later, the “Rolie Polie Goalie” was out of a job. That’s the world we live in, one where a man is forced to resign for nibbling on a midgame snack.
Well, it turns out there’s a bit more to the story than simply a man and his slice of pie. Almost immediately, an investigation into the seemingly harmless act was launched by The FA (English soccer’s governing body) as well as Great Britain’s Gambling Commission. You see, it just so happens that Sun Bets: Sports Betting Site, which also coincidentally was the pillar sponsor for S.U.F.C. during their biggest-ever match had placed a prop bet of 8-1 odds against Shaw eating a pie on the sidelines during the contest.
Shaw maintains that he did not receive compensation for the stunt. Appearing on ‘Good Morning Britain’ before his resignation Tuesday morning, the keeper claimed he had not eaten anything all day, his team had used its allotted subs, and he simply was filling a tiny void in his excessive tummy. Though Shaw did admit that he was aware of the bet Sun Bets booked against him and thought “he’d give the people a good go,” [insert chuckling British accent]. Shaw added, “We’re not allowed to bet,” when asked if he or his teammates had taken up the wager. He also stands firm that it was a ‘pasty’ (a delicacy in Southern England) and not a pie. Come on, media, get your pasty/pastry facts straight!
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Shaw has departed the club in shame. In 2013, he hopped the advertising boards and head butted a heckler in the stands. It was like a rhino charging at a family on safari though grant probably a drunken family.
As for Shaw this time around, he’s already received offers from local baking companies to be a celebrity taster, but is holding out for a possible T.V. gig. Either way, rest assured that he’ll be able to maintain his hefty diet. The unfortunate part is that the ordeal has now overshadowed what should have been a celebrated cup run for Sutton United. Oh well, it appears this time, Shaw bit off more than he can chew. Or should I say it will turn out to be one expensive piece of the pie? The possibilities are endless and the conclusions write themselves.
Or was it even pie at all?
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.