Sol Campbell’s reply to anyone who won’t give him a job: “But I am Sol Campbell”

Over at The Guardian, Daniel Taylor tells a tremendous story about Sol Campbell attending a summit to discuss the dearth of black managers and coaches in the game. This goes straight to the heart of Sol Campbell’s legendary weirdness, whatever that means:

On this occasion [Campbell] wanted the FA’s technical director, Dan Ashworth, to explain why Gary Neville had been fast-tracked through the system to become one of Roy Hodgson’s assistants with the England team. Ashworth started talking about the favorable impression Neville had made on Hodgson and the players and was running through the processes that were involved when Campbell put out his hand to interrupt him. This is when things started to get a little strange.

“But I am Sol Campbell.”

As you might imagine, that isn’t a particularly easy sentence to come back from. Ashworth did his best to continue because, well, what else could he do? But it is fair to say the entire room had been engulfed in awkwardness and when Ashworth stopped talking there was another tumbleweed moment. Campbell, hand out, ended the conversation in the same way he had started it.

“But I am Sol Campbell.”

If that’s how it went down, that’s wonderfully uncomfortable. And hilarious.

My mind immediately began spinning:

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[Campbell sits across from Richard Dawkins]

Campbell: “It’s true.”

Dawkins: “What evidence do you have that God exists? Where’s the hard evidence?”

Campbell: “Faith, Richard.”

Dawkins: “That isn’t remotely convincing.”

Campbell: “But I am Sol Campbell.”

*Dawkins coverts to Catholicism*

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[Campbell sits across the table from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]

Campbell: I have a plan for peace.

Netanyahu: *blank stare*

Campbell: This is a good plan, a viable road map for peace with Palestine.

Netanyahu: Why would I listen to your plan? You aren’t an expert on the region.

Campbell: “But I am Sol Campbell.”

Netanyahu: “OK.”

*Sol Campbell wins the Nobel Peace prize*

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[Campbell is at a diner that only serves breakfast until 11a.m. It’s noon. The server approaches his booth.]

Server: “Hey, hun, you ready to order?”

Campbell: “I’ll have the pancakes with …”

Server: “I’m sorry, love, breakfast ends at 11.”

Campbell: “But I am Sol Campbell.”

Server: “Who?”

Campbell: “Sol Campbell.”

Server: *sighs* “OK, I don’t know what that is, but let me see what I can do. What do you want?”

Campbell: “I’ll have the the number 10, the pancakes but with a side of grits instead of bacon.”

Server: “I’m sorry. It says ‘No Substitutions’ in bold on the top in bottom of every page. You can order those separately.”

Campbell: “But I’m Sol Campbell.”

Server: “I’m sorry. We can’t.”

Campbell: “Do you have a rival diner for Sol Campbell?”

*Campbell walks across the street to Denny’s rival, IHOP*

*****

It’s funny, this whole Sol Campbell anecdote, but it’s also weird, almost too weird. Sure, there’s plenty of history suggesting that Campbell may just be weird. He captained Tottenham and defected to cross-town rival Arsenal. He was substituted at halftime after a horrid half against West Ham, and just left the stadium, vanishing into the London night. He’s been labelled moody, removed, and even selfish by respectable public figures, like the always calm and measured Piers Morgan. But maybe, possibly, this is a case of people just misunderstanding Campbell. Maybe something is getting lost in translation. Maybe there’s an alternative, reasonable-sounding interpretation of “But I am Sol Campbell.”

Here’s an option. Think of what Campbell was really saying in the context of the summit conversation. He was talking about Gary Neville getting fast-tracked into Roy Hodgson’s England setup. In that context, a reasonable translation of “But I am Sol Campbell” quickly turns into “But you are Gary Neville.” Under that interpretation, this all starts sounding a lot less crazy.

Now that doesn’t mean that “But I am Sol Campbell” is no longer hilarious. Not in the least. It is and will remain so. It just means that maybe Sol Campbell isn’t as weird as you might believe, under one interpretation.

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