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Bad tempered net snares another victim as pilloried Parks quits without a fight

Date

Jim White, London

Catch the first Qantas flight home … Dan Parks passes during Scotland's losing Calcutta Cup match against England last weekend that brought him intense notoriety among internet critics.

Catch the first Qantas flight home … Dan Parks passes during Scotland's losing Calcutta Cup match against England last weekend that brought him intense notoriety among internet critics. Photo: Getty Images

GOOGLE the words Dan and Parks and one of the first links that come up is to ''Dan Parks and the blame''.

The blame, it turns out, is the name of a four-piece band from Vermont on the US bar circuit led by singer-guitarist Dan Parks. YouTube footage reveals them as an outfit unlikely to threaten Coldplay's position as the world's most successful rock band. But as a title, well, they could not have chosen a more topical one.

Blame is now likely forever to be associated with the name Dan Parks. Scotland's Australian-born-and-raised five-eighth was pilloried after last Saturday's Calcutta Cup match for what happened in the 42nd minute. Trying to clear his lines, Parks was fractionally too slow with his kick. It was easily charged down by his opposite number, England's Charlie Hodgson, who, following up a favourable bounce, scored the game's only try.

Parks looked distraught. Aware he was playing in a side that found scoring difficult, he had set them back with his error. How you felt for the poor guy. But what followed demonstrated how much the modern world of internet interaction has altered the relationship between a sportsman and his public.

As Parks discovered, the world of social media has radically upped the blame game. In the past, the biggest critics that sports practitioners could face were in the press. Sure, the journalists could be ferocious. No matter how much players claim they don't read the headlines, some suffer mightily from written brickbats, from low scores out of 10, or from the comments of former pros on TV.

As it happens, the reaction in the mainstream media to Parks's error was not overly critical. Sure, his mistake was pointed out, but it was also recognised that, with almost an entire half of the game remaining after he had committed his sin, there was time to rectify it. That his teammates did not manage to pull things round was seen as a collective responsibility.

On the internet, however, there was no such contextualisation: Parks was to blame. An inverse Braveheart, he was the man who let the English in. A traitor.

His history, his assumed attitude, his very personal heritage were raked up to use as evidence against him. His defensive outlook, his conservative approach play, the fact he had taken over from a national favourite in Craig Chalmers, were all cited in the web charge sheets.

Worse, he was dismissed as a plastic Scot, a man from Down Under who was using Scottish ancestry to get himself an international jersey because he wasn't good enough to play for the country of his birth. Never mind that before Saturday's game, he sang Flower of Scotland with the gusto of someone who hailed from Speyside rather than Sydney; he was dismissed with the epithet Skippy. And told to catch the first Qantas flight home.

Parks is a sensitive soul, prickly to criticism, defensive about his eligibility. Yet in the past he had reacted well to adversity. Andy Robinson, the Scotland coach, reckoned he was as good as anyone at taking the flak. As he demonstrated in 2010, when, after initially being dropped by Robinson, he returned to the side to have a stellar Six Nations and propel Scotland to their first series win in Argentina.

That, though, was clearly not enough to satisfy the trolls. They seized on his Saturday mistake and again engaged the vitriol.

Even so, it came as a surprise that Parks terminated an international career spanning about eight years and including a Scottish record of 17 dropped goals, with such dispatch. After just one game in the Six Nations, he announced his retirement from duty with immediate effect.

Whatever the reason, he decided that knuckling down to fight for a possible 68th cap wasn't worth the personal grief and the public pillory.

The corollary is that in giving way, he handed his critics precisely what they wanted. Not that Parks is not the first to suffer at the court of Twitter. But Parks is the first to walk away from the blizzard of its ill-temper.

Telegraph, London

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
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Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
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Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
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Round 4
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RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
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Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
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Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
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Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
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