A Keeper from the Annals of Sports Writing

CricketAthletes can be the most interesting of people. That’s why I like writing about them. There’s almost always a good story behind the development of their talent, their victories and defeats, and “what it all means” to them. There are very few athletes and coaches who are thoroughly bad apples. I tend to write with sympathy and empathy about most sports personalities – or at least I try to.

That said, I value “objectivity” in the coverage of teams and the description of contests. Excessive shilling and one-sided, polemical writing are repulsive; and Lord knows, we have enough of that in the coverage of politics and business.

I simply must share with you the following passage cited by American journalist Edwin Newman in his book “Strictly Speaking.” It is by an Australian sports writer who traveled to the UK with his nation’s cricket team back in the sixties or thereabouts.

The writer took umbrage at the British sportswriters’ personal attacks on the lads he was covering, even as he properly critiqued the team’s play. I like this guy’s attitude. Keep this in mind the next time an investigative sports journalist trumpets a scoop about some Patriot’s peccadillo or Bruin’s blunder.

“As an old cricketer, I am a bit of a fogey when it comes to the privacy of dressing rooms, which belong exclusively to the players, and I purposely have not stayed in the same hotels as the Australians. If players on a tour as long as this want to let their hair down occasionally, they are entitled to do so in privacy and it would be more than odd if fit-to-busting young athletes did not want to go on the rampage occasionally with a few drinks and songs.

“Cricketers of any country are no parlour saints. The Australians did not emerge with flying colours from Scotland and Northampton. They were careless in their approach to both games and at Northampton apparently offended the shop steward of the waitresses by helping themselves to cheese and biscuits.

“Manager Ray Steel, a splendid manager with discipline but no stuffiness, dressed them down in no uncertain terms over their playing approach. He did not mention the cheese and biscuits.

“My hackles rise when I think they are criticized unfairly and it often strikes me as odd how the bare one or two, who were possibly no plaster saints on the field themselves, are so eager to dip their pens in vitriol against the Australians. You would think we are not of the same stick.

“Once again, I say I am proud of these young Australians, even if they do not ask for the biscuits and cheese to be passed. “

It is what it is, and that’s telling it like it is. Good on ya, Mate.

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