THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "Sports" Feed

A quiet day

As planned, today was laundry day. I went out in the morning with a bag of washing, rather than my camera backpack. I was apprehensive about having the right coins and so forth, but remarkably the local laundrette had central wireless control for all its services, complete with contactless payment. The elderly proprietor helpfully talked me through the process in clear and elegant French. 

Every product and device had a number. I typed in the one for washing powder, held up my phone and it dropped from the dispenser. I loaded the washing machine, selected my programme, typed in its number, flashed my phone and was ready to go.

Armed with clean clothes for another six days I returned to the hotel via my favourite Metz brunch spot where I had just one meal for the day.

Back at the hotel I checked my roaming minutes and was happy to find I have many to spare, despite streaming TV shows of an evening. Reassured, I settled down on a rainy afternoon to watch the latest episode of Welcome to Wrexham.

When I was a teenage boy my mum, worried I wasn’t getting on with dad, made him agree to take me to the football. I was a Liverpool fan but he refused to take me there saying that, at 30 miles away in North Wales;

My car’s already parked too close to bloody Anfield!

Rather than pay Scouse scallies running parking protection rackets, he bought season tickets for Wrexham. So I was a fan before it was fashionable. Dad and I followed the club from the old fourth division to the second — during what I now know from the documentary were its glory days. Then I went to university never to return.

Mum’s idea was a good one. Dad got into it and we made happy memories together but once I was off the scene he stopped going. In later years I suggested taking him to a Boxing Day match for old times sake but he replied; 

Wrexham?! I’m better now thanks

He was bemused by the club becoming a global phenomenon because of the documentary. I showed him an episode and it did nothing for him. I however am oddly moved by it and by the the theme song an American fan has written for it;

Don't forget where you came from
Don't forget what you're made of
The ones who were there
When no one else would care
I guess my memories affect me differently. It was a chore for Dad, but I am grateful I was worth it. I may well go to a match when visiting my mum sometime and surprise the locals with my emotion. For now I just enjoy the show and the odd familiarity of the featured fans I’ve never met who are quite probably the children or grandchildren of schoolmates!
This, the newspapers and some text exchanges passed a quiet afternoon until my clothes were aired enough to be packed.
Tomorrow, deo volenti, the tour continues. I don’t expect to hear from the garage today as the work will continue into the evening. However Speranza’s security systems reported to me that she was moved quite early today, so work has begun as planned. Wish me luck, gentle readers. 

Lionising the lionesses

Football has kept me sane during a difficult part of my life. There have been weeks in the past two years when the only place I’ve left my home to visit has been Craven Cottage. I know it’s just a game. I know much about it is excessive and perhaps a little crazy, but if I couldn’t be bothered to use my season ticket, that was a warning sign to family. They always asked about the game for that reason. They don’t care about Fulham, but they know I’m hanging in there if I still do  

If your game is cricket, golf or rugby or even tennis, then good luck to you. Mine is football. It takes me out of myself and gives me something to believe in and hope for. Please don’t make me think about how trivial that is or how little it really matters. It’s mine and it matters to me.

I am obviously delighted if someone shares my enthusiasm. Who isn’t? I don’t care who or what they are. If they’re football fans, and especially if they’re Fulham fans, I’m inclined to think better of them. It made me smile to learn this morning that Margot Robbie of Barbie fame is of the Fulham faithful. It wasn’t a movie I was going to watch, to be honest, but maybe I will now I know she’s one of our own.  

So the growth of the women’s game is great. I’m all for it. I don’t watch it, just as I don’t watch school football. I would have done if my daughters were playing, but they never did. So I didn’t. And that’s my relationship with the women’s game. I would show up to support any female friend or relative that played, but not strangers. I even might go to a match with a friend who supported a women’s team. If I had any. Just like you, probably, I don’t. I can’t name a member of the Lionesses and neither — if you’re honest — can you (probably).

I was therefore surprised to fall out with an old friend on the subject. It came up during a day we spent at the Oval watching that other game. I mentioned how irritated I was by the way women’s football is being forced on us by our clubs and the media. There are pages of it in my daily paper, which I swipe by as quickly as articles about tennis. My own club relentlessly promotes its women’s team, when the difference in attendances and ticket prices confirms that nothing has changed — except for yet another political drive to make us all pretend something is true that isn’t. 

My stance on this is Bill Burr’s. I’ll take it seriously when women fans show up. The men’s game is subsiding the sport with my money. Not that anyone asked my permission. I’ve done more than enough and it’s just “not my job” to watch it for them too. 

It’s partly Australia’s fault for not batting well enough to engage our interest, but my friend at the Oval went off on me about this (though he’s watched as many live minutes of women playing as I have — i.e. zero). He’s not woke in any other way but he’s really bought into this narrative. He’s even taken to texting articles at me in a spirit of maaate!! to correct my  thinking. Then responding like a humourless wokester when he gets a humorous reaction.

The culture war of identity politics is being waged on so many fronts that reasonable people find it hard to resist on all of them. I used to play mind games in business negotiations by structuring agendas to create long sequences of concessions by my side so that I could argue when it came to an issue that really mattered to us that “it was time they gave us something too”. Such is the human desire to be fair that this trick often worked. 

We are of a generation that doesn’t need submission as a condition of friendship. We’ll get past it, I hope. If stadia fill with fans to watch women play our beautiful game (he’s a fan too, albeit of the Villa) I will be as pleased as he is. Perhaps more so. Because it will then be real and worthy of celebration, rather than just an opportunity to signal not “virtue”, but submission. 


I have been quiet I know. With the aid of family and friends I have been unpacking my chattels in my new home. I am now permanently and comfortably installed. My broadband is up and running.

No excuses. I could have taken a break to blog if I had chosen. But please consider this. The manager of our national soccer team, an Italian, has been fired for defending perhaps the most important concept gifted by our nation to the world; that of "innocent until proven guilty."

In such a time what more, gentles, could I add?

Hammond Meets Moss

BBC - BBC Four Programmes - Hammond Meets Moss.
Hammond_crash Sw71cp
Having complained recently about the poor quality of most modern British broadcasting, let me mention an intelligent show I watched last night. I am a Top Gear fan but have always thought the Hamster (how to put this kindly...?) more charming than thoughtful. Most of his programmes apart from Top Gear have supported this theory. In this case however he surprised me.

Exchanging reminiscences with Sir Stirling Moss about their respective brain-damaging high-speed crashes, 44 years apart, he managed to shed (with the aid of a number of neurologists) a fair amount of light on the workings of the brain. It's on the iPlayer for a while and I commend it to you. I rather suspect that so personal was the subject that the production staff couldn't persuade Hammond to condescend to the viewer in Auntie's usual infuriating, Blue Petery way. Indeed, Mrs P. noticed that he didn't even have his usual laddish accent. To be precise she said, puzzled, "he sounds posh." She is more of a Hamster fan than I am, so she would know.

Ironically, since this really was - in a sense - "car crash television", I found it compelling. Listening to two interesting men intelligently discussing life-changing personal experiences in a scientific context was my idea of a good programme. What's yours?

Anyone but Murray? Not today.

ShanghaiMasters4 Mrs P. and I had a pleasant time at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center today. On a beautfully sunny afternoon, we watched Melzer and Paes narrowly defeat Fyrtenberg and Matki in the final of the Shanghai Rolex Masters doubles competition.

Then in the late afternoon/early evening, we watched Andy Murray comfortably take the mens' singles title of the tournament in straight sets. It was odd, so far from the childish nationalisms that poison our home islands to hear the Chinese announcers introduce Murray as "from Great Britain" in English, but as "an Englishman" in Chinese, while his fans all displayed the Saltire. The only Union Flag on display was behind his personal entourage. Now he's at a level to be in line for the big sponsorship deals that come with popularity, it seems his camp would like the English on his side.

ShanghaiMasters3 ShanghaiMasters1
I am not of the "anyone but Murray persuasion" because of his supposed anti-Englishness. I was rooting for Federer today for other reasons. I find it irritating that someone so blessed with talent as Murray appears neither to appreciate nor enjoy it. He makes angry, whiney noises as he plays; he changes rackets or fiddles with his shoes after every mistake, as if there must obviously be an external cause. He scowls at the ball boys and girls (aspiring players themselves no doubt); gesturing to them peremptorily in marked contrast to the smiles and polite nods of other players. He never seems pleased to see anyone, in fact. I don't think he's so much anti-English as generally misanthropic. Compare and contrast all that with the charming smiles and easy manners of Federer; a man whose success no-one resents or envies because he is as gracious off the court as he is graceful on it.

Pressed by the Chinese master of ceremonies to explain why he never smiles, Murray played for sympathy and said "I'm shy."  Then, adding "...but I will try hard for you...," he put on a sickly Gordon Brown grimace. At that moment I thought that, if I were the marketing director of Rolex, I would be hoping Murray will never wear in public the watch I had just presented to him. In fact, I would be hoping he would agree to endorse some competitor's product.

ShanghaiMasters6There is no denying that Murray played the better tennis today, for all that the crowd cheered his opponent's every good stroke, while politely clapping his. Federer had played a match yesterday while Murray rested (one imagines in a darkened room with a duvet over his head). At the ripe old age of 29, Federer seemed tired and rather resigned in the face of the Murray onslaught. There were flashes of brilliance and some really quite extraordinary rallies (men's tennis is much improved from the boring era of grunts and aces when I tired of it) but for the most part he seemed almost ready to lose.

Federer is one of the greats of tennis and I am glad to have seen him "live" (and experienced the warmth he generates in his fans). There was a fin de siecle feel to it all though.

The game was over all too soon and we were watching the crowd warm more to Federer as he ventured a few words of Chinese, while laughing unsympathetically at Murray's embarrassing claim to be shy. If you want those sponsorship millions, Andy, you had best apply the discipline of your sports training to developing (or faking) some social skills. Otherwise, no matter how many tournaments you win, you will always be a loser.

What the Left tells you about the Olympics tells you about the Left

Link: Stephen Moss, Kira Cochrane and Simon Burnton provide the answers to intriguing questions about the Olympics | Sport | The Guardian.

The Guardian's Q&A about the Olympics today is psychologically revealing. Individual Leftists may be sport fans, but collectively it's a political problem for them. If you believe in equality, the "second is nowhere" attitude required to excel is likely to upset you, as is the whole concept of "winners and losers." Hence all the confused youngsters in our primary schools who are told on school sports day that "everybody won," when the difference between the focussed individual who came first and the clumsy loser who came last is apparent to everyone except the teacher wearing her patented Guardian thought goggles.

I only turned to the article because I have seen the word "yngling" and wanted to know what it meant, but I read the whole thing with amused pleasure as Guardianism after comical Guardianism emerged.

If I were a different kind of blogger, I would snort "typical" upon remarking that the very first paragraph emotes breathily about the contents of sportsmen's trousers. Though as many gay men in Britain seem to be Conservative as Socialist, the Left believes it owns homosexuality as an "ishoo". I can't imagine why. Libertarians never believed the state should care what people did in bed and the history of the statist Right and Left is equally embarrassing. Growing up in a Labour area where any sign of interest in literature or the arts had you immediately badged as a "poof", I am not daft enough to believe the Islingtonian gay consensus reflects Labour attitudes. I suspect Tories, on average, are more tolerant. For now, however, let's assume this part of the article was written by an over-excited Ms Cochrane and pass on

Black people are another group the Left thinks they "own" Our sporting commissars therefore helpfully explain why people from the Caribbean run fast. Just as America's tennis schools have driven the rising standards of Russian players, so American sports scholarships have helped Caribbean athletes shine. This is of course unacceptable to Guardian Man. The world's most capitalist nation should only ever stand out for its social inequalities. The Left's preferred mental image of the USA is not of well-funded, independent universities providing scholarships to poor foreigners, but of a sick, poor person being turned away from an hospital for lack of a gold credit card. Amusingly, when the Caribbean locals are asked for their own explanations, they are little better than the truth. "Discipline" and "Religion" are no more favoured by The Guardian than capitalism. Noting quickly therefore that "standards of coaching and facilities [are] growing rapidly" in the Caribbean, the sporting journos move gamely on, ending the passage on the noble note sounded by one of the Jamaican coaches; "We're small and we're poor, but we believe in ourselves." This is perfectly on-message. Guardian readers love to hear of their favoured minorities believing in themseves, as long as the rest of us keep up the self-loathing.

The next passage however is even richer in Marxism-Leninism Guardian thought;

"...annoyingly, some dictionaries do accept "medal" as a verb, meaning "to decorate or honour with a medal" or "to receive a medal, esp. in a sporting event". It is, however, clearly an ugly Americanism - the earliest identified use of the word meaning to win a medal dates from 1966, in California, and the Washington Post was using it by 1979 - which needs to be stamped out. The sooner medal-obsessed Americans stop meddling with the English language the better."

When you think of the sort of buffer who gets excited about new usages (while at the same time writing sentences that leave it unclear whether American usages, 1979 or the Washington Post should be "stamped out") you probably don't imagine Leftists. But a control freak is a control freak, whatever the subject matter. And Leftists are nothing if not that. Who else but a Leftist could feel the need to "stamp out" a new verb? For myself, I delight that English is a vibrant living language that generates more new words every year than many languages have. It's a rich river with many tributaries and is wonderful to swim in because of the fresh water they bring (not to mention the rapids, torrents and waterfalls to be found at the confluences). Nor is control freakery the only Leftist hallmark in this short section. There's also anti-Americanism (does The Guardian's style guide actually mandate the word "ugly" before every use of "americanism"). When every nation wants to win medals (and Socialist nations have such an ugly history of lying, cheating and jeopardising their athletes' health to do so) why is it only the Americans that are "medal hungry?" I think we should be told.

You hardly need me to comment on the section about heroic losers, with its inevitable mention of Eddie the Eagle. I was stunned at the clear statement here of the true Socialist ethos:

Failure is always more interesting - and more entertaining - than success.

Labour loves losers, because only a loser would want the state to dictate to him how to live his pathetic life. As witness our comrades' distaste for the reaction of Katherine Grainger, the senior member of Team GB's women's quadruple scull, who burst into tears after she won silver (or as she saw it, lost the race). Given its role as the Pravda of the Labour Party, there's something endearing about the tone of The Guardian's exhortations to Ms Grainger and other shockingly "medal hungry" Brits; what they should have been thinking, apparently, was "Well done, jolly good show, marvellous effort." Quite so, Jeeves.

Usain Bolt's revelation that he beat the 100 metres world record on a diet of chicken nuggets is simply too much for The Guardian. Surely not the processed devil food of the Great Satan?! So it wheels in the "professor of sport and exercise nutrition at the University of Loughborough" to sneer. Can chicken nuggets help you run faster? Our provincial sage (who clearly knows much more than the world's fastest man) has the answer. "I suppose it depends what you do with them," he says. "Assuming you eat them, it's highly unlikely that they'll help." Anti-americanism, condescension to the masses, contempt for multi-national corporations and the globalisation of our diet, finger-wagging nannyism, professor-worship and favouring obscure state universities - all in one short paragraph. Marvellous, when you think about it.

Which brings me to how The Guardian deals with Team GB's unexpected success in Beijing. There is a serious danger that it might lead to the twin evils of national pride and self-respect and that - of course - would never do. So the comrades deconstruct it, throwing in dollops of class-hatred, anti-monarchism and so forth. Mentioning a rather good Australian joke (that the Brits are so lazy they only win the sports they can sit down to play) our heroes proceed to take it seriously. "Unfortunately, they're right" they say, stereotyping us all by reference to "...our innate laziness - the weather in the UK is bad and we spend most of our time indoors watching TV or playing online Scrabble..." Wonderfully they go on;

In three-day eventing, at which we are traditionally strong (and where we usually manage to find a member of the royal family able to compete), there are just 75 competitors. In athletics there are 2,000. To succeed in eventing you would need a fantastic horse, probably worth £250,000 or more, and the means to transport it to Beijing; in athletics you need a strong pair of lungs. Ethiopia, Morocco and Kenya are very good at athletics, but they are absolute crap at three-day eventing.

So there you have it. We only win because of our imperial legacy of wealth in the clammy fists of lardy aristos who just happen to have the resources to compete in fields where there are no honest black folk to hammer them. Don't you just loathe yourself now? Don't you just wish you were an honest Ethiopian with a good pair of lungs? Excellent. That's just what The Guardian wants. How this logic applies to our cyclists and swimmers is another matter. No expensive facilities are needed to ride a bike, rowing boats are not really that dear and Britain is full of rivers, but but that doesn't stop our heroes giving this intrepid advice

Go for technologically complicated and expensive sports that hardly anyone can afford, such as yachting. Or, better still, sports that are both mind-blowingly dull and need expensive facilities, such as cycling and rowing. Britain should press for formula one motor racing to be included in 2012. Then let's see Jamaica find someone to rival Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren.

Makes you proud, doesn't it? On the other hand, while those sturdy-lunged Kenyans are good honest athletes who win by endeavour, the greatest Olympian ever (having made the fatal error of being American) is "weird." In the logic of Guardian-land, that figures. His success has nothing to do with his remarkable physique, which in turn has nothing to do with the fact that in his nasty, medal-hungry American way;

He swims more than 100km a week, and trains every day of the week, every day of the year, including Christmas Day.

No. In Guardian World, that is obsessive, weird and - let's face it - wrong. I am happy to say that the younger Ms Paine was in the crowd in Beijing to see Mr Phelps pass into history. I wish I could have been there too. Swimming was the only sport I ever enjoyed and he was amazing to watch. Well done that man! Please pay these envious losers no mind. The world is full of them and taken altogether they are not worth the considerable weight of your powerful will to win.

This post is already too long. And it could easily be three times longer. Please read the whole article and laugh. I will leave you with the most predictable Q&A in journalistic history. What would you expect The Guardian's answer to be to the question "Doesn't it make you proud to be British?"

"No, in a nutshell".

No surprise there. Let's just hope we don't live to see what it would take them to make them be proud.