A Perishing Nuisance? Or An Irrelevance?

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How Did We Lose In Adelaide? I Was There. Not A Blogger Then.

Before I start, please give your answers to the questions posed in last night’s post. I’ve had a few, but would love to see more.  https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2016/07/25/who-are-you-and-what-do-you-think/

The kernel of an idea on writing about this came from a Twitter exchange with Dennis. He called me a journalist, and I disagreed (it was light hearted), but these things get me thinking about ideas to write about it. What am I? What, if any role do we play and what about our relationship, if there is one, with the media? Bloggers and the print media. Are we two sides of the same coin, or implacable enemies?

When I first started blogging, nearly a decade ago now, I was under no illusions. Blogging was not about gaining fame, seeking adulation, attention seeking or even something I was committed to. I liked writing, I’d just lost both my parents, I wasn’t satisfied with commenting on message boards because I felt I couldn’t really control my message and I started to read some pretty decent stuff. So I took to blogging. It was an online record of my thoughts, my views at the time (really, you don’t want to read them) and how they evolved. Everything was going well, I didn’t get any attention from anyone except my mates, who told me they loved it and to keep doing it, until the time I decided to criticise a potential elected appointment at the football team I support. I was threatened, I was abused, and I lost the innocence and the love of just writing my thoughts. Despite presenting a clear case in my defence (and producing it), there was no chance of winning. In choosing to flight or fight, I did the former. That blog is still out there, but I closed it down pretty much that day and is locked behind a password.

One of the accusations that day has stuck with me.

….these things crack me up. its like the sunday broadsheet columnist equivalent of kids playing shop. pretending and imagining that people are fascinated by your article the rise of padraig harrington, and nodding in agreement as they read your article with their cafetiere at their side on a sunday. its the biggest load of self absorbed b*llocks on earth, if they werent so inadvertantly funny it would be tragic.

Ignore the borderline illiteracy in the quote.This person thought I wanted to be a journalist. He might have been the first, but he won’t be the last. I have neither the instinct nor the energy to bother people into talking to me who don’t want to. That makes me pretty much unsuited to that genre of work, that of the journo, the hack. I’m not pushy. I’m not in to having cosy relationships with insiders as those who have met me will attest. If you want to tell me something, then fine, otherwise we can chat about this and that. Sure, I love a little bit of gossip, but you don’t, in the main, find it on here. I’m about as likely to be accused of “good journalism” as I am to win the 100m at the Rio Olympics. What that blog did was to get me to enjoy writing as a bit of fun, and not something to take too seriously. Some say it was really well written, some say my style is an abomination. But it made people laugh (my mates) and it made them see me slightly differently.

Once that blog closed I opened up another, and Seven and Seven Eighths was born. Again, this was a general blog on all matters, but a lot on sport. It followed up the original but my heart was not quite as into it. To put this in to context, this blog (BOC) at its peak got over 2000 hits per day. The record day on Seven and Seven was 350 – for the death of Dan Wheldon. I was perfectly fine with that, but the posts got further and further apart, and my mind wandered on to other potential opportunities. I set up a cricket blog, a football blog, a football memorabilia blog, a photo blog, a cricket photo blog, and yet never seemed settled or focused. I’m all over WordPress. Again, this isn’t to gain attention, but to try to compartmentalise what is written / displayed. At the best, I thought I might get some new friends to speak to who happened to stumble upon my efforts. But mainly it was cathartic, a release valve and enjoyable to do. It stopped me being bored. I love to write, but would never want to be forced to. About as far away from a vocation as you could get.

The How Did We Lose In Adelaide blog, famous or infamous as it was, started in 2010, and ran until I discontinued it in 2015. The final year of its existence was tumultuous. Minding my own business for the first four years, writing away with only my mates looking in occasionally, the trenchant views I took surrounding the collapse of the 2013/14 Ashes team hit a nerve. Suddenly one of my blogs had caught some momentum. This was a genuinely scary moment for me. I did not seek attention, but I wasn’t disappointed to get it. I did not seek to be anyone’s voice, but I seemed to be representing a certain part of the England cricket fraternity/sorority . I had a decision to make – carry on with Seven and Seven, or devote all my energy to something that had caught a wave. I decided to do the latter.

This isn’t a journalist’s journey. It’s a writer’s journey. Ultimately I’m not going to be judged on the stories I break, because I can’t break them. I’m here to comment on what I see, what I think about things, and what I think of those that tell the tale. In many ways the journalism I think should be practiced isn’t anything like a blogger. A journalist delivers the stories, he/she acquires them, and develops them. They report on what they have seen, and pass comment on them. Only the last part applies to a blogger.

Blogging on cricket in the last 30 months has been exhilarating and terrifying in almost equal doses. It has developed my personality, and in a number of ways damaged it. It’s unpaid, and I will always want it that way, despite my wife thinking I’m crackers. It should be a spare time enjoyment, not a vocation. I no more want to be paraded as my real name in search of fame and glory, than I would to have a root canal. I’m not a blogger who thinks he should be anywhere near “Cricket Writers” let alone be on it (as a journalist suggested to me a while back), although I have real issues with some of the “alternative media” that have been on there. You may think the “writer” (and I’ll come to that) protests too much, but then you’ll see my resistance to meeting any of the journalistic corps. I’m not them, I don’t want to be them, I never will be them.

Ed Smith News

What I find nauseating, and what I try to do different to those who write for the national press, and the broadsheets in particular, is the way many around cricket treat it as some sort of intellectual joust. Exhibit A is Ed Smith, a man who cannot communicate in print at all but still gets gigs because he uses long words and has evidently read a couple of books. That Cricinfo would employ him to write an article, but not a Maxie, or a James, ora Sean or Chris is what’s wrong. Ed Smith got this gig handed to him, has not had to really work at being a communicator, and then gets to preen and pose on articles like the one yesterday on stress. Instead of a piece on a sensible subject, he just had to flaunt his reading material. The Abridged Ed Twitter feed is a wonderful creation because it is so accurate. You can sum up his articles in one or two sentences because that’s all they add up to. The rest is the writing equivalent of looking in the mirror and asking whether you are the cleverest of them all. You see, I can read a Tregaskis, obviously a very clever man, and not be bored by the nuance and cadence of his writing – his piece on the executed West Indian cricketer Leslie Hylton is absolutely magnificent, and an instruction to us all – whereas I’m just waiting for Ed to show off. And that riles me t the extreme. Don’t be ashamed of your education, but don’t patronise with it. Ed Smith patronises.

The other thing I really get annoyed about is the “expert”. This card is played by Selvey the most, but others are prone to lapse into it. We get it, you played the game. That does not mean that we cannot comment upon it, comment upon what you write, and perhaps dig a little deeper. It does not mean you can cast out statements and expect us to take them as fact because you had a county career with a few test caps. The treatment of the avid fan as an idiot, because that is what it is, is patronising, and you wonder why some people rail against it. I don’t claim to be an expert, I never have. I bow to my co-writer’s knowledge of technique, and those of Philip who have written the occasional piece on the subject here. I’m not in some Michael Gove “we are tired of experts” mode either. It’s just not a catch-all that allows you to be an ECB insider and get away with it because you’ve played the game. Without the avid fan, new fans are not created in anywhere near as large a number. The expert may see the blogger as an inexperienced know nothing, a challenge to someone who “knows” but misses the point. That “fan” is mad keen on the sport. Maybe more keen than you are. You have no room to alienate them.

So with those two genres out of the way, the third is the one we focused our aim on in the last couple of years. The journalism by leak, or as it is known on here “good journalism”. I listened to the interview that Agnew had with Parky on that Sunday lunchtime at Lord’s, and Aggers showed that the accusation made (prominently by Tregaskis in The Cricketer) that journos were too cosy with the players and authorities still resonated with him. He made a point of mentioning the dirt in the pocket and the Stuart Broad non-walking incidents. He said that despite them being friends/on friendly terms he had to go with his reporting instincts and calling them out on it. Part of me thought that if that even came into it, thinking how it might hurt friendships, then there’s an issue, but we are all human. I don’t have that gene in me. Indeed, one of the fears I had as a blogger was would people genuinely hate me for what I write. Some do. I’ve seen it, though a lot less lately. Bloggers have that distance, the sort of thing that makes us “cowards” in the eyes of journalist and some of their supporters. We’ll say things on a computer screen we’ll never say to their faces. Well, it was interesting to hear Aggers say that he and Atherton have never talked about the dirt in the pocket. In many ways, that’s the same isn’t it? It is this analysis of the “good journalism” output that I think genuinely spooked some of them. They weren’t used to having their work scrutinised forensically and some made their views clear. Some block me on Twitter. Some call me a bilious inadequate. Some spoke to me on social media. Some called me irrelevant. Chris can speak for himself on this, but it seemed odd that they really thought people should just let it go. Trust them to be our eyes and ears. Instead, we thought they weren’t doing things well enough. Preferring access to aggro. That’s still an issue today. Newman and his selectors piece being the latest in a long line of “I wonder who leaked, I mean helped out, on that piece of “good journalism”. Journos have to get these stories, we don’t.

Dinosaurus Vexed

A blogger has more scope to broaden their approach. They have no editor (I couldn’t deal with that, I really couldn’t) and can go longform at will (as I do). The blogger isn’t particularly time driven, but given there are many competing elements for my spare time, I make a point of drafting once and polishing later, but I can also go a good few days without writing. I choose the topics (or my co-writers do) and our editorial board, such as it is, is on WhatsApp or Twitter DM. Free rein is given, and we write what we feel. Again, Aggers said it on his interview regarding radio, you have to be yourself or you get found out. I think that equally applies to blogging. So I do get emotional. I do get angry, and I do get down. It’s a diary of life and cricket. It isn’t journalism.

I think the term “writer” is pretentious, and one, personally, I don’t want, and I don’t think it applies. I am a blogger. It’s nowhere near journalism, it’s not really seeking to be one’s artistic best as “writers” do. It’s about a view, communicated in my own, and TLG and Sean’s own ways, to people who might be interested. We aren’t here for commercial gains, we are not here to challenge journalists. We’re here because we care, and because we enjoy the platform blogging gives us. It’s what makes us different.

I’ve had a piece of advice from one prominent “nu-school” journo who said of my pieces “why do you write about journalists, when no-one gives a shit about them? You’re a good writer, so do something more with your blog” I’ll take that last part on advisement, but the premise that no-one is interested is more cricket authority facing than the way I face, which is writing to you. That journalist, who in no way is protecting the old school interests, doesn’t realise what pieces on Newman and Selvey in particular do when I write about them. The hit rate is increased.Our commenters bring them to the blog, and then they get more comments back. They drive this place at times.

This blog coasted through the Sri Lanka series (a bit like everyone else) but as soon as Selvey announced his retirement – BOOM. One world cricket writer had reference to us within ten minutes of the announcement, and he wasn’t alone. Newman’s piece on the selection committee, and BOOM again. They aren’t quite the clickbait of Kevin Pietersen times, but there is a noticeable uplift in hit rates when journalists are questioned. The journos will never be allowed to forget 2014, and their part in the abominable process that followed, and this blog will always focus on them. It’s one of our “mission statement” pieces. It’s what got us noticed in the first place.

So, after 2000 words, and potentially a lot more could be written, what is the conclusion? We are not two sides of the same coin, nor are we the feeder fish that cling to the sharks. Bloggers are not a threat to journalists, unless journalists allow us to become a threat because they are not doing their jobs. Bloggers should be encouraged, they should be nurtured, and they need to retain a total independence to be effective. Bloggers are truly judged on the quality of their pieces, and of satisfying their audience, not by giving them what they want, but by retaining their identity and being true. If I became something else, this audience would drop me like a stone. That we’ve kept a core audience even when the supposed keystone to this blog has gone away (the KP back for England) speaks volumes. That others have fallen by the wayside is not surprising. We’re not two sides of the same coin at all, we aren’t even a threat. We’re different, and not to be controlled or briefed, edited or spun, inside or beside. We are outside cricket for a reason – because they don’t want us inside, and we quite like the chill air.

I’d be interested in your views on this. How do you see the “relationship”? Is there one? Are we competing? Let me know in the comments.

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South Africa vs England: 3rd Test 1st day. Not a match report

One of the issues with a blog such as this, is that it’s written by people who have jobs, and jobs that aren’t in (and definitely not Inside) cricket.  That means that any post when a match is ongoing is dependent on being able to have the television or at worst the radio on during play.  In my own case I am fortunate enough to be self-employed with an office at home, and doubly fortunate that having it on in the background doesn’t distract me in the slightest when I’m concentrating on work.  Cricket is like that, it exists but it isn’t necessarily something where full on focus is possible or even desirable all the time.  The same applies when going to a match of course, where much of the time can be spent chatting to others; queuing for the bar (which at Lords can take up to a session of play, so inept are they at looking after their customers); queuing for food (because you don’t want to do that during that portion of the day usually referred to as lunchtime, unless you want to miss even more of the play); or nipping off to the usually vile loo.  Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to stretch the legs that have indentations from the seat in front and where you try to recover some kind of blood flow in a backside numb from a plastic seat presumably bought in a sale at B & Q.

It’s a routine that cricket fans tend to be familiar with, and regular supporters take account of it.  As an aside, a picnic at the cricket is often viewed by the media as being somehow charming, as opposed to the reality of it as being a necessity when faced with outrageously priced, virtually inedible tat you’ve waited an hour to receive – at which point imminent starvation tends to win out over revulsion.

All of which is the background to explaining that with meetings all day, I haven’t seen a ball of the match, and haven’t heard a ball either.  But then you see, as I work for a living, I don’t get paid to watch cricket.  On the contrary, cricket costs me, and costs me a lot of money.  It’s not just tickets of course – for some on here go to far more matches than I do –  or indeed for some like Dmitri, flights, hotels and tickets.  It is also television subscriptions and the TV Licence fee.

This could be viewed as something of a disadvantage on a cricket blog, and indeed in terms of providing brilliant insights on a day’s play, it unquestionably is.  I mean, I could start talking about how late the fonts moved off  the seam on Cricinfo’s ball by ball text, but it’s probably not going to make anyone sit up and ponder.  But here’s the thing, this isn’t a newspaper, and it isn’t written by journalists.  We don’t get paid for this, and more to the point we don’t want to be paid for it.  In fact, let’s go further than that on the point about us not getting paid.  We don’t monetise this site through advertising either.  The odd advert does come up, but that’s a WordPress thing, it’s nothing to do with us.  The option to get banner advertising here is in the settings, it hasn’t been done, and it won’t be done either – neither of us are remotely interested in ever doing that.

And yet the idea that we are frustrated or failed journalists because we pen our thoughts here doesn’t seem to go away.  Let’s be clear about this, neither Dmitri nor myself have the slightest aspiration to join the ranks of the paid hack, to have to pay attention to the possibility of upsetting someone at the ECB, to worry about “access” to players or officials or to  have to write “Sponsored by Waitrose” at the bottom of a puff piece about Stuart Broad’s latest hairstyle (receding by the way, poor lad).  Why would we?  We have our careers and we’re both pretty happy with them.  More to the point, if journalists as a body were doing their jobs properly, then blogs like this would barely exist, for few if any would read them, let alone take the time to make comments which repeatedly teach me new things and find out contradictions and hypocrisies of which I’d otherwise be unaware.  Why unaware?  Well, you see it tends not to be in the papers.  Written by…oh yes.

What is puzzling is quite why some journalists find the blogs to be such a threat.  If they are so irrelevant, inane or downright mad, what’s the problem?  Clearly no one will pay them any attention and readers will instead genuflect to the great correspondents who nobly dispense wisdom on a daily basis.  So why even mention them, why make a pointed comment about the difference between a journalist and a blogger as if one is somehow inherently superior?  Because they get paid for it?  Some people get paid for having sex, we don’t tend to consider it a plus point.

We do get the occasional journalist talking to us directly on here or on Twitter.  It’s quite striking the difference in approach.  The ones utterly unconcerned about blogs tend to be friendly, inquisitive and (he’ll hate me for saying this) full of praise for my partner in crime’s writing.  The ones who are tend to make public comments at odds with what they say directly.  There’s a word for that kind of behaviour, although “insecure” fits, it’s not the one I was thinking of.

The first paragraph of this post detailed some of the joys of going to cricket when you’ve actually paid for a ticket.  How many journalists are in any way aware of any of it?  How many have paid to get in to a Test match and sat in the normal seats?  There’s a TMS commentator who played the game at the highest level and thought tickets were about £20; there is a total disconnect between those who report on the game and those who pay to watch.  It’s a delightful little club, where they really are Inside Cricket, and the rest of us are Outside.  Obvious it may be, and it’s all too often regarded as a trite point by those on the receiving end, but without people going to matches, they truly wouldn’t have a job.  In my line of business I’m acutely aware that without customers I don’t have a job, not least because it’s happened.   And yet there is very little evidence whatever that the media appreciate that most fundamental of points.  The various ECB disasters over the last couple of years were dissected repeatedly from the perspective of those on the inside of the special club.  The wider question of why people should pay a fortune to be treated like dirt at the ground while at the same time being dismissed as irrelevancies never occurred to many of them, because they don’t even realise that’s how it is.

It isn’t all of them of course, no one would claim that.  And yet those this isn’t directed at would know that perfectly well from reading it.  They know who they are, and they do good work.

Here’s the rub, great journalism does what a place like this could never do, and wouldn’t even try to do.  It can be majestic, and it can change the world (FIFA, IAAF).  You want to know the difference between a journalist and a blogger?  It’s that you can.  You want to know why there isn’t one?  It’s because you don’t.

Oh yes, the Test match.   Looks pretty even to me.  Here’s a match report:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-v-england-2015-16/content/story/961977.html

Discussion on day two below!

 

 

Quietly

I don’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know why I bother some times. Last night’s post. Twitter can really peeve me.

Look. Let’s be clear about this. I thought I needed to do something a bit different to get us out of the malaise of constantly going on about the World Cup and also the KP / Graves stuff. I was also hoping that post might catch some attention because although I’m not, really not, driven by hits, reaching 50000 in one month would have been nice. As it was, I failed by around 250, but I gave it a go, and thought the Dirty Dozen was a different thing from my always popular Journalist countdown, which I’ll do soon enough, and other criticial pieces or awards, like the Dmitris. I thought it might get me over the hump, is slightly different to those usual pieces and would get people commenting. I have sort of drawn the conclusion that this blog gets hits when someone says or does something stupid, rather than being based on what I write.

The Bogfather has gone to some of our old friends and tweeted it to them, and in reply the analyst called it a “strange list”, saying the real culprits lie underneath. Good grief.

This was not a culprits list of English cricket, you absolute muppet. It was a list of people who cheesed me off. JAMES BRAYSHAW is on it for crying out loud, and he has the square root of fuck all to do with the England malaise. So my list is no more odd than calling Jim Holden’s piece “terrific”. It would be an odd list if it was solely to do with England.

If truth be told I have ongoing twitter convos with a number of journalists. I am mellowing, somewhat, towards some of them, but can’t help but think that they still believe we are a bunch of swivel-eyed nutters who rant for pleasure. I want to be able to watch a cricket team play really good, winning cricket, preferably without acting like school bullies, and do it with a bit of joy and a bit of verve. I’m sure you are nearly all the same as me. I despise the petty politics, the schoolmaster class warfare bollox masquerading as the ECB in the last year, aided and abetted by the print media. They sided with these muppets, and they have to decide why. Some still hide behind their personal animosity towards Pietersen to prevent them actually saying “you know what, they’ve got a point about Downton, you know.”

Newman did not annoy me in the last quarter, for instance, as much as those in the list. I have to say that in some regards coming across some of the old Wisden Cricket Monthly magazines, when he took over from Doug Ibbotson on the SE county cricket watch made me sad for what he’s become. They are really pretty good. The anti-KP thing is getting really tiresome now, and it has to stop. If he’s good enough, he should play. End of. Let’s not mess about with semantics.

I have said a billion and one times that I’m not after anything from writing other than expressing an opinion on a sport I love, one of the few left. On Sunday the MLB season starts, another sport I love, and if the Boston Red Sox show signs of life this season, my attention could quickly be drawn from cricket. That their 2014 season was a train wreck only fuelled my cricket ire. I have no test tickets this year, for the third summer in a row. I have no plans to go to any specific games this season, although I’m sure to go to one or two. Money’s tight, priorities change. I love blogging, but as you can tell, work is tougher for me now, the responsibility, if not the pay, has increased, I’m knackered when I get home, and churning out the stuff is still enjoyable, but god, when people like Hughes can’t even analyse this, then I’m in trouble.

Some of you who read this may feel that my ever changing moods, and my unpredictability when it comes to my actions is a bit me, me, me. That’s who I am. I think Zepherine may have summed it up best about my “anxieties”. It fits me well. Things make me anxious. I still get a little nervous when those I criticise read this stuff. If it didn’t, I should give up. But in my view they deserve it. I want England to do well, not fail. I hope that’s clear.

Anyway, I don’t want four day tests, I thing Graves is coming across as a bit of a tit at the moment, has anyone seen Tom Harrison yet, and has Downton been locked under the stairs again? Think I’ll stick with Soap and Shower Gel.

And no, I’ve not been drinking so that’s no excuse.

Have a good night while I chunter to myself and start pacing up and down.

(An odd list)