Before I start, let me point you in the direction of two excellent pieces I read today.
Andrew Miller’s piece on Alastair Cook (and thanks to SimonH for the heads up) is the sort of writing that the Cricketer misses. It doesn’t tally with all I believe in this saga, but it’s well put together, it comes across as considered, even-handed and evidential, and despite one use of “conspiracy theorist”, I’ll let Andrew off as his description of the “outside cricket” statement nails it. More on that below.
Also, David Oram’s piece on the ostracising of Reds Perreira and Tony Cozier, as well as Kenny Benjamin and Michael Holding, from West Indian commentary puts some of the below piece into perspective. It couldn’t happen here? Well, we had “something must be done” and the reported KP request. Who knows. Ruling bodies seem to think the sport is about them.
So to the meat of the argument.
As per usual I’m going to kick a piece off and not really knowing where it is going to end up. But the very minor events of last night, as a reaction to a post that had a brief shelf-life called “Hardly” was almost amazing, even by the standards of some of the stuff that had been seen in the HDWLIA days. A blog that was going slightly moribund as I tried so hard to get up for the Ashes had a rant laid down before it and I can tell you, by the hit rate, which gets the readers’ juices flowing and what doesn’t. I mentioned on a frank twitter exchange with someone we might know that I wrote what I did last night as a partial experiment. I wanted to see if I could still get the rage going, still see if it’s what the readership react to. It wasn’t contrived AT ALL, but it’s a piece I’ve avoided writing for quite a while now.
The fact is that the whole of the last 18 months has got me in a combative mood towards those that challenge me, and more, the opinions I hold. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a rebel of any kind. I am not some political animal who rages against everything. What does annoy me is being told what to think, told what I am thinking, told something without evidence and treated like an idiot. And yes, I don’t like being misrepresented, and in the case of last night’s post, I believe I misrepresented Lawrence Booth’s position. I certainly did not misrepresent Paul Newman’s.
The problem with the 140 character format is you can leap to your own conclusions and they may be wrong. The problem with the longer reading format is you can leap to your own conclusions on the basis of a couple of sentences. I am particularly touchy when it comes to the inside/outside cricket thing. After all, the blog is named after that phrase. To belittle its significance is, in a small way, belittling the premise of this blog. On that February day, and frankly you can stick all the excuses you want, a professional organisation has no excuses for it, the authorities, having sacked a prominent player, and told the paying public to just accept it, threw in a phrase “outside cricket”. We aren’t a bunch of muppets, we knew full well what they were talking about, and it was one man. But instead of calling him out, they thought they’d be clever. They could have said “certain individuals”, “associates of people involved”, or anything like that. No, they put in the phrase “outside cricket”. It may have meant one man, but it opened the window into their DNA. We’re inside, and if you’re not inside, you’re outside, which means shut the hell up, and butt out.
So many journos are rapid to emphasise the first part – the Piers Morgan part – as if we’re elementary school pupils who need education by constant repetition. No. Increasingly a number, not all, journalists need to have that method applied to the true insight on outside cricket. There is an attitude around that say we are too touchy about it, that it was clumsy, that it wasn’t meant as implied, that it was really all about one person. Well, they knew the storm it caused, and apology there has been none. If there was, I certainly missed it. The ECB acted like all arrogant, out of touch organisations do. It wasn’t going to admit it had made a mistake. Instead, they’d hope us shallow proles would be ameliorated by performances on the field and new fresh brands etc. (note – Andrew Miller says exactly the same in his excellent piece on Alastair Cook) In short, they hoped the team would dig them out and make us forget.
When that didn’t work, we were marginalised. Attempts were made to make us look like idiots. False dawns were (and still are) exaggerated beyond belief. How many pieces do we see about bilious inadequate, the phenomenon of social media and the silent majority codswallop? It’s again, as if we are too stupid to understand. I see our hit rates for a month, and the number of visitors we get. I know this blog is seen by a very small section of the cricket community. Fine by me. While the message can be intemperate, maybe a bit OTT, from my behalf, I didn’t exactly get noticed by being all sweetness and light. Because to do that you become neutered. When an unreasonable party faces someone being aggressive, they tend to blame that party for being unreasonable. To divert attention away from their own failings. I’m really not like that. Nor are many of the readers here.
This is rare from me, but I do apologise to Lawrence, having considered my position overnight, for perhaps reacting in the wrong way to his tweets. If the first paragraph of “Hardly” had been more clear, maybe he could see why, but that’s not enough from me to justify my jumping the gun. I have to recognise when I’ve over-stepped the mark and over-reacted. Lawrence has been someone prepared to break bread with me, and I think using his tweet to post that item was not the brightest thing I’ve ever done. I can still see why I reacted to it the way I did, but I needed to stop and think. We should all learn along the way. I am not one who will let that Piers Morgan / Outside Cricket thing pass, but also Lawrence’s Wisden notes, his comments, and what he says to me along the way, I should have taken into account. My mistake.
There comes a point when you blog, and 18 months full on is pretty hard work, where you evaluate where you are. In terms of quality of writing, this blog is better than ever. TLG is a brilliant addition (thanks jofo), I love the panel stuff, I’ve enjoyed the memories work and others seem to enjoy it too, and at times it has been fun. But the mood that made this blog what it was is changing, and I’m wrestling with myself over whether we can have the success and feedback (struggling for the right word) in an environment like this. There is a “fear” (if that’s the right word) that this blog is a “bad times” blog and when success comes to this England team, as it will, can it function and survive?
This is not a blog that is negative for the sake of it. Seriously, believe it or not, it isn’t. It’s just that negativity brings the best out of me, and many of you. By negativity, of course, I mean critiquing bad results, bad administration, bad reporting not just being doom and gloom merchants. We enjoyed the ODI series that just went by (how could you not watching England bat like that) but instead of many of the print and TV journos who only jumped on the “we are out of date” bandwagon once the World Cup got underway, we’d been banging on about it for ages. Yet we are pilloried by insinuation if we are “not reconnecting with the team” or “falling in love with it”. I’m not. Nowhere near it. I’m pleased we played well. I’m effing livid we blew a World Cup and no-one did anything to change it beforehand. That’s in the past now. Doesn’t matter etc. Because if you think it did, you’d be aiming your laser missile at the ECB, who made Downton carry the can, and then his greatest coach of a generation.
From where I sit, I see much journalism determined by access. It was one of Brian Carpenter’s criticism of HDWLIA in Wisden (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an incredibly fair article) that I maybe didn’t have an understanding of their pressures. Fine. I probably don’t know the realpolitk of modern sports reporting. That’s because I’m not a journalist. But what I see from the outside is not the stenographer that some of the commenters on here are seeing (and they may be right), but more reporting by access. Benny, I think, on here says that much of the press coverage now in newspapers is out of date by the time you read it, because bloggers get there first, or the internet has it all up. Yes, to a degree, but I was always one who wanted to read what others thought. Half the fun of a Newman column is reading his opinions, and then getting angry about them. The same with Selvey. But remembering that those people have vastly larger
audiences than us and are writing to be read by the fanatics and the casual fan. They have vastly more influence on shaping views than we ever will.
I’ve banged on about the Tyers Twitter Tendency – the inside knowledge what I can’t tell you plebs approach – for ages, but it grates. I wrestle with the fact I talk to a couple of journalists behind the scenes and do not report it here. Am I being a hypocrite? Probably, but this is because I’ve actually not been expressly asked to keep this stuff quiet, and I treat it as a relatively private conversation (I’ve shared a couple of things with my co-writer to be fair). These guys are dealing with the decision makers, and in some cases, are consulted by those decision makers (Downton freely admitted it). That’s where there’s a lack of trust, so that when we see the Outside Cricket line is about Piers Morgan, I get tetchy. That’s the ECB line. You are reporting the ECB line, because they don’t want to admit that’s how they think about cricket, and their public. My touchiness on this is my problem. You wouldn’t have read the stuff on this blog for
the time you have if you didn’t at least respect where it came from.
I will release the Hardly post without the bit referring to the Outside Cricket exchange which will make the comments look slightly odd. Apologies for the long-winded nature of this post, and it’s only touched the surface of what I would wish to say, but it needed clarifying.