like a Skeleton event Olympian being given a sledge and a wide open, snow-blanketed hill on which to play, I’ve had my wings unclipped.
The sports editor has decided, a good eight months after I began my irregular appearances on these pages reporting on the (mis)adventures of a local cricketer, he’s going to let me fly.
I’ve been given carte blanche to write about any sporting subject.
So, I’m going to write about...cricket.
Local cricket to be precise.
However, as I’ve been given a little room to flex, let’s take a circuitous route to the point today and start with football.
I have never, and by this point in my life am pretty confident, will never, ‘get’ football.
It’s not that I’ve never tried. I’ve been to school in Britain and am a boy, ergo, I had to feign at least a passing interest.
When I was a kid I recall believing there were only two football teams in the world.
I wasn’t slow, it was just that every other boy seemed to like football, so it was a survival technique to improvise at least a passing interest in the game.
Unfortunately, I was only ever improvising and I couldn’t do so well enough to hide the fact that I literally believed there were only a couple of teams in English football. I suppose a very basic knowledge would have been advantageous.
I still go crimson at the fact that I used ask the other boys in St Anne’s School playground if they supported Liverpool or Manchester United, not realising there were any other options.
I’m not sure how I thought it worked - I suppose I must have imagined that they simply played each other on a continuous loop every weekend.
Given this, I claim no expertise in some aspects of what I’m about to discuss. You don’t, however, need to know much about the game to know that refusal to shake the hand of an opponent, who is a counterpart in an increasingly disgraceful race row, is a deeply ugly thing to do.
I appreciate it’s highly unlikely, but just in case you’re as ignorant as me, as they say in court, here are the facts. As best as I understand them.
Suarez (whose name is almost, sort of, an anagram of ‘E Swearz. Coincidence?), said something racist to a black French player called Evra, no paragon of virtue himself, so I believe.
Their two kickball teams (football? Soccer? - let’s agree on soccer. If only because I know it will aggravate my football-loving colleagues who sit around me and despair at my often vocal ignorance of the game). So, a couple of weeks ago E Swearz’s soccer team and Evra’s soccer team met, for the first time since Suarez was banned for racially abusing Evra and the former refused to shake his victim’s hand.
(You won’t believe this, but I have just looked up the two teams they play for. I know that you know, but I really didn’t know, when I started writing this, that the teams involved in the Suarez-Evra race scandal are the only two that existed in my limited soccer world view as a child. Nothing ever changes).
I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of what happened and the rights and wrongs. Proper kickball writers will have done that already and I imagine in a slightly more informed way than I am here.
The point is that it looked like yet another poisonous incident in a game that looks, admittedly from the considerable distance at which I survey it, in a pretty rotten state.
Hamlet’s Denmark has nothing on Richard Scudamore’s game.
Now, keep in mind the ugliness that surrounds the Suarez-Evra affair and stay with me a moment while we take a turning into a lane that I promise is not a cul-de-sac.
A sport in which I do take an interest is boxing. My mum introduced me to the noble, ultimate contest, which provides a home to incredibly elegant writing. When I was a child I was allowed to stay up to watch Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank’s epic fight in the Eighties. It is an exhilarating, often beautiful, sport.
It has never been uglier than when two meatheads Dereck Chisora, pictured below, and David Haye were brawling - and it was a brawl, entirely opposed to the athletic competition of a boxing match – last weekend.
Again, a quick precis. Chisora lost to Vitali Klitschko in a fight in Germany...
David Haye showed up at the post fight press conference, started (ironically, given that within minutes someone would be threatening to shoot him) shooting his mouth off...
Chisora, displaying none of the courage, discipline and training that gets a fighter in peak condition, dragged his knuckles in the direction of Haye, who planted his own, ungloved, knuckles, square on Chisora’s face.
To return to my own area of actual expertise, the arts, I couldn’t help but think of the marvellous film-maker Shane Meadows.
If his next film showed two multi-millionaires refusing to shake hands because of an ugly row involving one of them being racist, or two other multi-millionaires smashing seven bells out of each other in an undignified, dangerous spectacle, he could call it This is England 2012.
Chisora, Haye, Evra and Suarez will never read this. They don’t live in the world where people like me play a sport for nothing but the sheer joy of itself.
At a local standard of cricket, I’m all right, nothing special. I’ve scored a ton and I’ve taken a few wickets over the years.
I remember some catches I’ve taken – like one when I was 17, a running, diving catch as the ball dropped over my right shoulder – like they happened this morning.
I’ve never been involved in any race row or mass brawl – and surely it’s the professionals who ought to be the role models for folk like me – not the other way round?
The professional sportsmen who reach a standard and an arena of which most of us can only dream really ought to remember that once they were nobodies, taking part in a sport not for money or for status or power, but because they loved it – like I love local cricket.