So much beauty out there

November 19, 2009

La Perfide France

The subject of cheating is rarely far from the agenda in the hyperbole-ridden world of professional sport and its media. Thierry Henry’s handball that allowed France to score the winning goal against the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup eliminator has arrived only just in time to shift the dive by his compatriot David Ngog that won Liverpool a penalty and a point against Birmingham.

The obvious lesson here is that the French as a nation cannot be trusted and probably should be banned from sport altogether, perhaps restricted to playing petanque in town squares in order to look picturesque for the tourists. (more…)


November 16, 2009

Down With Commentators

As the newspaper industry, particularly the “quality” papers, continues its meltdown with Murdoch talking about charging for online content from News Corp in an attempt to protect the circulation of the Times and the Observer shedding half its supplements. While the material being lost is unlikely to be greatly missed, the most worrying observation in that article is that: “The soul of any paper is found in its Comment pages.” Admittedly, in itself, the comment is uncontroversial but it has tended to mean an increasing number of super-columnists who opine each week on the issue of the day, whether or not they know the first thing about the subject.

It would not be particuarly difficult to produce myriad examples of this, but to take the most recent one I’ve read, Catherine Bennett in yesterday’s Observer on England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup. Bennett herself is often an intelligent and insightful journalist, which just makes it more dispiriting when she puts her name to a piece like this. After a bit of laboured irony at the start, she writes off the World Cup itself as just an orgy of drunken loutishness it’d be “perverse” to want to host. The positive side of it, for example the possibility of arousing the sort of emotions displayed in Egypt after their 95th minute goal against Algeria¬† on Saturday kept their qualifying hopes alive, is ignored. Presumably the joy of the Egyptian fans is all about the prospect of a 3 week bender in Cape Town.

Bennett then goes on to make some perfectly reasonable points about corruption within FIFA. But it’s clear that she’s just done a quick bit of research on the subject rather than it being something she actually knows about. If the Observer wanted a piece that would genuinely enlighten their readers on the dodgy dealings of Jack Warner and FIFA then they would surely have done better to commission someone like Andrew Jennings who actually has a genuine grasp of the topic. But sadly, the Observer seems to be under the thrall of the cult of the celebrity commentator.

Incidentally, I’m aware of the irony of criticising someone for opining on a variety of topics with laboured irony. But hypocrisy is the grease that makes the world go round.

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