From the category archives:

Sport

England: twenty years and hurting

by Chris Bertram on June 4, 2016

With Euro 2016 about to start, thoughts naturally turn to Euro 96, when England hosted the tournament. 1996 was a great year for me, I awoke from what may, in retrospect, have been a period of undiagnosed depression (certainly hypochondria), and it felt like coming out into the sunlight. My two boys were 8 and 11 respectively, it was the year of Britpop, the phoney battle between Oasis and Blur and the wonder that was Pulp’s Different Class. It was also the the year of Liverpool 4, Newcastle 3 (the greatest game in the history of the Premier League), and the year when I started a journal, Imprints, with a conference at Senate House in London which commenced with a debate between Jerry Cohen and Tony Skillen. As the conference finished, we all crowded around a radio to hear the England-Spain penalty shoot-out (the last time England prevailed in one). Though England didn’t win the tournament, losing to Germany — who else? — in the semis, we got to see the thrashing of the Scots with McAllister’s miss and Gazza’s genius and then then destruction of the Dutch, all to the soundtrack of Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds. We were on the verge of the first Labour government since 1979, and with the Tories looking tired and split the country felt together and optimistic. The St George’s flag, which fluttered everywhere that summer, seemed to stand for this mood, somehow magically recovered from a narrow and exclusive nationalism.

(Much of this was undoubtedly fluff and illusion, and probably massively irritating to the other local nationalities. Still, the optimism was real, the sense that a better future was coming after the night of Thatcherism.)

“Today, alas, that happy crowded floor looks very different.” Thirty year of hurt have turned into fifty, and nobody has any expectations of this England team. But more pertinently, we live in a deeply divided country, squeezed by austerity and xenophobia, where each camp in the Brexit referendum views the other with loathing and contempt (I’m no exception). The Labour government that came to power in ’97 squandered its chances in the sand of Iraq. England is now a dark fractured place: nasty, British and short-tempered, beset by cuts, food banks, benefit sanctions and performance targets. The St George’s flag has become the property of racists, Islamophobes and “white-van man”, a symbol to be deployed against unpatriotic middle-class lefties. I hope we get through this, and stay in Europe, but the wounds will be deep and the resentments strong either way. What a difference twenty years makes.

Spurs threw it away, totally lost their heads tonight, so Leicester win the Premier League with two games to spare. It is hard to think of a sporting achievement that compares to Leicester City’s. 5000/1 at the start of the season, widely tipped for relegation, and now this.

At last some justice for the 96

by Chris Bertram on April 27, 2016

Yesterday’s verdicts that the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed is a complete vindication for their families who have campaigned for justice for 27 years. It is also a total condemnation both of South Yorkshire Police and of their friends among the tabloid press, the pundits and the politicians who first blamed the victims and then spent years treating the bereaved with contempt. I’ll not say more about the facts and the history here, since there are plenty of links that people can follow. I just want to say a few general things. First, there is the lesson that sometimes people who campaign against injustice, who stubbornly stick to their task over the decades can win, even against the state and its supporters. Second, we need to notice, again, how injustice comes about and persists where the victims are people who don’t matter in the eyes of the powerful. In 1989, Scousers in general and football fans in particular were people who didn’t count, who didn’t matter, who could be stigmatized and stereotyped as feckless, violent, drunken, workshy and blamed for their own misfortune. Later they were whingers with a “victim mentality”. Third, for all that pundits ridicule “conspiracy theories”, there are sometimes conspiracies by the state and its agents, perpetrated against “people who don’t matter”, and aided by those same journalists and commentators with their contempt for the victims, their lack of interest in the facts, and their deference to the official version. Everywhere, “people who don’t matter”, whose interests are ignored and whose pain is ridiculed, can take heart from what the Hillsborough families have achieved. The next step for justice should be the prosecution of those responsible.

6 Nations!

by Chris Bertram on February 5, 2016

Another year, and the Six Nations has rolled around again, a competition between the also-rans and second-bests in world rugby. Thoughts? Predictions? For me, being an England supporter will be harder than ever. England have decided that the solution to their endemic problems is to appoint Eddie Jones. Well, I suppose he did somehow get Japan to beat South Africa. Jones promptly picked the odious eye-gouger and biter Dylan Hartley as captain. Though I’m tempted to insist on the Scottish and Irish bits of my family tree at this point, I fear it is too late and I will simply have to live with the shame.

No Hiding Place

by Harry on December 15, 2015

A friend asked me last week how I watch cricket. Do I sit for 8 hours at a time, or watch highlight reels, or what? So I explained that when possible I watch live during breakfast when the kids have left the house, and actually take a short lunch break if there is live cricket to watch. If I am cooking, or cleaning the house, I have it on, turned up loud, in case anything unmissable happens (only if my cooking is uncomplicated enough to . But, if I know a game is likely to get tense and exciting, and will not be able to see it at all—teaching, days of meetings, etc—then I try to avoid learning what happened, and watch either highlights or, sometimes, long parts of innings, later (sometimes much later). He scoffed. How hard can it be to avoid learning what happened in a Test match when you’re in Wisconsin? [1] He, much more impressively, has to avoid learning the scores in a Packers game (I didn’t say that, in fact, this is something I manage to do all season every season, with no effort at all). Anyway, he told me that when he was a kid, on days that his dad couldn’t see a game, he (the dad) would come home and say “We’re in the cone of silence. Nobody say anything” and expect complete cooperation from everyone in his herculean effort to avoid learning the score.

Well, every Briton over the age of 40 knows what comes next. But surely there must be an episode from an American sitcom with exactly the same plot, no?

[1] During the World Cup I had the misfortune of teaching a class with a smart and lovely Indian lad, who did his absolute best to keep results to himself, but…well, his best often wasn’t good enough.

Hungry Blog

by Belle Waring on November 7, 2015

Woop, I turn around for one second, completely ignoring my past self who was all, “Belle, just put some words or music or something on your blog! It’s not brain surgery, and Ben Carson is a brain surgeon, so….” and the result is that our blog stagnates! Well, no more of that. I’m saying stuff. Stuff like, you should listen to this insanely good Breakwater song, “We’re Going to Work it Out”!

So mellow, with a Latin swing thing happening. Also, this rubby-dubby sound like someone was rubbing on a balloon; what is that even, well-informed commentariat?

In not-mellow-at-all-bummer news we have this article on Deadspin documenting a case in which NFL player Greg Hardy assaulted his girlfriend. It’s an excellent piece that pulls together evidence that seems to have been publicly available for some time. Hardy was both charged and convicted (unusual for DV cases, especially with a powerful man involved), but the case was overturned on appeal and then expunged. I wasn’t aware this could even happen except when the Innocence Project proves that a person was unjustly put on death row, but in principle it’s an intuitive mechanism. The criminal justice system needs to be able to say, not merely “not guilty” but affirmatively “innocent.” This could be useful—in other cases.

There are photos of the woman’s injuries, and it may be that, as in the Ray Rice situation, the visual imagery will make an impact where the conviction (howsoever temporary) did not. Wait, except Ray Rice got the charges against him exchanged for some anger management or something? Well, we can say his career was permanently injured.

Greg Hardy is a better player than Rice and more valuable to his team, so they are probably backing him up all the way (even when he gets in a fight with coaching staff! Special Teams, tho, the B-list coaches.) Part of Hardy’s defense involved the ludicrous claim that, given how much stronger and bigger he was than the victim, the woman should have been much injured more seriously. Like, if he had assaulted her, her mere beatdown couldn’t have happened. This makes less than zero sense (people can’t hold back?) and I believe it has the dubious distinction of being shared with Mike Tyson’s DV defense back in the 90s. From the Deadspin post.

When asked to explain Holder’s injuries during his bench trial, he and Curtis would testify that Holder had jumped into the bathtub, then thrown herself on the couch, and then went crazy trying to attack Hardy. Hardy’s lawyer, Chris Fialko, would assert that Holder must have caused the injuries to herself. If the 290-lb. pass rusher had really wanted to hurt a woman who weighed well less than half what he did, his argument went, the damage would have been a lot worse.

Riiiiiight. My eyes are oscillating like unhinged gyroscopes, back, back, ever back. I can only see darkness and brain now.

The following statement came after the fight with the special teams coach, but listen to the leadershippy leadership of the owner of the world’s most hated football franchise: “[Greg Hardy’s], of course, one of the real leaders on this team and he earns it and he earns it with respect from all of his teammates and that’s the kind of thing that inspires a football team,” [Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones said. Mmm, taste the respect of a dude who flips the coaches clipboard up in his face on the field.

Although Deadspin is mostly a snarky sports blog that tells you why your NFL team sucks, it is also at times serious investigative journalism. They broke the Te’o Manti catfishing thing too. (I can’t summarize it, really.) In cases like these the established sports media seem disinclined to look too carefully into anything.

Rugby World Cup Open Thread

by Kieran Healy on September 18, 2015

The competition just kicked off with England v Fiji. (Come on you Pacific Islanders.) I don’t have strong views on who’s likely to win, just the usual quiet self-confidence in the robust predictive value of national stereotypes. More informed commentators than I can weigh in below about the likely outcomes. As always, though, the one constant truth of all sporting competition remains clear and strong: Anyone but England.

Sunday photoblogging: Downs League football

by Chris Bertram on September 13, 2015

Apologies for the hiatus in Sunday photoblogging. It turned out that getting the embedding code from Flickr whilst travelling with an iPad was more challenging than I imagined it would be. Here’s a picture from a few years ago. Most sports photography is with long-lenses (300mm or so), this was an attempt to capture the action by getting up really close with a wide-angle lense. It succeeded enough for a student newspaper to steal the image, anyway.

Downs League Football

Fire away in comments. Looking at the pattern of home and away fixtures, my money is on France if they can beat Ireland away next week. But, as usual, four teams could win it.

Why “Ann Coulter” would love cricket

by Harry on July 18, 2014

Somehow I saw this rather lame attempt to parody Ann Coulter yesterday. I don’t mind football, I’ve even come to enjoy watching it a bit as a result of my daughter’s enthusiasm, but I do enjoy the odd rant against it, and have always found it funny that Americans assume that because of my accent I have a favorite team and know the offside rule (I don’t have a favorite team, but I do know the offside rule, though my knowing it is rather like my ability to recall the entire cast of the Love Boat, the result of an unhealthy tendency to remember entirely unimportant things that I don’t care about).

So here are “Coulter”’s objections to football (many of which, btw, suggest “she” has never seen a game), with responses providing evidence that the article is, in fact, an attempt by Geoffrey Boycott to popularize cricket among American conservatives:

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World Cup 2014: open thread

by Chris Bertram on June 14, 2014

Despite there being a post on this very page entitled “What’s the score?”, we haven’t yet had a World Cup thread. So let’s rectify that anomaly now, before the England-Italy game. What to say so far? Bad refereeing. If Croatia’s goal was disallowed then so should have been the third Dutch one against Spain. Brazil were lucky. And Mexico had two perfectly good goals disallowed, so if they go out on goal difference at the end of the group stages, they’ll have a justifiable grievance. The goal of the tournament so far: Van Persie’s header against Spain. But there’s a long way to go. England: my prediction, they won’t make it past the group.

You know the game I mean. As per Chris Brooke, I look forward to your Iroquois Confederacy joke.

It Was Probably Rodeo Classism

by Belle Waring on August 12, 2013

Missouri had its annual State Fair just now. Our overseas readers may be interested in State Fairs. They have food, and rigged carnival games, and ancient tilt-a-whirl rides of dubious stability being tended to by men whose facial hair choices are, if possible, yet more dubious, each with a Marlboro dangling from their lower lip, or a Newport, or, OK maybe they’re chewing tobacco, and, indeed it could be snuff, I admit. They all look ‘shifty-eyed’ if they haven’t gotten waaaay down to the end of the line and look ‘actively malevolent/probably a serial killer who will murder a small child at the close of the fair and ritualistically use its blood to lubricate the “Roll-O-Plane” as he does in his grim trek through all 48 states, every year since 1996.’ State Fairs also always involve judging the quality of cows, pigs, chickens, blah, emus, blah, Kodiak bears (I haven’t researched Alaska’s 4H offerings) that have been raised by children in the 4H program. The 4H program teaches children how to raise cows, or—oh wev. They often judge pies and stuff also and then make pronouncements: “Mrs. Henrietta Criswell, your sweet potato pie is the finest in all of Missouri!” and then probably she’s carried around on people’s shoulders while they sing “for she’s a jolly good fellow.” Food endemic to carnivals, such as funnel cake, is always served, and then there are state specialities, like in the unnamed square states in the middle of the country, where they fry sticks of butter. At the Maryland State Fair two competing Baptist churches sell crab cake sandwiches. Compete on, brothers and sisters in crab-cake agape. Compete on. I prefer one but can’t remember which so always need to eat both. Missouri’s State Fair has rodeos on account of its location…ah…not out West at all but RODEO no backsies. Rodeos are actually very fun to watch (I’ve only seen them on TV, but it was fun.)

Well, someone’s in trouble tonight! Because they had one of the rodeo clowns (who have the actually quite dangerous job of distracting the enraged bull so that the thrown or injured rider can get out of the ring) wear an Obama mask. Oh no, you’re thinking. Oh yes, sorry, this is going where you thought: a kick right in the balls of racial harmony. Allow me to prëempt a certain type of stupid First Amendmentry by noting that the Fair got $400,000 from the state to put this on. This was not a private racist rodeo.

[Audience member Perry Beam reports:] “Basically, a clown wearing a mask of President Barack Obama came out during the bull riding event at the fair. The crowd was asked if it wanted to see Obama ‘run down by a bull. We’re going to smoke Obama, man,’ says announcer…[this is met with wild cheers and applause] Egged on by the crowd and the announcer, one of the clowns ran up and started bobbling the lips on the mask and the people went crazy. Finally, a bull came close enough to him that he had to move, so he jumped up and ran away to the delight of the onlookers hooting and hollering from the stands.”

Ha, ha, ha. You thought you were OK, right? Then you got to “bobbling the lips on the mask” and you doubled over in agony, suddenly immobilized by a kind of vicarious shame and embarrassment, amirite? Kick right. In. The. Junk, people, I warned you.

ETA: the rodeo clown also has a broomstick stuck up his a$S, something I hadn’t really focused on till it was pointed out by Uncle Kvetch in comments. As I said, I’m just praying no one in Missouri every travels to NY and knew anything about Abner Louima ever or I will die more.

Running v walking

by John Quiggin on April 24, 2013

With the exception of an unnameable region bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean, posts on diet and exercise seem to promote more bitter disputes than any others. So, in the spirit of adventure, I’m going to step away from my usual program of soft and fluffy topics like the bubbliness of bitcoins, the uselessness of navies and the agnotology of climate denial, and tackle the thorny question of running vs walking.

Happily, and unlike, say climate science, this is a question on which you can find a reputable scientific study to support just about any position you care to name, and even some that appear to support both sides, so I’m just going to pick the ones I like, draw the conclusions I want, and invite you all to have it out in the comments thread. I’m also going to attempt the classic move of representing the opposing positions as extremes, relative to which I occupy the sensible centre.

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Six Nations (and some other sports) open thread

by Chris Bertram on February 2, 2013

A big sporting weekend ahead. First up, the competition that probably counts the most here at Crooked Timber: the Six Nations. We kick off with, inter alia, Wales v Ireland and England v Scotland (the Calcutta Cup). I think England could do it this year, but you can’t really write anyone off. The Africa Cup of Nations is still going of course, and we’re into the quarter-finals, where the highlight of the weekend is Ivory Coast v Nigeria. Ivory Coast still look like winning the competition, but they have a tougher route to the final than Ghana do (they’ll probably have to beat Nigeria and South Africa in succession – assuming I’ve understood the draw, of course). That match also clashes with Man City v Liverpool, which is unfortunate. (And then there’s the Superbowl, but I have no clue what’s going on when I watch American football.)