Writing On Literature

  • The ball is dark and already falling from the blue summer sky.   Like a minor, tragic, ill-fated character in a futuristic totalitarian novel (set in the kind of world where adjectives spread berserkly) I am conditioned to run.  I run.  The ball is a long way to my right.  The boundary rope is inches to the side of the soles of my cricket boots.  If I leap and stretch out my hand the moment of glory will surely be mine.  Though watch the ball.  I have to watch the ball!  First rule of cricket. Which means Im not looking where I leap.  The foot lands and then the knee somehow snaps, with an audible crack.  And my first thought?  I have not caught the ball.  Later, when

    Aug 02,
  • The Open this year is at St Andrew's, and golf has the same problems as always.  Everyone is walking in the same direction (pretty much - these are professionals, after all) and every player refuses to share their ball.  This is not head-to-head sport for those of us who like a bit of direct to-ing and fr0-ing, the pitting of one player against another. What golf neds is the equivalent of T20 cricket, and I have the answer. The admin people at the R & A should stand on the first tee (if I remember correctly) and look over the North  Sea to Holland.  At the same time they should squint until the past comes into view: the future can

    Jul 13,
  • Bad workmen blame their tools. In South Africa there have been three major goalkeeping howlers after four days of matches.  England, Algeria and Paraguay have all seen their keepers bamboozled by what most people would think was a familiar sight to the man in goal: an approaching round object known as a ball. Apparently the official 2010 World Cup ball, the 'Jabulani',  deviates unpredictably in the air.   Some have blamed the manufacture, others the effect of altitude at some of the South African stadiums.  A football is not a technologically tricksy idea.  There is only so much that can go wrong, and most people have rightly assumed that the complaining goalkeepers have other 'issues'.  Like not being very good at keeping goal.  Or

    Jun 15,
  • The Real ThingThere’s an old rugby saying: if you’re good enough, you’re big enough.  The actor Matt Damon would have to be very good indeed.  In Clint Eastwood’s new film Invictus, Damon plays the role of 1995 Rugby World Cup winning captain Francois Pienaar.  He is 5 inches shorter and 4 stones lighter – the All Blacks would snap him in half. At 5’10” Matt Damon is also shorter than Nelson Mandela (6’1”), who in Eastwood’s film is played by Morgan Freeman (6’2”).  Winning the World Cup as the shortest man in the room is the kind of exploit that Hollywood loves. Invictus is based on John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy, which describes Nelson Mandela’s use of rugby to

    Feb 05,
  • As a sportsman, I am a member of the ' -y' family.  I'm related to Straussy and Backy.  In our small sub-species, Homo Olympiens, there are three primary families.  We are joined by the '-o' family (Wilko, Johnno) and the '-ers' family (Aggers, Athers). We get along famously, because these sporting nicknames are names stripped down.  They are names in the dressing room in their jockstraps.  They're no respecters of names.   On the team-sheet nobody escapes - the system is automatic and egalitarian, and amid the mud and studs everyone is quickly allocated to one of the families. The same does not happen in individual sports.  One of the horrors of golf coverage on the TV is the smarmy use of first names -

    Nov 09,