Generally speaking it’s never a good thing when sport transcends from the back to the front pages of the newspapers. This normally happens when things of interest to the casual sports fan have occurred away from the pitch, court or course. Events such as David Beckham wearing a sarong, Freddie Flintoff falling off a pedalo and Tiger Woods driving into a fire hydrant whilst being chased by his wife and a 4 iron are all good examples of this. Yesterday felt like one of those days.
It feels like the culmination of an unseemly campaign which began on the final day at the Oval back in August. It began with the ‘lose to win’ speech (don’t worry, we’re not going back there again) and was continued later that day by Malcolm Conn hanging around in the shadows like a Wham! member in a public toilet. The noise level increased significantly the day the England team landed in Perth nearly a month ago and has been rising ever since. We’ve had our say on Shane Warne repeatedly over the last few months but even he seemed to think it had all gone far enough given some of his comments on Sky over the last few nights.
His comments were made before David Warner’s press conference on Saturday. We suspect Warner is unlikely to suffer from mental illness at any time during his career for reasons you can probably work out yourself. It’s pretty clear that the England group clearly think Warner went too far as well, with both Alastair Cook and Andy Flower publicly voicing their disapproval. Flower and Cook are always considered public speakers and that they both stepped away from the normal ECB media relations handbook highlights the depth of feeling. Knowing what we know now puts their comments in much more context.
Moving forward to Sunday and the agenda moved on to what the players were saying to each other on the pitch. To be clear at this point we like sledging a lot; it goes on in every sport and is an important (and often entertaining) part of the game we love. ‘Mind the Windows, Tino’ and ‘Every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a biscuit’ are some of the finest examples. Threatening to break an opponent’s arm is not. Comments like that seem to cross an invisible line which should exist between professional sportsmen. We understand this isn’t a universally held viewpoint.
All of the above was put into sharp contrast on Monday morning with the sad news regarding Jonathon Trott and hopefully some perspective will now be found (and to be fair, since then there has been a considered response from many parties and only a few that seemed to cut too deep). The vocal onslaught of the visitors is as tedious as it is expected. Some players, such as Broad, can deal with it easily and some find it harder. In the heat of an Ashes series that should never be forgotten. We are not linking the onslaught directly with Trott’s illness and certainly not blaming the Australian media or players in any way, but with the spotlight should come the reflection and perhaps it’s time to concentrate on what’s happening out in the middle. If that makes us sound weak and scared then so be it.