Nowadays, sport is never just sport; it’s cultural, it’s political, it’s anything but just a game.
Barely had Saj Mahmood ripped up a stump in victory at Leeds before for it started. It was the Standard who led off, as they always do.
MUSLIM AND SIKH SAVE ENGLAND!
A flurry of articles followed in what used to be the broadsheets. I couldn’t bring myself to even consider what the Guardian would say. As it was, everywhere you turned the cricket pages were stuffed with commentary on this amazing event; a Sikh AND a Muslim, playing for England, PLAYING WELL!!!
A thousand left-wing non-denominational secular winter holidays came at once.
For those of us who were interested in the cricket as a glorious match and a thrilling final day, rather than as a glorious vindication of the multicultural society (how’s that going now by the way?), there was little in the way of intelligent commentary in the printed world.
Today, it carries on in the Times, the intended substance of the article crushed by the mountains of cultural existentialism and journalistic narcissism.
Matthew Syed makes a superb tit of himself, desperately trying to shoehorn Monty into the role of multicultural icon. And Monty won’t budge.
Here is a selection of highlights:
“Ten minutes into an interview with Monty Panesar yesterday, it occurred to me how patronising it is for us to expect sportsmen who just happen to be dark-skinned to articulate the merits of multiculturalism. How absurd it is for us to demand that a finger-spinning Sikh (or, for that matter, a pugilistic Muslim) hold forth on British race relations or the all-too-present threat of religious terrorism.”
As I probed the poor lad on these non-cricket imponderables, his face slowly contorted into an expression of bemusement, as if he suspected that he had turned up to the wrong interview. “I don’t really think about stuff like that,” he said. “It all sounds a bit too deep for me. I just like to concentrate on cricket.”
This is not intended as a criticism of Panesar but of those of us, like myself, who indulge in this form of inverse racism. We would not expect Andrew Flintoff to express an opinion on, say, religious tolerance, so why do we demand it of Panesar? “I think that multiculturalism is, you know, OK,” he said (eventually) in desperation, hoping that it might steer the interview on to a question actually related to his sport.”
Which is pretentious journo speak for:
“I am a thoroughly egregious arse. Incapable of just conducting an interview with a sportsman about sport, I tried to load in a bunch of socio-political commentary to make me sound like a deep and highly cultured individual. When that failed, I decided to lapse into Kafka-esque (yes, I read Kafka because I am an egregious journo arse) self-examination and at the same time sneer at the man I am supposed to write about, who clearly isn’t capable of discussing anything of substance with someone as sophisticated as I am.”
In case you are wondering, Monty failed to steer the conversation and the interview, in the sports section, with a sportsman, never touches on cricket, except when Syed gets mildly annoyed that this guy he’s with keeps interupting his internal monologue to try and get him to talk about cricket.
This is the really ridiculous aspect of the ‘pro-multicultural’ camp. When multiculturalism works, people don’t even notice it. And that is the whole point.
To obsess over it, to turn it over and over and insist on making it the object not the background is to destroy the entire point. So much time and and ink has been devoted to talking about how Indian and how Sikh Monty is that now, guess what? All those multicultural bandleaders have ensured that nobody, least of all Monty, can just consider him English.
Fortunately, those of us who just love cricket don’t have to deal with pretentious journo arses too often. Sadly, Monty may not be so lucky.