Be warned, this post is messy and disorganised, and contains much crossness and some swearing. So if you don’t like messy disorganisation, crossness and swearing, you probably shouldn’t read beyond the end of this sentence – the one that’s ending… … … here.
Right, so, things that have been annoying me recently:
- My total, overwhelming, utter inability to do any-fucking-thing at all.
- Specifically, my inability to blog. Getting the ideas in the first place is like wading through treacle, then writing it is like the tortures of the damned, so following this up 4 times in a row with a “shit, I can’t post this, I’m too scared of the reaction” is really fucking annoying, especially when there’s no logical reason why it’ll get a bad reaction, but I still ‘know’ that it will.
- Other idiots besides myself.
- For example, I was reading an old issue of a magazine put through my door by the local council. It had a big feature on the health & fitness services they offer. In one section an employee in charge of promoting the use of these services was being interviewed. She said that a third of adults who live in my city are overweight or obese, and that therefore – therefore – everyone can benefit from getting more exercise. Obviously, exercise is (generally speaking, excepting, for example, star-jumping anorexics) a good idea anyway, but if tackling obesity is the reason for getting active then the data you’ve just quoted show that only 1/3 of people can benefit from more exercise and 2/3 don’t need to bother.
- The same lady also replied, when asked about people’s reasons for getting fit, that men did it because they wanted to be healthy, or to be able to play football with their kids, but women were motivated by ‘vanity’ and ‘wanting to look good on the beach’. Way to motivate women there, particularly those women who already feel guilty for having body image issues. That comment’s really going to make them want to go into council-run gyms, isn’t it?
- Another part of the same feature was talking to the council employee who has specific responsibility for encouraging people from minority ethnic backgrounds to make use of the council’s facilities. He described the actions the council have taken to make people feel welcome, such as, for example, offering training in martial arts from India to complement the better known disciplines. All well and good. He went on to talk about the arrangements they have made to enable muslims to feel able to take part in leisure activities, such as arranging single-sex swimming sessions so that men and women do not have to see each other in a state of undress, and fitting curtains to an indoor netball court so that muslim women could remove their veils without fear of being seen by a man. I’m not especially keen on the enforced seclusion of women at the best of times, but what really irritated me was that, immediately after having laid out in detail these arrangements, the equality officer stressed that there was no tolerance for segregation in the city’s sports facilities, and gave a lovely speech about the positive benefits of everyone playing sport together. All fine – except for the fact that he’d just detailed the ways in which the council are facilitating segregation, albeit on the basis of gender rather than race. It all ties in with a thing I read quite often on feminist blogs – that if any group of men were subjected to the rules and restrictions placed on women in some societies/ cultures, it would be regarded as an immediate and pressing human rights crisis, with UN Security Council resolutions and all other kinds of pressure being brought to bear on the perpetrators. But, because it ‘only’ affects women, it’s thought of as a ‘cultural’ matter in which outsiders shouldn’t involve themselves. (Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact that the article makes it seem like all the muslims living in the city need special arrangements made for them before they can go swimming or chuck a ball around, when in fact it’s only the hardliners who do.)
- Fuckwit nationalistic sports ‘fans’. I mean, obviously, there was the whole England v Germany thing. I will cheerfully admit that I know fuck-all about football, but even I knew enough to recognise that a team playing as badly as England had been in the group stage had absolutely no chance of beating a team like Germany. I mean, hoping is reasonable, supporting your team even when you know they can’t possibly win is lovely – but the swaggering arrogance, the absolute insistence that England were going to win – had to win – because they’re, like, England, innit, was profoundly annoying. And then, of course, all the nationalistic fuckwits forgot about football and became dedicated tennis fans instead, and we got to watch their idiotic antics in the centre court. Things like cheering every point Andy Murray won on his serve like it was a winning penalty. Or cheering when Rafael Nadal let a ball that was obviously going long or wide pass him because they apparently didn’t understand about the concept of a ball being ‘out’. Or, cheering when Nadal served a double fault, because that’s really sporting behaviour, wanting your man to win, not because he’s the best, but because the other guy fucks up. One of the reasons I like tennis as a sport is that it still preserves some of the old-fashioned values of sportsmanship – players apologising to their opponent if they win a point because of a fluke in the way the ball comes off the net, that kind of thing – and it depresses me more than I can say to see it gradually turning into a free-for-all where idiot fly-by-night supporters think an undeserved victory is a good thing.
- Supposedly knowledgeable sports pundits who make idiotic predictions, like the whole “Andy Murray can win Wimbledon this year” thing. No he couldn’t have done, not without being very lucky. Don’t get me wrong, Murray is a good player. He’s thoroughly deserving of his place amongst the top four players in the world. The people who point out that, if he was playing against the calibre of players who were around 15-20 years ago, he would probably have won more than one Grand Slam by this point in his career are right. But he’s not playing against the players from that era, he’s playing now, and that means he will almost certainly have to beat either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, or both, to get his hands on a major trophy (and perhaps Novak Djokovic, but that’s less of an issue because Murray and Djokovic are more closely matched). With his ranking such as it is, you expect Murray to get into the last four, even in major tournaments, and having got there you expect him to be able to go toe-to-toe with the best players in the world – but you don’t expect him to win, because, when push comes to shove, the players ranked above him are ranked above him for a reason. Of course, there’s always a chance he will win, because he’s a good enough player to take advantage of any chinks in the armour of an opponent, whoever they are. But he will only get the opportunity to do that against the best players if they are off their game for some reason – like Roger Federer has been for the last couple of months, for example. I don’t disagree with the pundits who say that Murray may win a major someday because he is still improving (though the rate of improvement seems to be slowing), and he is capable of running the best players hard, but unless his position in the rankings improves it’ll be something of a fluke if he does. One thing that was certain, though, is that coming into this tournament with the form he’s had this year, his chances of winning Wimbledon were virtually zero. Even I know that, and I’m just an occasional watcher of the sport. The professional pundits – the people who follow the players round the world and have watched Murray’s defeats over this season firsthand – really ought to have known better.
- Tennis commentators. I’m old enough to remember the great Dan Maskell’s commentaries. He would restrict himself to a single ‘Oh, I say’ murmured at the end of a particularly dramatic point; very occasionally he would make reference to a ‘lovely cross-court volley’, or some other piece of shot-making that he found particularly beautiful. The contrast with the current crop of commentators couldn’t be more striking. The worst of the bunch, by far, is Tracy Austin – in fact I’ve watched almost none of the women’s championship this year, and one of the main reasons is that whenever I’ve turned on a match she’s been commentating. Truthfully, though, John McEnroe’s not a lot better. Both of them talk incessantly, sometimes all the way through a point, and frequently about things that have almost no relevance to the match in hand. Is it really so tricky to master the basic rule of tennis commentary: between the ball toss ahead of serve and the final shot being called ‘Out’ by the line-judge or umpire you do not speak. Not about anything. Ever. Even if your feet are on fire and you’re calling for water to douse the flames, you do it with the mic on mute. I am watching the tennis because I’m interested in the match, not what you think about the match. Particularly when what you think about a match amounts to the blinding insight, following a double-fault, that ‘the rhythm of the serve is just beginning to falter here’. No, really? And there was me thinking the players dumped the ball into the net on purpose. In fact, if you’ve only got that kind of nonsense to say then keep quiet all the time, not just during play, but between points, at the change of ends, all the way through. For the record, my least favourite comment this year was spoken by Greg Rusedski during an Andy Murray match, while the ball was in play at a crucial point in a decisive game: ‘The last few points have gone against Murray. He needs to be careful here, he needs to keep winning points.’ See what I mean? Maddening.