Holiday virus by Oliver Cross

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AS WELL as all the victims of death, disease and economic collapse, we should (lowering my voice so as to sound more reverential) spare a thought in these difficult times for sports journalists.

Well actually, just about everybody, but the lockdown has given many of us time to empathise with those overlooked, unemployed  or under-employed  workers who, without being regarded as ‘key’, still do worthwhile jobs and  are essential to hopes of  ever getting back to normal – dog groomers, club  bouncers, church organists, window-dressers, children’s entertainers and sports journalists, for example.

Sports reporters, even in protected staff posts, now face particular difficulties during what should be their prime time – the  Easter weekend.

They have been landed with the embarrassing task of having to create articles based on little more than speculation, stirred-up controversy and trips to the archives. They must long for the days when, in football or rugby at least, nothing much mattered except happenings on the pitch, managers getting sacked and scorelines.

Not that I’m a sports fan; I just like talking to people who are. They seem in to have a more engaged and balanced view of life than, say, vicars or events organisers. In all my years working for newspapers, I don’t recall ever having arguments with my colleagues in sports department.

I’m sure I sometimes exasperated them because I know very little about English footballers who peaked after 1966 or the off-side rule, but they were generally forgiving, as if doing a job that suited them had given them a kind of inner calm rare in newspaper offices.

My school sports experience was traumatic because, being dyspraxic, meaning physically awkward to a diagnosable extent, I couldn’t throw, kick, catch, jump, run or even change into my games kit with any degree of success. I tried and tried but got nowhere and eventually the whole school, especially the PE  teachers, concluded that my uselessness was the result of a kind of sullen perversity rather than the good, honest  uselessness it really was.

Then, when I moved to the sixth form, I finally met a sensible sports teacher.  He watched me in a session in which I was supposed to hone my football skills and took me aside afterwards to tell me, in the kindest possible way, that he thought it would be altogether better if he never saw me on a sports field again.

Instead, he said, I should spend Wednesday afternoons in the gym doing weight training or whatever I felt comfortable with, which turned to be a little weight training interspersed with reading, smoking and eating Mars bars.

It’s because of that teacher that I like sporty types, even though I can’t join them, and is why I feel that in these terrible times, overshadowed by death, the suspension of sports matches should still be a matter of regret.

By Oliver Cross, Caring Together member