An early warning: you don’t have to be a grumpy old man or woman to get to the bottom of his column. But it might help.
Actually I’ve been out of the loop for a few days, missing the Lord’s Test, and there have been compensations. For example, I’ve sat down for supper with a few friends away from the media bubble that surrounds our sporting stars and – glory be! – not a single person interrupted their meal to tweet to their adoring followers.
I’m not a great fan of twitter. The argument in favour is that twitter allows the fan direct contact with their heroes. Whatever those heroes say cannot get twisted by dubious hacks in search of a sensational story. Yet we know some sportsmen get into a tangle with the new form of communication.
Recently one young cricketer, bizarrely, put up a photo on twitter of him breaking the speed limit quite spectacularly. Others have caused irritation to their coaches by either slagging off those coaches or revealing the team for an important match before this information was supposed to be made public.
Twitter is reckoned to be so direct that it must be trustworthy. I’m not so sure. It can pass on handy information, I suppose – “It’s raining at Lord’s. Inspection at noon”. Or “Sri Lanka 379-3” or “Just done book signing in the MCC shop. It’s a snip at £19.99”. But don’t let anyone pretend that twitter passes on the whole truth.
For example, how often did you read a tweet like this during the Ashes “Was having a pee when Ponting was out”? Or “Spilt coffee on new sandals when Trott ran out Katich. Sandals ruined, outlook for socks not great either”? Never.
Sometimes the temptation to namedrop is irresistible for the twitterati. They may say, “Told Beefy/ Warney/ Chappelli that this was a good toss to win”. But they do not then add, “And they completely ignored me”.
Tweeting removes the mystery from our sporting heroes. Isn’t it better to retain some of that? Years ago the fans would make a special trip to a cricket ground just to catch a glimpse of Bradman, Compton, Hutton, Trueman, Dexter, Gower and Botham.
They were distant, glamorous men; they were charismatic partly because we did not know everything about them. A bit of imagination was needed. Now via twitter we would know precisely what they had for breakfast and which TV programme they watched last night. Too much information.
I take the same view of all the interviews that now take place in the middle of Twenty20 matches. Players are “miked up” on the field and some poor commentator ends up asking desperately banal questions to some boundary fielder, who may, in the back of his mind, spy a career in broadcasting down the line, but who also has to ensure that he does not drop the next catch coming his way.
Now as we watch Twenty20 on TV we are told that we are watching a life and death struggle out on the pitch. Fair enough. No sporting contest is worthwhile unless it means a lot and therefore it requires the undiluted, absolute attention of all the participants, who are hell-bent on victory.
But what happens? We bombard the players involved in this vital struggle with “How do you think it’s going? You must be a tad disappointed to have dropped that catch? Did it come out of the floodlights?” Leave them alone to concentrate on the game.
Ah, floodlights. In the UK we have wasted so much money on sticking them up on our cricket grounds. Floodlit cricket works – elsewhere in the world. In England it is either too cold or too light for floodlit cricket. Better to spend the money on drains.
And another thing… hang on a second. I’ve just turned on the TV and watched Mahela Jayawardene play his cover drive. And suddenly all is well with the world. If only I had an account I could tweet: “Good batsman, this Jayawardene”.