There are, as I see it, two major problems facing society today.
The first has been exhaustively covered by people far cleverer, far more right-wing and far more jolly bloody angry than I am, but it can be summarised as this: young people are dicks. Feckless, barely literate, unskilled and devoid of ambition beyond being on The X Factor, one only needs to read the press to know that, basically, we’re all in the soup and are going to have to work until we are 90 to support these new generations of idle unemployables, assuming they haven’t stabbed us to death on public transport first.
The second massive issue is that not enough people go to county cricket.
What was once the jewel in the English summer’s crown has become a fringe activity for the cranks and the out-of-work: the exact same fate that befell recreational hallucinogens, in fact, and we are all poorer for that. If county cricket is not to go the way of greyhound racing and prog rock, we need to act fast.
That means putting bums on seats, by force if necessary.
The England team’s need for a strong county structure has been overstated: after all, cricketers are cheaply available all over the globe, and there will always be enough who prefer Durham to Durban, Dublin or Dunedin. The real shame is that young people don’t get to see professional team sport cheaply, locally and with a connection to their community, and enjoy what is still a brilliant day out. A generation is missing out on the sad glory of Ramps, of Yorkshire’s local heroes, the North East pace factory and last-day drama. No wonder they are turning to gang crime and auto-tune for their summer fun, or, worse yet, the Premier League and England’s grotesque efforts to play football.
With huge empty grounds on the one hand, and a vast pool of unemployed or underemployed young people on the other, the solution is obvious: Enforced, National Service-style attendance at county cricket matches. The discipline required to sit through 96 overs of, for instance, a Middlesex match could provide invaluable life training for the youths of North London. They would learn the virtues of patience and concentration; of treating with equanimity both success and failure, although obviously mainly failure in Middlesex’s case; of deferred gratification (“Just a few more overs and you can go get an ice-cream / strong drink / your ADHD meds”).
Watching County cricket, albeit under duress, would give young people excellent preparation for adult life on the one hand, and defuse the ticking demographic time bomb of County support on the other. We must act now.
By Alan Tyers
Alan’s book W.G. Grace Ate My Pedalo, illustrated by Beach, is out now: learn more about it here www.wggraceatemypedalo.com