Showing posts with the label sport

Bring back the stuffiness

It's not often that I still care about the FA Cup draw at this stage of the season so let me take this opportunity to rant about the decline of the draw itself.

Once upon a time it was just two old duffers drawing balls from a bag - and that was the way we liked it, dammit. Now, as the ever insightful Football Cliches points out, it's dominated by Jim Rosenthal's attempt to fit as much numerology as possible between each draw. But far worse than that, and I think a new phenomenon, is the creeping in of one of the greatest blights on modern football. Yes, there's now banter between the presenter and drawers.

Compare the FA Cup (With Budweiser) to the Wimbledon tennis championship. Wimbledon has kept all its ludicrously old-fashioned but much loved traditions, but underneath it all is a very slick operation. The FA, on the other hand, have dressed up their competition with tiresome razzmatazz but underneath it all their organisation is still stuck in the 19th century. As…

World Cup special!

In the run up to the World Cup I was fortunate to be able to borrow my brother's copy of Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics, not that he could have stopped me given that he's currently in a different hemisphere to his books. Anyway it was originally a birthday present from me, so fair's fair.

The pyramid of the title refers to the shape of the team on the football pitch. In the early days of the sport, when passing was thought unmanly, teams would generally play with almost everybody in attack. Gradually this settled down into the 2-3-5 formation (2 in defence, 3 in midfield, 5 in attack), still hugely attacking by today's standards. Over the course of the century formations became more and more defensive, to the point where 5-3-2 was a common sight. The pyramid had been inverted.

Jonathan Wilson's book tracks this long-term trend along with more detailed looks at tactically advanced teams through the ages. The chapters are divided geographically,…

Unseen Academicals and the meaning of sport

There's nothing like a hardback book to make you wonder: "what's the point of hardback books?". They're more awkward to use and less portable than paperbacks, they take up more than their fair share of space, and they're expensive. They're grandiose relics, like stately homes in a world designed for suburban semis, except you don't even get a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake when you stump up for a hardback book.

They'd be harmless, though, if it wasn't for the hardback-exclusivity of new books. This actually depresses total book sales, at least from me, because the media review books as soon as they come out, but if a review actually convinces me to buy, I then have to wait up to a year for it to come out in paperback, by which time I've forgotten all about it. And unless it makes the Waterstones 3-for-2, I'm unlikely to chance across it again. Nice work, publishers!

The one advantage to hardbacks is that they are impressive. They…