Friday, 30 January 2009

The political truth of the Bearded Wonder

A true legend died today, Bill Frindall, the cricket scorer and statistician who turned the recording of sporting feats on paper into an art form. Perhaps there is something inherent in the game of cricket that makes its followers get excited about statistics. The same is seen across the pond in relation to cricket's distant relative, baseball, so it might well be something in the game itself rather than just a nerdy streak in those who watch and/or play. You see it at every test match and frequently when county cricket is played, people of all ages sit in the stands with their own scorebook marking dots and symbols in little boxes in the time-honoured fashion. Frindall developed his own method of scoring so that he had a record not just of whether runs were scored or a wicket taken but of who scored them and how, and many further details besides. His skill and knowledge enhanced the summer for more than forty years because they enhanced radio coverage of cricket in his capacity as resident scorer on Test Match Special. He was only 69 and contracted Legionnaire's disease.

Hearing of his death made me think about cricket scoring. It is a necessary aspect of the game and I learned to score as a small boy because you were only allowed to play if you also had a session on the scorebook. For me it was usually a bit of a chore but others really loved it. Indeed some enjoyed scoring but not playing - every school team wanted one of those on board so that the players could sneak behind the pavilion for a cigarette while awaiting their turn to bat. I discovered later in life, on joining an adult cricket club, that some enjoy scoring so much that then fulfill that role week in and week out. At my own club there is an old boy who has been doing it for donkey's years. He has his own table on which sits a vast array of coloured pens and pencils and in the winter he compiles detailed statistics about the previous season's games. Such work helps to make a good club and allows us all a permanent record of those rare days when we played really well (ok, really well according to our pitiful standard).

The position of scorer gives the lie to one of the sacred cows of the contemporary left. I have waffled on before about their apparent belief that inequality is a bad thing (except when they are on the up-side of the deal). This is just one aspect of the wider evil of uniformity. It is hard to tell whether they seek uniformity because they think it will reduce inequality or whether they seek uniformity for its own sake. Some will argue that it is all part of a desire to control, imposing a requirement of uniformity is itself to seek control over people and the more uniform everyone is in behaviour and tastes the easier it is to maintain control over them. There might well be something in that but I am not sure those who impose uniformity would ever think of it in those terms. What I can be sure of is that imposing uniformity ignores human nature by stifling the individual spirit in a way that will eventually backfire on those who want us all to think and act in the same way.

We do not all hold the same opinions and we do not all value everything in life the same way. That is an inevitable consequence of the plain and simple fact that we all live our own lives and are subjected to different influences and experiences. We have our own minds, so we evaluate those influences and experiences and reach our own judgments about what we enjoy and don't enjoy and about we consider beneficial and what detrimental. And that is where we get back to Bill Frindall, the bearded wonder.

Not everyone enjoys cricket. Not everyone who enjoys cricket enjoys scoring. Not everyone who enjoys scoring seeks to improve the system of scoring. Not everyone who seeks to improve the system of scoring is prepared to devote years to the task. Not everyone who is prepared to devote years to the task is willing to make it their career. His life was proof that uniformity is impossible.

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