Saturday, December 30, 2006

A wag redeemed...

So, popular culture has added yet another dumb acronym to our language in the last year. As if some of the great advancements of 'text speak' (lol - laugh out loud; gtg - got to go; l8r, etc) and spuriously acronymised pressure groups (FOREST - Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) weren't enough, we now have the term WAG, a group noun for the Wives and Girlfriends of famous sportsmen, in particular those of the English football team.

Now, not only has this term been purloined, shunting the more archaic (and interesting) meaning aside, it's fucking stupid as well. Fine, a group of women being referred to, somewhat demeaningly, as objects only identifiable through their association with their male partners, could be called the wives and girlfriends - the WAGs. But when the term is applied to a singular member of this group, then they must surely become a wife or girlfriend. WOG is certainly not as palatable, but it's a darn sight more accurate; not that this has prevented WAG's propogation throughout the national media as a handle for both the collective and the singular.

Obviously, the usage has been so widespread since the World Cup, carping on about it as we turn toward the New Year seems a bit futile; but what really irked me in the run up to Christmas was an article about the whole bone-brained saga in the 22nd's Guardian. A phenomenon so blindingly oafish being dissected in my sports pages of choice? Now that I do not like.

The blessed wordsmith who first minted this new currency of idiocy, Andrea Thompson (of fabled tome, Grazia, no less), garbled on for nearly a thousand words about the WAGs's triumphs over the summer, albeit in an ironic sense. The cursed voyeurism which afflicts the national media is pretty much entirely summed up in the following excerpt:

"Everything the Wags did, ate and bought was dissected in pubs and offices across the country. Our fascination lay in watching a group of ordinary working-class girls plucked from obscurity playing out (and making a mess of) their new roles as ladies of leisure on the world stage. With nothing to do all day for three weeks but drink themselves stupid, spend their partners' money and gloat over their new-found celebrity status, they made addictive viewing."

If humanity has not quite descended all the way into the slurry pit yet, then, by my reckoning, the only people for whom this form of bird watching can have made "addictive viewing" are the ones whose brain cells are only kept going by the regular doses of radiation from their mobile phones. Watching stupid, rich people doing stupid things, a subject for national dissection? I bloody hope not.

But perhaps the worst part of it all, the part which really cuts to the core, is the injudicious appropriation of the term itself. The 'wag', helpfully defined at Bartleby, is one of the most delightful and evocative characters that one could have the fortune to come across. A wit and a humourist, perhaps even a raconteur, the wag recalls a 'boy's own' world of mischief, of Tom Brown's Schooldays, and Wildean aphorisms. It is so far above a cheap pop reference.

And so I'm launching a campaign to reclaim the word for its original purpose. Nevermore shall our language be sullied by this distasteful (and faulty) acronym. References to WAGs shall be systematically expunged from the record books wherever possible, and a society that applauds and commemorates waggish behaviour will prevail. Quips and cutting ripostes will abound, while the doltish and fatuous pursuit of non-entities shall become verboten. Gawping will be outlawed. This may be utopian - but what fanciful and comedic project ever wasn't?

Postscript. This guerilla movement may also coincide in some way with my attempts to have Arsenal's new stadium recognised solely as Ashburton Grove - more updates soon.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Monty Parmesan and the Grapes of Perth

And yeh, they said, no English spinner hath taken a decent haul at the Wacker. Eftsoons, the young Montgomery of Parmesan did come on, a-bounding and a-leaping and a-grinning like a daft apeth, with a dash of the old twiddly stuff, thereunto taking 5-93 amid many hosannas and 'ee, bah gum's.

[Boycott, 12:4]

That Monty is a wizard should have been more than readily apparent (the beard and silly hat are a dead giveaway). His powers of prestidigitation were such that before conceding an Ashes run he managed to bewitch Justin Langer into missing a straight one on off stump (no small feat), thus cementing his place in cricketing folklore.

Cheese and grapes have a well-known after-dinner rapport, and on Perth's once rock-hard board, young Parmesan sent down enough deep red, juicy spheres to knock over five battle-hardened Aussies, and claim only the third 5-for by a spinner at the WACA. Like a gleeful schoolboy, Monty's pinwheeling celebrations evoked a more innocent era of international competition. No matter that each and every high-five missed its mark; his controlled left arm spin was spot on.

Like Rip Van Winkle, England have woken up post-Giles to a spinning landscape that is remarkably different (okay, they'd had a glimpse over the summer - but obviously Fletcher wasn't looking that hard, despite calling Monty the best finger spinner in the world). Ashley has been a doughty campaigner, and it's unfortunate that the record books will probably now mark him as a bowler who averaged forty (low-tide, even in the modern game). But the ascent of the remarkable young Sikh, a magician of rare aspect, must surely see the King of Spain dethroned. We can only hope that Fletcher's resistance of the coup for the first two Tests doesn't ultimately render our sourcerer's skills redundant in retaining the Ashes...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Striking while the Irons are not so hot

Whether West Ham's new owners took the right decision in removing Alan Pardew yesterday will probably always remain a question of debate; unless his replacement somehow drags them into Europe from their current precarious position.

But that Pardew has been less than fortunate as his fate has played itself out seems certain. The intentions of the deus ex machina who parachuted the Argentinian duo, Tevez and Mascherano, into Upton Park may have been wholly worthy, but their arrival has coincided with such a disastrous run of form that Pardew would be forgiven for reflecting on the deal as being one loaded with Faustian significance.

From their arrival on transfer deadline day, as the English summer drew to a close and the football season moved into September, the Hammers only managed three wins from 16, scoring only six goals. Pardew, who had faced calls for his dismissal even in the season that West Ham won promotion back to the Premiership, coming as it did via the back door of the play-offs, had seemingly triumphed over his naysayers after leading the club to ninth in their first season back in the top flight, as well as taking them to within seconds of a famous FA Cup success. But despite praise and support from legendary Hammers (notably Brooking and Peters, and recently Julian Dicks) there seemed an element of resistance to Pardew's acceptance among the West Ham faithful.

Known for their 'family values' as a club, the Hammers have only ever had ten managers in their 100 year history; although that number was as low as eight until the year 2001. Glenn Roeder and Pardew, the most recent two, have managed to seem somehow like outsiders. Roeder had been promoted from within, but had never played for the club, while Pardew was recruited from Reading, also having not been an Iron as a player. Prior to them, the last West Ham manager not to have played at Upton Park was Lou Macari, whose one year spell in charge from '89 to '90 must count as the most inauspicious in the club's history. Before that, Ron Greenwood joined after spending most of his playing career at Brentford, Chelsea and Fulham - but his unprecedented success won over any doubters there may have been.

The point is - and having had many conversations with my old man, who is ardently claret and blue, about this, I feel qualified to discuss - Hammers supporters warm to their own; and have difficulty ever loving those they've fostered. With another Alan, the reliable Mr. Curbishly, firm favourite to be installed by new head honcho, Eggert Magnusson the biscuit tycoon, I hope that another long and fruitful partnership will ensue. Curbishley played for the club in the mid to late seventies, and after fifteen years managing Charlton it's clear that he's anything if not durable.

But the feeling still lingers that Pardew could have scooped the team out of their rut, and probably would have eventually. We are destined not to know - and Pardew left to rue the heightened expectations born out of a wonderfully successful 2005-06, and the arrival of two South Americans whose presence coincided with West Ham's pretty bubbles bursting; for now at least.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


So, after the worst Test defeat I've experienced, is there any point in following the Ashes to their denouement? Waking up on Tuesday left me feeling more hollow than I ever have before (at least where sport's concerned). I'd checked the score at 8am-ish, with Aus on 148-4, and assumed it had closed on a draw... but as I began to scroll down the WAP page on my phone, my retinas flicking over our scorecard, the gripping in my stomach began. Some rudimentary maths told me the Aussies had come very close to winning; then it dawned that the match might still be playing. Refreshing the page saw Australia move to 151-4. Shit, shit, shit!

I listened to the death rattle with the TMS team, as Aggers and Mike Selvey observed the proceedings with a sort of funereal resignation. Truly the most gutting day's cricket that I've never watched (probably best - seeing it live would have been like some sort of Chinese water torture). Last summer, the closest I came to despair was when Bell went for a golden duck on the final morning at the Oval, and my heart tried to explore the boundaries beyond my chest. But Adelaide plumbed a Mariana trench.

Today/last night's tour performance was okay (BBC), but with only the Don's Australian team of '36-7 ever having come back from 2-0 down to win the Ashes, it all seems a little forlorn. Even last night's examinations really only reflect positively on Anderson. 309-8 from a Sheffield Shield side isn't exactly blowing them away, and Harmison's 1-99 at almost five an over isn't encouraging, coming at the WACA, venue for the 3rd Test. I certainly think that Panesar should get the nod, even if his own figures of one for sixty-odd weren't great either. Giles has served England extremely well, but this is a bridge too far for him; his bowling average has crept into the forties after the first two Tests, and unfortunately he's not even that good anymore. Panesar should get the chance to learn on Australian pitches, in preparation for him being the first choice spinner in 2010-11, when conceivably the entire home top order will new(ish).

I'm not going to give up on us getting something out of this tour, even if it's only valuable experience for a young side (only Hoggard, Harmison and Giles have played down under before). We've shown we can bat (sometimes), we've dealt with Warne (ditto), Collingwood's proved himself (without doubt), and Hoggard's taken another step towards English fast-bowling immortality (more useful than Gough, more reliable than Harmy, not as silly as Caddick). Now, let's draw two, and win one boys, eh?