Samir Chopra August 12, 2010

Aggression or just plain petulance?

I'm not huge fan of coaches, and I have said so on this blog

I'm not huge fan of coaches, and I have said so on this blog. Part of the reason is the mind-numbingly inane remarks that pepper most of their conversations with the press. After reading Duncan Fletcher's pronouncements on the latest tantrum thrown by Stuart Broad, I think I've been entirely justified in the snappiness of my remarks (ok, he is an ex-coach, but you catch my drift).

Consider for instance, Fletcher's claim that, in throwing the ball at Haider, "Broad was responding to frustration, not pressure. They are completely different things." This sounds like a very sophisticated distinction but in point of fact, it's a sophistical one. Broad was frustrated precisely because he was under pressure. Sportsmen, mediocre ones especially, have a tendency to get frustrated when they are under pressure from their opponents. That's why they slam rackets, curse umpires, or pick fights with spectators and/or other players. It's a sign of weakness, not aggression and it is what distinguishes the greats from the also-rans.

Even more confusing in some ways is Fletcher's suggestion that we not judge Broad on the basis of his on-field displays; that indeed, a "true" picture of his character will be better formed by having access to his dressing-room demeanour. This is again, a vacuous claim couched in the garb of a seemingly holistic approach. Why spectators, who only have access to a player's public performances, and who are engaged in critiquing a player's publicpersona should be be concerned with a player's dressing-room behavior is beyond me. We are critiquing a player's public behavior, aren't we?

I personally don't care if Stuart Broad doesn't call his mum every week, or helps old ladies across the street, or sends his yearly earnings to Oxfam. I'd simply like him to stop behaving, on a cricket field, like a school-kid who keeps begging for six of the best. But the match referees haven't obliged until now, and even then, given his recidivist inclinations, "Broady" got away lightly.

But it is not all Duncan Fletcher's fault. The biggest culprit is the partial acceptance in the cricketing world of the incoherent claim that rudeness, petulance, and plain old immaturity are somehow equivalent to aggression. So long as that piece of idiocy continues to make the rounds, we'll continue to be treated to the spectacle of grown men throwing their toys out of the pram.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here