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November 26, 2013

Letter to Gramps

Nick Wennerbom

The award-winning photograph of children playing beach cricket in rural Papua New Guinea. Taken by Mark Dadswell, it won the award for Best Sport Photography at the 2011 Australian Sports Commission Media Awards
What sort of example is cricket setting for the next generation? © Getty Images

Dear Grandpa,

I hope you are doing well, and looking forward to the cricket this summer - I can't wait. I'm in the under-9s this year, so it is starting to get pretty serious as you would imagine.

We had our first school game today and we quite easily. The opposition was really hopeless so we just mocked them all day - it was so funny Gramps, you just had to be there. Even their own coach said they were a "waste of space" and he told one bloke that his was "the worst f***ing innings ever to be played for the primary school". The best bit was when he made him cry.

We should go well this year. The coach says we are a $1.20 certainty, but I think we are more like $1.40 or 5/2 on as you would say. He has framed a market for our own personal performances too. I am $5.50 to be leading run scorer, but I put the birthday money you sent me on this scary tall guy we've got in our team to be our leading wicket-taker - at $3.70. I thought I was getting a bargain, but when he broke his arm ruling him out for the year I lost my money. But I should be ok as I am taking little bits of change from mum's purse like you taught me - you are right too, she hasn't noticed. Much better idea than taking the whole lot at once.

So that means I should be able to place a tenner on myself to get five wickets for the season. There isn't a market for that, but coach says if I want to place any bet he will arrange a price and frame a market. How good is that? He is so cool Gramps.

We have a new kid in our team this year. His name is George. He is a bit older than some of us and not as good as me but we bonded after he sledged their opening bowler when he batted. Because George is new and a bit older, it was really funny when he started sledging, even though one of the people watching said it was reminiscent of a "try-hard who was trying to become popular with the younger crowd". I thought that was a bit unfair - it's not his fault. Their batsman had started it by staring at him when he was bowling earlier. I don't know what George said exactly - something about wanting to break his f***ing nose but if their bloke can't take some idle personal threats and a bit of swearing then the princess needs to toughen up. That's what some of our guys' dads who were watching said anyway.

Our school principal was really pleased we won. At assembly before bible studies yesterday, he said it justified the articles he wrote for our school newspaper when he bagged the other players' mums and dads when he said they had "low IQs" and were "ugly blue-collared simplistic, moronic muppets". He reminded us of our school motto "Victor est panton" which is Latin for "Win at all costs". He says if you remember nothing else through your schooling, remember that.

He is so inspiring Gramps, wish you could meet him.

I don't read the school paper though - I just go on Facebook and post nasty things about the opponents' family and friends. Their captain is really horrible and hateful so I wrote on his page "I'm going to smash your face in d***head". Cool, eh?

Mum thinks that it is cyber-bullying, but she is so wrong - this is different, this is sport. This is mental disintegration not bullying. Coach proudly says we are contributing to completely destroying the psyche of these other kids. If we do it properly he reckons that they may never recover and will develop general anxiety disorders or depression later in life.

He says "what happens on the field stays on the field" and that "we are not playing for tiddlywinks out there" and that he is "making men out of us" and as long as we shake hands afterwards it doesn't matter. He has so many wise sayings like that Gramps - you'd love him.

"Mum thinks that it is cyber-bullying, but she is so wrong - this is different, this is sport. This is mental disintegration not bullying. Coach proudly says we are contributing to completely destroying the psyche of these other kids."

Besides, the umpires seem to agree with coach. They say that as long as it's not personal we can pretty much say what we like. One of their blokes complained when I called him a hopeless fat lump of lard, but the ump said that wasn't personal as I hadn't called him anything racist or used any words to imply he had a disability. The ump says it's a fine line, but I don't even do geometry so I don't know about lines.

Anyways, I'd better get going - the other kids and I are going with the coach to meet his personal doctor after school. He thinks we are a bit too small for eight-year-olds and we are trying out some 'Junior Peps' to see what after-affects they have.

I don't really care about any affects - I just want to do whatever it takes to be No. 1 and get my five wickets for the year - did I tell you I stand to collect $40 with that tenner on it?

Victor est panton Gramps, victor est panton.

Last year the smallest guy on the team took some, and now he is so good he's captain. Some of the other guys are a bit scared of him now, but coach says a lot of nine-year-olds have hairy legs and deep voices, and that he is just a fast developer.

Oh that reminds me, the main reason I wrote to you was because coach is growing a moustache for Movember - it is to raise money for charity and he wants us to sponsor him.

I can't wait to be able to do that myself and show you how much of a man I am becoming Gramps, you will be so proud of me.

I'll write to you after we win our next game.


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Posted by Milan on (November 27, 2013, 8:33 GMT)

Reminded me of watching my first live high school football game in the US, in the 90s. Mullin High was playing Columbine High. Spectators were segregated according to the team they backed. Mothers around me screamed out to their kids, some much bigger than any kid I ever knew, "Kill him, kill him!". My friend who was introducing me to the game, a quarterback from an earlier time, was far from impressed, particularly considering a fairly recent massacre. At the time I'd considered we cricketing types were still more civilized, but apparently not.

Posted by William on (November 27, 2013, 6:36 GMT)

Great article. Player behavior is not being monitored by the umpires. The laws of cricket now contain a preamble "The spirit of cricket". They are as much part of the laws as the laws themselves. Michael Clarke ought to grow up - He might be one of the best batsmen in the world but he is also one of the poorest sportsmen. David Warner has not learned a thing from his crude behavior in England. He will continue in this vain as long as such utterances are deemed to be the norm in the Australian cricket team. Even George Bailey, a noted "good bloke" has caught the disease. It will spread further if an antidote is not quickly administered.

Posted by Ian on (November 27, 2013, 0:59 GMT)

Absolutely spot on article. Cricket needs to grow up and clean up. By all means play aggressive. Use the short ball. The odd ferocious stare is expected. Some banter is fine when the batsmen has had the outside edge passed a few times. But these ugly expletive-laden rants are just pathetic. As an Australian, I am ashamed of these guys representing my country and many other countries should be ashamed as well. In few other sports is this sort of rubbish tolerated. A man's game? A real man would know where the line is. The tired old "we play hard but fair, we don't cross the line" line is just a way of saying the line is anywhere they want it to be.

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