Letters: Sport is part of the human quest for excellence
Patrick Cosgrove (Letters, 19 January) cannot go unchallenged. It is a human trait to want to be the best at things we are good at, whether they be sport, art, music, research, or writing. People don’t initially strive for excellence because of the money, but because they love the thing they do.
The logical follow-on from Mr Cosgrove’s argument that professional sport (ie people getting paid to do the thing they are good at) shouldn’t be allowed is that all “pointless”, non survival-related activities should be done only for love, not money. So out would go the arts, because some of these practitioners also get paid enormous, unjustifiable amounts.
Sport is a valid human endeavour and the vast majority of people who do it and enjoy it are not corrupt or motivated primarily by the money. There are ways to deal with criminal activity and inflated salaries without condemning the whole shebang.
Patrick Cosgrove is right: “professional sport” is an oxymoron. The cause of the trouble is simple: the involvement of big money. There is one major exception to this unhappy situation and that is the game of hockey (called field hockey in North America).
Since the advent of AstroTurf pitches in the mid-1970s hockey has become a faster and more exciting and skillful game, and thus more popular. It is played equally by both men and women and, being a non-contact sport, can be played from the age of six to 60. At the 2012 London Olympics hockey was the third most watched sport, and globally it is the third most popular team sport after football and cricket, with some three million players in 100 countries over five continents.
Hockey, however, has remained defiantly amateur. No money equals no corruption. As far as Britain is concerned, the sport has dropped off the radar and, generally speaking, is neither reported in the national newspapers nor shown on television. Long may this innocence continue!
Football has a zero tolerance towards cheating and corruption… boxing has a zero tolerance… athletics has a zero tolerance… horse racing has a zero tolerance… cricket has a zero tolerance… rugby… snooker… tennis… And yet, day after day, we discover that all of them are mired in cheating and corruption, up to the highest levels.
I wouldn’t even trust the World Conker Championship any more, even though it, too, doubtless has a zero tolerance towards etc.
But you can bet on conkers; and so far every sport in the world has proven that if you can place a bet on it, then it cannot be trusted to be honest.
And sport is used as an impetus to invigorate, and supposedly teach some sort of honest, moral ethic to our youth?
Jeremy Corbyn is demonstrating what an impact a decent and humane man can achieve in politics (Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 18 January).
By his humanity and common sense he gives voice to the views of so many unrepresented citizens in the UK; we who do not want to threaten our fellow humans with weapons of mass destruction, who do not want to be continuously at war, who do not want a craven “special relationship”.
The citizens of the UK should be told the truth about nuclear weapons and then asked whether they want them or not.
Asked by a Scottish Nationalist MP when our nuclear weapons were used as a deterrent, the Defence Minister Philip Dunne replied, somewhat smugly, that “they have been in use every day and every night for the past 53 years”.
It led me to wonder what deterrent has been used by countries such as Spain, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Brazil and others.
It reminded of a Spike Milligan story proving that a flea hears through its legs. He held a flea in his hand and shouted “jump”. The flea jumped. He then took off all its legs and shouted “jump”!
Ottery St Mary, Devon
Having listened to the graphic memories of 98-year-old Doctor Shuntaro Hida on Radio 4 in the programme Under the Mushroom Cloud, I, as a human being, know it would be a terrible crime to use the nuclear bomb. I suggest anyone who thinks otherwise should listen to the programme themselves.
I have listened with increasing incredulity this month to Mr Cameron’s stream of brilliant ideas: improved services for women with postnatal depression, parenting courses and now English classes for Muslim women.
All of these services are currently and successfully provided in Children’s Centres, together with crèches to enable parents to attend them.
Children’s Centres all over the country are under threat from local authority budget cuts. A planned national consultation on the future of Children’s Centres has been abandoned. Mr Cameron’s own county, Oxfordshire, is planning to close every single one of its Children’s Centres later this year (to be replaced by a much smaller, referral-only service which won’t offer any drop-in services for new mothers, open-access parenting courses or English lessons).
One might conclude that he is not only re-inventing the wheel, but removing the spokes at the same time.
David Cameron has said that immigrants will have to learn English if they are to be allowed to stay in the UK. How will this be enforced? The immigration service needs more resources already. Why not make applicants pass a language test before they come to the UK?
Nigel F Boddy
Boyd Tonkin (16 January) deplores the “depressive drone” of “God Save the Queen”. No doubt he is referring to the tune usually used, whose unknown author has understandably shunned publicity. But it does not have to be like this. Nobody should condemn our national anthem if they have not heard it sung to Northcourt, the spirited and stirring tune composed by Thomas Clark (1774-1859). This tune is a real game-changer, and it is so unfortunate that it has not (as yet, anyway) ousted the dirge to which the words were originally set.
If we accept David Hindmarsh’s suggestion of “He who would valiant be” for an English national anthem (Letters, 16 January), we should use the original, vigorous words by John Bunyan and not the softened version by Percy Dearmer, whom he actually quotes. But while Dearmer watered down the words, Vaughan Williams at least provided a fine arrangement of the tune.
Robert Fisk (“Rewriting the revolution”, 19 January) appears to have fallen prey to that dreadful amnesia that has affected the writers of Irish history for so long. He writes that “1,200 men under the command of Padraig Pearse” led the Rising on Easter Monday 1916. Reading that, we may well assume that Irish women were all at home, consumed with domestic duties, while men alone sought independence.
In fact, they fought side by side with men, as part of both Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen’s Army. One of the tragedies of that time (of which there are many), is the rewriting of history to exclude women. Countess Constance Markiewicz, Winifred Carney, Margaret Skinnider, Rose McNamara, Dr Kathleen Lynn, and others, are probably spinning in their graves.
The Easter Act of 1928 was never implemented and the Western churches still follow the guidelines laid down by the Synod of Whitby in 664 that Easter should fall on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (“Churches will set fixed date for Easter”, 16 January).
The synod was called because King Oswy of Northumbria and his queen observed Easter on different dates which meant that one would be celebrating while the other fasted.
It is not surprising that publishers Penguin Random House, and some financial companies, no longer require academic qualifications from job applicants (19 January). The most important qualification for any job is common sense: and there is no degree obtainable for that.
Wimborne Minster, Dorset