Monday 3 November 2008

The Stanford Non-Prison Experiment (ii)

The papers here in England were a festival of predictability, albeit mitigated in terms of length by their need to devote several acres of otherwise useful space to the latest developments at Harringay Hotspurs and/or some man who drove a billion-dollar racing car slightly faster than some other man. The prevailing view, naturally, was: England - rubbish, Stanford Superstars - heartwarming, now can we go to India please... 

But the nugget of elusive truth was in there, and the Batsman finally stumbled on it via this quote from Giles Clarke, the ECB's own shining superstar: 'the week has brought to the surface a large amount of cultural and philosophical issues'.
Giles old mate, you've got that one right. 

Some years ago, Bill Drummond, who was a pop star with a group called KLF, took a million quid - which represented most, if not all, of his earnings from said group - and threw the lot onto a bonfire. It was meant to be some sort of arch art-terrorism prank, but as Drummond later admitted, it ruined his life. 

England had tied themselves in knots over earning an easy mil - 'can I smile when we pick up the cheque; how long should I leave it before I buy the new motor etc etc' - when the real freight of Stanford's brutally brilliant offer has its heft elsewhere. Each of the defeated players will, one quiet evening many months from now, realise that they do not have $1m. They would not be human if they didn't. Drummond suffered months of depression as the feeling sank into his bones.

Sporting careers, like life in the middle ages, can be nasty, brutish and short. As Chris Gayle said, 'who doesn't need a million dollars?'. What England did wrong was allow liberal guilt to eat into their heads like brainworms. 

In Clarke's desire to get the players a sop as the IPL set sail without them, he certainly considered the downsides of England winning the match. But how long did he think about the downsides of not winning it? 

NB: The county chairmen who elected Clarke to the ECB are now astonished to find that Giles, who after all has an MA in Persian from Oxford as well as various wine and pet emporiums, has been outnegotiated by a billionaire financier from Texas with many years of experience in ramping sports events and another man who turned India into the new powerbase of the game overnight. They might not even re-elect him, they threaten. Now, now chaps. English cricket didn't get where it is today by being hasty...

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