bowlingatvincent.com – literary wing of the Protest Channel that is @bowlingatvinny – had a strongish year. (I know ‘cos I just looked back). Except that it accidentally traduced the original purpose of the whole damn enterprise, which was to roar about sport and art pretty much alternately. I may reflect on this.
Of the fourteen blogs during 2022, five were about football. I rather unpicked Wales’s World Cup Adventure, got into United and Ten Hag (v West Ham), covered England’s Lionesses v USA and through their Euros win and watched my home town Town at the Play-off Final. Astonishingly, of the eight zillion opinions and tactical judgements I expressed through nerve-janglingly live coverage of all these occasions, I can – even in the allegedly sobering light of day – find none that were wrong.
- Contest. And then maybe not? I was dead right that Wales needed to play better and that Bale should retire from (certainly) international football and probably club action, too. Now.
- ‘Where are Wales? What level they at? Are they heroic over-achievers, in a cruel, more heavily-endowed-with-everything kindofa world? Or what? Where’s the Wales Place, in footballing terms – and maybe the other stuff? Football-wise, are they brave and bold, or are they ungenerous and perverse? Are the ‘limitations’ enabling or stultifying? Where do, or should Wales pitch themselves?’
- I was right to note with some embarrassment that the USA – not Argenbloodyteena – ‘slaughtered’ Wales in the first 45 minutes of their campaign and that for all the justifiable gas about a rare and wonderful World Cup appearance, Page’s ‘pragmatic’ conservatism disappointed. Sure, Wales have few great talents (so responsible caution blahdiblah) but the endless holding patterns only seemed to undermine both individual performance – no surges; no racing adrenaline for player nor support! – and the essential hwyl that has carried Wales for aeons. It was all a bit lame.
- I nailed the Rashford Thing and the signs of re-growth, under Ten Hag, in Holding Players. Elanga was similarly *seen* and Fernandes un-picked, en route.
- …’quality-wise, there was little difference. In the first ten both Casemiro and Eriksen showed glimpses of their rarified best, either threading or spraying fabulous passes into feet, offering real hope that the mythical(?) corner into Team Flow and Sumptuous United-ness might yet be turned. But no’.
- In Things Have Changed I trumpeted the stunning transformation in women’s football, in England, and by implication, beyond. Ingerland ‘bossing the yanks’ said it all, after a decade or more where North American soccer all-too-serenely ruled over us amateurish Brits. I noted the ‘supreme equanimity and humour (as well as tactical intelligence)’ of the new gaffer – Wiegmann.
- More controversially, perhaps, I mischiefed-up the Euros Final, fearlessly calling out relative under-achievement, performance-wise – even in victory – on the day. (Come ON. Don’t you get bored of the faux euphoria that massively over-inflates the *actual performance(s)?* It’s perfectly possible and generally the case that trophies are won in ordinary games by ordinary performances. This in no way deflates the fabulous significance of the achievement).
- So, in Clickbait? You betcha! I do argue that recent SPOTY winner Beth Mead was one of several who were mixed, rather than brilliant, in an absolutely brilliant tournament win. I correctly identified that presser invasion as ‘the best moment in the history of sport’ and named Millie Bright Player of the Tournament… because she was.
- Finally – well, previously – I *actually went* to the home of West Ham United FC, to cover the Mighty Mariners. Great day/crap game.
- ‘It’s absurd in 2022 to use phrases like ‘attractive football’; worse still to associate that with abstracted, rose-tinted community goodness but as I look around the acres of ‘park’ now home to the Happy Hammers, the clash of values, vistas and jazzed-up-verbals is somewhat mind-blowing’.
The Other Channel, now sportslaureate.co.uk , carried more football but bowlingatvincent.com was always the home for rugby. Life and *things* – like cricket, mainly – have regrettably drawn me away from funny-shaped balls but I managed to post homages to the egg on three occasions.
Despite being a Likely Phoney – male, middle-aged, possibly voyeuristic; at best a flawed dilettante – I watched a good deal of the Women’s Rugby World Cup. It was sensational. England may not have produced to their absolute peak but they have been utterly magnificent – frighteningly, powerfully so – for two years. France are not far behind. And then there were the homefolks.
- The final, between England and the Black Ferns, had to somehow bear comparison with the semi, between New Zealand and France, which may have been the best rugby match of all time. I wrote rather wryly about the Black Fern’s ultimate, inevitable win; again creating mischief, again misunderstood. England had a player sent off – rightly, under the rules of the modern era. It (the offence) wasn’t malicious and it happened so early that the contest was effectively re-drawn as a training-ground routine. England held-out wonderfully gamely but were done, from the moment of the card.
- ‘The second half may have been as colossal as the first. It was an exhausting watch, with the defiant visitors floating through chunks of time, before selflessly, heroically heaving against the inevitable. Both sides naturally made changes and inroads. Both scored. But the universe had been shifted. The crowd knew it. England were overhauled, before striking back. Then overhauled. With three points in it, the battered visitors kicked for the corner rather than look for the three points that would bring extra-time’.
I wrote two posts on (men’s) Six Nations stuff, back in February. They stand up, too. One of them channelled both The Mekons and Dylan Thomas: it also morphed into part-coverage of Eng women v Aus, at The Cricket, with ‘Rafters clanging. Sea rumbling’. It’s likely that I was in a caravan, in one of those storms, at the time, so it wasn’t Heather Knight who was fearing airborne adventure. Oh: I may or may not have been drinking.
There were but two artsy posts. One on Freddie Flintoff’s TV caper and the other around the Sensationalists/YBO’s art and lifestylery. I am critical of both… but right… as you will see… if you go back through. I’m really not sure what caused the apparent shift away from The Arts: they remain at the core of my life and my learning. I still believe I have some contribution to make, to reviewing and/or ‘criticism’.
From Sensationalists: people who might convince us: ‘Morons at the Mail, poor or tokenistic arts education and profound levels of ignorance have engineered a situation where we are a) visually illiterate b) suspicious and small-minded and c) too bloody lazy to stand in front of an artwork and let it do its job – beguile us, transport us, challenge us. This, for what it’s worth, is my context; the belief that art matters and that artists carry that privilege of being our conscience with courage and often a deep, deep, incorruptible honesty’.
From The Sublime to…
The unfortunate truth is I felt compelled to write upon multiple occasions – well, four – about the Tories, or Our Government. These are angry pieces.
In more than one of these blogs I savage Johnson and regret not a word of it. Plainly he is the worst Prime Minister of my medium-considerable lifetime. In A Christmas Puppy? I almost dare to bid an un-fond adieu.
‘So could the Age of Embarrassment finally be over? Might the Bumbling Buffoon, the Etonian Mess really be done?
It’s possible. In a characteristic veil of porkies and shameless, conscience-less swerves between the reported fact, his Urgent Gatherings and the forbidding fridges of a life lived in cosseted anarchy, Johnson really may have spent himself. It’s possible. The lies and the deceit and the vile uncaring will of course go on, endlessly, but it may be that his time in the Real Spotlight is over’.
I am content, foolishly, perhaps, to judge him morally as well as describe his practise, which has brought chaos, death and shame to an increasingly grubby kingdom. There is surely a kind of Shakespearian wickedness, an epic foulness around his skiving off from the first five COBRA meetings, in a world emergency, in order to a) sort his ’women problems’ and b) finish writing his effing book. This is un-caring – not needing to care – on a truly appalling level. It’s absolutely him.
So I’m fuelled with hatred and contempt, for Johnson and his thin acolytes. There are dishonourable mentions for the whole filthy clan: Mogg; Truss; Kwarteng; Hancock; Cummings – and by implication for the quietly grotesque hinterland, into which the likes of Dido and Mone hope to disappear. They appall and offend me, as does the xenophobic Brexit catastrophe and the ongoing, raw corruption across those VIP Lanes, corporate favours – particularly the gaze-averting re our scandalous water industry – and the whole, humiliating House of Lords gravy-train.
My dismembering of the Tories is less forgiving, less funny than (say) Marina Hyde’s – deliberately so. I fully accept that driven, polemical writing of this sort may contribute little to the task of ‘turning things around’: but forgive me if I simply bear honest, angry witness. Despite the fact that nobody’s paying me to do this, it does feel like ‘my job’. (Plus lacerating hostility may not necessarily devalue the writing).
The year, then. Set in a matrix of an Ingerland that feels like it’s unravelling further – or at least the brink seems closer.
Thankyou to all who do read. Regulars, who may have a sense of how ‘niche’ I remain, will understand that there are times when I am tempted to either give this malarkey up, entirely, or to further streamline, by gathering all the writing and twittering into one place. This may yet happen, but might curtail my ability to speak the truths I want to speak. We’ll see.
Anyhow. Please do continue to visit the two websites and, if you would, RT on the Twitters – that’s oxygen, for us bloggists. In case you’re wondering, if energy permits, I hope to produce a sportslaureate.co.uk Review of the Year, too.
Love and heartfelt thanks to all: have a wunnerful New Year.