and they’re off…

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Karl Marx famously described religion as the opiate of the masses. Well, Marx went away way too soon or he might have revised his advice to make organised sports the villain of the piece.

Once upon a time to everything there was a season: a time to bowl, a time to bat, a time to shoot, a time to pass. That was before the cricket and football seasons converged upon each other as evidenced by last weekend’s clash of the first Ashes Test with the Charity/Community Shield, heralding the kick-off of the forthcoming footie season. Denis Compton, who, in an age when cricket was the summer game and football the winter, played 78 Tests for England and won the FA Cup with Arsenal, must be spinning in his grave. Factor in the various drawn-out World Cups, Wimbledon, Grand Slams, Opens and Tournaments of recent months and it raises the question of there being just too much sport out there?

Who exactly decrees that the football season has to start at the very beginning of August, less than two months after the close of the previous one, which has already been radically extended to accommodate the lower league ‘play-offs’? Would fans really complain if it started in September as the summer temperatures fall, schools went back and nights draw in? Would not even the pampered prima-donnas of the premiership benefit from a shorter season rather than one spanning virtually the whole year?

Of course, this trend toward grand sporting charades on an ever-growing gargantuan basis is fuelled by television’s desire for dosh and an increased slice of the viewing-audience pie. You’d also perhaps be forgiven for believing there’s a level of establishment collusion in all of this as they seek to keep us focussed on the tele and not on what’s really happening in the world currently, but I concede this may be dangerously close to a conspiracy theory! Notwithstanding, too many ‘Super Saturdays’ and ‘Splendid Sundays’ are wasted indoors counting goals, totting-up runs, analysing the tics of combatants, attempting to read the green and beat the odds at Paddy Power.

If it’s not already too late to push the genie back into the lamp, we should resist this over-consumption and blanket-broadcasting and vote with our feet: Don’t go, don’t watch, don’t buy and don’t subscribe. Go kick your own ball, run your own race and swim your own lengths instead. At the turn of the last century, England cricket and football player, CB Fry, found both the time and energy to set the world long-jump record, not something a weary and worn-out Joe Root or Harry Kane, or an Andy Murray and Rory McIlroy for that matter, could even contemplate let alone attempt in this over-stuffed sporting spectacular age of ours.