Wednesday, 12 September 2012


A wonderfully anodyne Thought for the Day on Radio 4 this morning. I didn't catch who it was - let's just call him the Rev J.C. Flannel. Anyway, he was keen to lash his Thought  to the recent victory of the Scots slugger Andy Murray in the US Open. His theme, then, was persistence - the kind of persistence and dogged determination that Andy had shown in fighting his way through all setbacks to secure his final triumph. Various biblical injunctions to persist and keep going were cited, along with scriptural examples of persistence, endurance and determination. At no point, it seems, did it cross the Rev's mind that there might be some rather important differences between persistence in faith, in doing good to others, in trying to live the good life, in enduring suffering in a good cause - and persistence in whacking a tennis ball about with the sole aim of personal gratification and fame, and to no one's benefit but the ball whacker himself. Only on Thought for the Day. And, no doubt, in a fair few Anglican pulpits this coming Sunday.


  1. There's a pithier conflation of Xtianity and sport here...

  2. Someone should have pointed out to the erring rev that gods most persistent creatures are the midge.
    Tennis is so turgid the game should be played out to the strains of the Volga boat song.

  3. Boys,boys - can we have a little balance here? Didn't hear the Rev.Flannel as I was in the country that little Andy took himself off to alone, at age 15, to hone the skills he was mature enough to recognise he possessed - Spain. And perhaps you have a point Nige, that persistence of the kind that Flannel was describing, has no obvious link with the nagging persistence that the Dunblane teenager displayed in his quest for 'personal gratification' (certainly, is that so bad?)and 'fame' (it wouldn't surprise me if this was high on his list, if it was there at all). The terminology ('Scots slugger') is also rather mean spirited, as well as being, actually, wide of the mark. Players today, mainly through huge advances in racquet and string technology, are able to generate huge ball speeds but Murray is notable for his ability to caress and turn a ball, as well as blast it.
    I looked up 'turgid' Malty, just to be sure. 'Swollen, Puffy, Tumid, Pompous, Bloated were some of the entries. Well, have you watched a Premiership footy game recently? Those lads on £120K per WEEK, wander around the greensward looking, for the most part, supply the word.

  4. That Flannel's imagery resonates with so many isn't really surprising. For many young people and their parents, sport has replaced religion as a vehicle for character development and community and family cohesion. Over here in many communities, the locus of social "fellowship" is no longer the church, but rather the hockey arena. Parents see the commitment and discipline of sport as a path to maturity and a prophylactic against the social and moral dangers of aimless hanging out in shopping malls. Competitive sport for teens has become much more than fun and exercise, it's a mercilessly demanding lifestyle that fills every spare hour of a family's life and can even guide their choice of residence, schools, etc. The pantheon of a modern teen's sports heros is revered with the awe and solemnity previous generations gave to the Lives of the Saints.

    Besides, Nige, what do you expect in an age where sufferers of serious diseases are celebrated as courageous victims, publically feted for their heroism in battle and remembered with monuments and remembrance ceremonies?

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