Monday, December 22, 2014

Action Replay: Your Name’s in the Book (2014)

The Action Replay Column from the December 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

What do you do if you are a top sportsperson and age or fitness lead you to retire? You could extend your career a little by moving to a country with a lower standard of play, or you could try to become a coach or manager or pundit. Alternatively, or perhaps in addition, you could write a book, or rather have one ghost-written for you (rather like the many memoirs by actors, musicians or TV ‘celebrities’). You could give your side of various arguments and settle some old scores, as well as making a few bob. There have been a couple of prominent examples in recent weeks.

Cricketer Kevin Pietersen has ‘written’ KP: My Autobiography: to a large extent it is built around his annoyance at being blamed for the fiasco of England’s Ashes tour to Australia in 2013–14, which the team lost 5-0. It accuses the team’s coach, Andy Flower, of being basically useless, and hints that captain Alastair Cook was too weak for the job. But in particular it singles out divisions in the dressing room and an alleged clique of three top bowlers and a wicket-keeper who could be very nasty to other players. Pietersen was England’s most prolific run-scorer of all time, but that is not the book’s focus.

Then there’s footballer Roy Keane’s The Second Half (ghosted by novelist Roddy Doyle). By the time the book was written, Keane had already had a bit of a dodgy post-playing career, as manager and then as pundit. Despite his success as a player with Manchester United (including seven Premier League titles), the book has a great negative deal to say about United manager Alex Ferguson, and in particular about the way Keane left the club. In a TV interview Keane criticised his teammates, and Ferguson basically tore up his contract (costing him a sizeable sum of money). There’s also material on his arguments with some of the other United players.

Many workers who aren’t top athletes will be accustomed to some form of office politics, with cliques and rivalry and people getting at each other. It seems that even at the top of the sporting tree, where the pay is beyond what most people dream of, similar things take place.
Paul Bennett