Published in trade paperback by Bloomsbury, £12.99
Foul Play: The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport, By Mike Rowbottom
Sunday 21 July 2013
A timely book, given the recent swathe of positive drugs tests in athletics and the storm in an urn following Stuart Broad’s disinclination to walk after being caught behind off a massive nick in the First Ashes Test.
While few would argue that doping is not blatant cheating, Broad was entitled by the Laws of cricket to let the umpire adjudicate. But did he contravene the spirit of the game?
Well, giving the MCC’s first Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, Richie Benaud said: “Australians never walk. They are taught not to walk.” And though the sainted Colin himself had a reputation as a walker, he didn’t always do so if he got a touch early in an innings.
Was that cheating? This is precisely the type of shades-of-grey area that Mike Rowbottom probes as, drawing on a wealth of examples going back to the Ancient Greeks, he attempts to find the dividing line between gamesmanship, mental intimidation, the manipulation of rules and out-and-out dishonesty.
His thesis is that every game has an unwritten etiquette alongside its formal rules, and what is acceptable in one sport is taboo in another.
For instance, while in rugby the odd punch-up has traditionally been regarded as part of the fun, tripping an opponent is deemed disgusting; in football, the opposite is true.
Rowbottom is an optimist. He believes in the power of fans to decide what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and influence lawmakers accordingly, and cites the crackdown on diving in football as an example.
Yet he is realistic enough to acknowledge as long as the rewards for success are so high there will always be cheats trying to prosper.
A couple of minor quibbles apart – long-lived though he was, the doctor and missionary Albert Schweitzer went to Africa in the early 20th century, not the 19th as stated here, and the football game Subbuteo was named punningly after falco subbuteo, a bird of prey known as the Eurasian hobby, rather than the Latin word for a pastime – this is an illuminating, entertaining excursion into sport’s moral maze. Fair play to the author.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre