Monday, 27 November 2006

The New Model (Barmy) Army

Norm has posted a refutation of my refutation, on his blog.

Don't get me wrong - I am opposed to pointless and irritating noise. I enjoy the quiet life. And I can't comment directly on what Norm has experienced because I'm not there. But I have followed an Ashes tour with the Army and heard them, been in the middle of them, been part of them, sung and (been) drunk with them.

To blame the noise Norm has experienced on the Barmy Army and to describe them as an "infestation" still seems unfair to me. I've experienced drunkenness and aggression, and endless shouting of "cmon Aussie cmon" and so on, and I've been threatened, abused and had to listen to hours upon hours of rubbish from Aussie fans in cricket grounds in Australia, and it was a lot worse than singing; but the authorities and Australian fans really didn't seem half as interested in the problems we experienced as they do in a bit of noisy trumpeting and shouting. The kind of irritation Norm has experienced is not copyrighted, nor was invented by the Barmy Army. It is not essential to their existence, nor is it an inevitable part of their being anywhere.

I also believe that the Barmy Army, as I said before, whatever some pockets of it do, are by and large a force for good, which is why the Australians have tried, somewhat half heartedly, to imitate them.

Having said that, the Barmy Army is supposed to be an organisation for making friends and having a good time, so they should discourage the kind of shouting Norm objects to. I don't see anything wrong with chants or shouts; they are part of supporting teams, but they shouldn't go on for hours. I disagree with Norm's point that the good parts of the Army don't "mitigate" this - yes they do, as our good points always mitigate our bad, and the Barmy Army are just a bunch of sports fans, not criminals.

Norm also makes a wider point:

they periodically also set up what to many who aren't part of their chorus is an appalling din, intruding on the concentration, and on the pleasure of watching the game in peace.

TMS has had debates on this for the last year or so. Traditionally cricket has been a peaceful game to watch. But is it changing? Some TMSers, like Aggers, took Norm's position, but others thought that the way cricket is watched, just like the way it is played, is adapting to attract new generations. For good or bad, it might just be that your odds of watching cricket in peace are going to lengthen anyway. I enjoy both parts of it.

Why am I giving any effort to this? The world is falling to bits and an Englishman is arguing with an Australian fan over cricket, or matters pertaining to it. That, again, is why I love cricket. Even in its minor disputes, its niggles and its arguments, cricket seems to have encoded what we take to be good, ethical, sensitive and thoughtful, which is why we're conducting this discussion on a common assumption that pleasant things, like friendship and humour, peace and quiet, are good; and noise and aggression are bad.

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