My comments about cricket in the Curmudgeon column (see below) provoked some mild indignation, though in my defence I should point out that I also received emails of support, including several from people who described themselves as cricket lovers. Donald MacDonald, who was a couple of years ahead of me at Central Hawke’s Bay College, gently rebukes me for categorising cricketers as coming from comfortable, white, middle-class suburban homes with indulgent parents. Donald played cricket and clearly resents the implication that he came from a privileged, molly-coddled background. He points out that his father – who, like the parents I referred to in my column, watched all his games (including those played at Russell Park and Onga Onga Domain, names with a certain resonance to a Waipuk boy) – was a shepherd, so it can probably be assumed he wasn't a stalwart of Rotary.
Point taken, Donald, but you must understand that we journalists deal in sweeping generalisations. We couldn’t function otherwise.
A reader calling himself Santiago good-naturedly takes me to task for suggesting that the Wellington suburb of Tawa was an example of the type of bourgeois setting in which cricket thrives. Granted, Tawa may have changed a bit over the years; but in the days when I lived at Titahi Bay and commuted to and from Wellington by train each day, I prided himself on being able to pick which of my fellow passengers would get off at Tawa. It was then an extremely conventional suburb, populated by middle- to upper-level public servants and insurance company employees with neat haircuts and Hallensteins suits (Hallensteins in those days being a rather more conservative gents’ outfitter than it is now). I don’t believe things can have changed that much.
On a more serious note, over at the Stuff website, a reader named Tony Penman (and good on him for using his real name) gives me a right old working over. “If cricket is a representation of middle class values then I say all the better for it,” he writes. “If being middle class means respecting education, aspiring to excellence, valuing good manners, taking responsibility for one's own conduct, attaching importance to independence, building families, fathers engaging with sons, then it is something to be celebrated and not derided or mocked by this piece of lazy journalism.
“I ask you what is wrong with being middle class exactly? Maybe the middle classes can be smug accountants who run ordered lives with aspiring children but NZ is the better for it. After all through their work and endeavour they provide the vast tax revenues that finance New Zealand’s burgeoning underclass and inflated welfare state.”
To which I can only say, much as it may surprise Mr Penman, that I entirely agree. (Well, perhaps with the exception of the lazy journalism bit. That hurt.) The column was not intended as an attack on the middle class, whose values I generally share. My comments should be read in the knowledge that I grew up in a cricket-free household, shunned team sports with all the slyness I could muster, and regarded cricket as a Protestant sport (the du Fresnes were Catholic) played by goody-two-shoes from only the most respectable homes. In the circumstances it’s only natural that I should develop a thoroughly jaundiced view of the game. In the words of an old country song, I’m surely to be more pitied than scolded.