1970, Greil Marcus started his review of Bob Dylan's Self-Portrait album
for Rolling Stone with a line that has become a classic in the history of rock criticism...
"What is this shit?"
In four simple words, Marcus managed to capture every listener's instant visceral reaction upon first hearing Self-Portrait -- a clear and deliberate Fuck You from Dylan to his entire fanbase, in the form of a double-LP collection of bad pop covers and uninspired, atonal romps -- one which is magnified when the album is placed in its proper historical context, as the follow-up to a stunning half-decade of vital gems like Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and even The Basement Tapes.
I couldn't help but be reminded of Marcus' sentiment last week, this time upon first reading cricinfo's account, written by Jamie Alter, of the ICC's decision to implement a new referral system.
Seriously... what was this shit?
In bygone days, I might've called it a laughable piece of lily-livered yellow journalism. Today, I'll call it what it is: a truly hacktastic outpour of journalistic sewage delivered directly to my screen. In other words, a piece of shit.
First, there's the headline... this is how it appeared on the front page of cricinfo at the time:
Notice how there's no actual news conveyed by
the headline? The real headline is stated in the first subhead: "Referrals to be trialled." All the above head does is express an alleged consequence of the news item itself, and treating it as if it were news. It's a little like basing ongoing news coverage of a nightclub bombing on the headline: "Downtown explosion irritates sleep apnea sufferers in nearby suburb." For this, I won't blame Alter, since headlines are usually editorial
However, the title of the actual piece was "A leap of faith in technology", which is also the lede sentence in Alter's piece. Later in the first paragraph, we also get our first instance of "the umpire's word is no longer final" statement. It soon becomes clear, from both the tone and content of the piece, how apt those headlines really are given the nature of Alter's words.
"A leap of faith in technology"? Seriously? Could Alter sound any more like a deranged flat-earther? (Be suspicious whenever "technology" is used as a catch-all term to represent anything that isn't human). I've got news for you... cricket is a leap of faith in technology. Bats, balls, pads, helmets, armguards, boxes -- especially boxes -- are massive innovations in technology whose efficacy we take for granted when we step on the pitch.
But there there is no real "real of faith" , since the new technology is being introduced not out of blind faith, but because its results have been analysed, and tested, and they happen to work. It's no more of a leap of faith than expecting the sun to rise from the East tomorrow, or an object to fall to the ground when dropped (whether David Hume is right and inductive reasoning as a whole is unjustified is a different question).
Then there's "the umpire's word if no longer final." This statement is wrapped in such massive layers of bullshit that I could chose at least two different retorts to it: a) I could say: yes it is final, only the definition of "umpire" has changed slightly; or b) I could say: no, it was never final.
The "umpire" is basically a heuristic construct we design to make sure the rules of the game are being followed by all concerned. Nothing more. Its existence is seemingly embodied by the one man in the middle to whom all the players appeal, but it in fact involves a combination of factors working together as joint arbiters and interpretors of the laws.
So, working in tandem, we have the main umpire, the square leg umpire, the third umpire, the cameras and video system that the third umpire uses, the boundary rope, the crease lines, etc. All the new referral system does is add a few extra components to that construct, in order to increase its accuracy (as well to diminish the grounds for dissent... see: Hair fiasco). If it turns out that it doesn't increase it, then it should probably be scrapped and a simpler system should be adopted.
I could go on and on with this, and parse away to my blackening heart's content, but I'm sure you get the gist of it.
I'm not sure what Alter's deal is. Maybe he was just having a bad day; maybe his plane was delayed, or he was stuck at customs for 3 hours, or that growing hemorrhoid he's been ignoring for weeks finally popped (or, hey, it could be that he really does in fact reason in such crotchety, reactionary ways)... but that
column was a disgrace. And that's one thing cricinfo shouldn't be allowed to get away with these days.
Like it or not, they are now the "paper of record" as far as day-to-day cricket action goes, and they can't afford to treat their cricket coverage like Murdoch's Fox News does its news material... a little bit of infotainment, a handful of vague on-the-hour soundbytes, theatric bits of he said/she said confrontation posing as debate, all delivered in a nice package of firm tits and high cheekbones.
I have no problem at all with the content Alter's opinion. In fact, it's valid and eminently defensible. But this was supposed to be a news report, not an op-ed. As a piece of commentary or polemic, I'd consider it weak but balanced. As news, it's worthless. The mere tone of it and its emphasis already makes me doubt the writer's accuracy from the first paragraph.
If cricinfo wants to go all Gonzo on our ass and deliberately blur the line between reporting and opinion, they're
well within their rights to do so. But they can't expect their readers to keep treating them
like the Holy Grail of cricket news and the Oracle of objectivity all at once if they continue to do so.