No spot-bets, no spot-fixing

THERE was a time when “it’s not cricket” was enough to condemn anything that wasn’t utterly honest, honourable and gentlemanly.

THERE was a time when “it’s not cricket” was enough to condemn anything that wasn’t utterly honest, honourable and gentlemanly.

These days, it seems, cricket isn’t cricket.

But before we go charging in to condemn certain accused players, let’s consider their alleged crime.

The worst thing that’s been done is to hang a grey cloud of doubt over what had looked like one of the great memorable Test matches.

The victims of that are:

Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad, whose glorious, magnificent batting has been tainted with questionmarks;

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all those fans of both England and Pakistan who crave a good, clean game;

the sport of cricket itself.

The specific legal allegation, though, was that bookmakers had been defrauded.

Well, I’m sorry, from where I sit it looks as though the bookies are the problem.

If they didn’t offer ridiculous bets on such things as the timing and incidence of no-balls (or, in other sports, throw-ins, double-faults, the name of a celebrity baby), there would be no incentive for anyone to fix these easily-fixable things.

In short, no spot-bet, no spot-fixing. Simple.

I WATCHED in horror across the car-park as the overweight mum and shapeless daughter struggled onto the tourist bus.

“I wouldn’t fancy having the seat next to one of them,” I remarked quietly to my friend – who promptly accused me of being fattist.

Oh dear.

Not only am I not racist, sexist, ageist or homophobic, I have spent most of my life strongly opposing all such prejudice. Now, it seems, I stand accused of bigotry.

A charge which, I may say, I deny utterly.

When I see a fat person I don’t assume – as some people do, apparently – that they are stupid, lazy and feckless.

I know that some of the sharpest minds and some of the most committed workers inhabit large bodies. They just might be better off in fitter ones.

Fat, according to the title of a once-influential book, is a feminist issue. I’m not quite sure about that.

Body-image, directed by media and social pressure for young women to try to be too thin, is certainly an issue for feminists. And, indeed, the rest of us.

Fat, though, is essentially a health issue. And not just because of the risks it brings of diabetes, liver failure, back and joint problems, heart disease and the rest of it.

Like bulimia and anorexia, it’s tied up with mental as much as physical health. Unlike those conditions, which afflict mostly girls and young women, its spread is unrelated to age or gender.

Healthy people come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Up to a point.

No one is “naturally fat”. That’s just an excuse people use to justify eating too much.

I was listening the other day to a radio phone-in which asked: “Is it time to ban prejudice against fat people?”

Denying someone a job, for example, because of their weight is clearly wrong if it doesn’t affect their ability to do it.

But it’s not prejudice that makes me dislike being pinned into my train seat by someone too big to fit into their own.

No one can help their gender, skin colour or age. But being fat isn’t an unavoidable condition.

It’s a form of self-harm, like smoking, alcohol abuse or cutting yourself with razorblades.

All of which may be the result of addiction.

All of which it may be right to seek help with.

But all of which are ultimately your own responsibility.

That next pint, that next cigarette, are never unavoidable. Every single one is a choice you make. So is that next burger, that next chocolate bar.

I don’t think advertisers have caught on to the idea of marketing razorblades specifically to self-harmers.

But smokers, drinkers and over-eaters are all, in part, victims of companies that exploit their customers in the same way as other drug-pushers.

Much cheap food isn’t really cheap in the long run. That “value” ticket is a hook.

It catches you into buying food filled with fats, sugars and additives whose purpose is to satisfy in the short term only. After which comes craving. So you buy, and eat, again.

You could end up spending more on your unhealthy diet than you might have on an initially costlier healthy one.

But you’re addicted. The manufacturers have you just where they want you. Super-sized.

If, later, the same company can sell you an essentially useless “diet” product, that’s their bonus.

More drastic, but perhaps more effective, anti-obesity surgery such as the gastric band, stomach bypass or partial stomach-removal have become ten times more common in Britain over the past ten years.

That same radio phone-in I mentioned raised the question whether such procedures should be available on the NHS.

At present they are, but only after less invasive methods have failed. Which seems to me about right.

Like treatment for alcohol or smoking-related problems, the remedies are there as help for people who are also prepared to help themselves. An easy get-out they’re not.