“Get Her Off The Pitch!” by Lynne Truss
To my shame, the fact that Lynne Truss is the well-respected author of the multi-million seller “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” predisposed me to believe that I was about to read a “girly” book on the travails of the downtrodden female adrift in a world of condescending male arrogance. My apologies to her on all counts. By the end of this enlightening read, I stand disabused and educated (and questioning my own condescending arrogance).
If the best ideas are sometimes the simplest, then the guys at The Times – who thought it would be a grand idea to take the sport-hating TV critic and throw her, quite unprepared, into this male-dominated world – must be drooling fools. To the outsider, the idea is accompanied by the sound of barrels being scraped and there may have been a sense of desperation to come up with something new but, by gosh, Truss has had the last laugh with a fascinating book chronicling four years at the sharp end of sports reportage.
To the fan, the idea of being paid to cross the world to witness the latest clash of sporting titans is to dream of the ultimate job. But the reality, so well invoked by her, leaves one in thrall to the forbearance and stamina and sheer bloody mindedness needed to compete at this journalistic peak. The fact that she not only kept her head and her sense of humour intact is beyond the call of duty. She could merely have detailed the funny bits and revenged herself of some of the odious bastards she met along the way. That she has also written a well-observed and thought-provoking story is a wonderful bonus.
Truss covers football, tennis, boxing and horse racing with the perceptive insight of the intelligently naive and although clueless to some of the finer details of the sports (the rules of golf and football tactics, etc), she is never lost for a succinct appraisal.
Although she enjoyed most of her four years and the unusual learning curve, ultimately she admits to falling out of love with sports with their obsessive stats and pointless crowing and began to question their legitimacy as anything but a diversion from the reality of everyday existence. She observes that we are mainly fans by geography and questions the love that most fans feel for something so ephemeral when the players themselves come from all over the world and the manager or chairman can be Christ today and crucified tomorrow.
In short, a book that can be enjoyed on so many levels – from the fan’s perspective, as a handbook for aspiring sports journos or a simply humorous account of someone out of their comfort zone but by no means out of their depth. I heartily recommend it.
Get Her Off The Pitch!, Fourth Estate, Hardback £12.99, Paperback £8.99