How to have a fight about sport

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Tim Franks | 10:01 UK time, Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Here's the shock. In "Arguably", the latest - and probably last - book, out next month, from the man frequently called Britain's greatest essayist, Christopher Hitchens, there are warm words for sport. Cricket, to be precise. Or preciser: cricket, in the West Indies, in the mid-20th century.

The shock comes if - like me - you'd only previously read Hitch's casually magisterial denunciation of organised sport, in Newsweek last year: "Fool's Gold: How the Olympics and other international competitions breed conflict and bring out the worst in human nature."

Hitchens spins the globe, pointing his pen at El Salvador and Honduras, Egypt and Algeria, Canada's recent Olympic attempt to "Own The Podium", et al. "Whether it's the exacerbation of national rivalries that you want... or the exhibition of the most depressing traits of human personality... you need only look to the wide world of sports for the most rank and vivid examples."

This argument, as Hitchens himself points out, isn't new. In 1945, a few months after the end of the war, George Orwell published "The Sporting Spirit".

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Why Andy Murray is the one

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Tim Franks | 09:52 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

At the pinnacle of sport, spectators can become punch-drunk on impossibility.

Take the fabulously mis-named "serve". Some six foot five inch machine is winding up to hurl a missile at twice the national speed limit several yards beyond his opponent's arm-span. The receiver doesn't just manage to fling himself, goalie style, in the right direction. He gets his racquet to it. And somehow manages to block the ball back. He then scrambles up the cliff face so that he can continue to rally on something like level ground.

So much, so stupefying.

What we should be grateful for, is that Andy Murray gives you a sense of the effort -the unfair, unending amount of effort.

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Should Sebastian Coe apologise?

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Tim Franks | 17:28 UK time, Friday, 17 June 2011

Google - that friend of the deskbound journalist - suggests there are 166,000 electronic entries for "Sebastian Coe" and "sorry".

This doesn't mean that our Lord of the Olympics is a serial apologiser. In the top ten is an article he penned for The Daily Telegraph, last year, extolling the easy thrill of running: "I always felt sorry for swimmers, confronted by thousands of metres of grouting each week."

But the question of the moment is whether that list of results (which Google accomplished in a Bolt-esque 0.06 seconds) should be added to.

Now that my wife, or I (but I hope my wife) will be booting up the computer at 0555 BST next Friday, to apply for the next tranche of tickets, is it Lord Coe's fault that one of us will be knackered and in a filthy mood for the rest of the day?

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