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".