Aggers is right: this absurd new woke jargon is ruining sport

Daily Telegraph Features Cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew, also a former professional cricketer. Photographed at the Oval, London . 9 June 2023
Daily Telegraph Features Cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew, also a former professional cricketer. Photographed at the Oval, London . 9 June 2023

Jonathan Agnew – who is soon to step down as the BBC’s chief cricket correspondent – has admitted that he can’t bear the sport’s recent switch to gender-neutral terminology. “I hate ‘batter’,” he says. “Why can’t a man playing a man’s game be a ‘batsman’?”

Many cricket fans share his irritation. Of course, if you wanted to annoy them further, you could mischievously argue that the change is logical. After all, we have bowlers rather than bowlsmen, fielders rather than fieldsmen, and wicketkeepers rather than wicketkeepsmen. It’s perfectly consistent, therefore, to have batters rather than batsmen.

We all know, however, that this change was not made for the sake of consistency. It was made in a pathetically craven attempt to make a centuries-old sport played primarily by men seem “modern” and “inclusive”. And it’s this cravenness that’s so annoying.

Still, it isn’t unique to cricket. Football is cursed with the same cowardice. Which is why, in the men’s game, there is no longer an award for the man of the match. Instead, it’s for the “player of the match”.

What on earth was wrong with the phrase “man of the match”? It wasn’t sexist. In the men’s game, after all, the best player on the pitch was always a man – because every player on the pitch was a man. The phrase wasn’t transphobic, either. None of the top players in the men’s game identifies as a woman – and if they did, they would stop playing the men’s game, and seek to join the women’s game, instead.

Equally, if a female footballer who identified as a man started playing for a men’s team, she – or rather he – would be delighted to be named “man of the match”, as it would help to affirm her – or rather his – gender identity. So, in that scenario, the phrase “man of the match” would in fact be more inclusive than “player of the match”.

That’s the real trouble with gender-neutral sporting jargon. It doesn’t just risk annoying traditionalists by being too woke – it also risks annoying progressives by not being woke enough. Which means that it ends up annoying everyone.

The mystery of Ted and Edd

Outside politics, Edward Heath was famed for his love of music and sailing. But on Saturday, during a tour of his home (which has been open to the public since 2008), I learnt that the great man also appears to have harboured an enthusiasm for something else – children’s TV of the late 1980s. Or at least, a certain star of it.

Arundells, where the former prime minister lived from 1985 until his death 20 years later, is a beautiful Grade II* listed house opposite Salisbury Cathedral. And the possessions on display are, as you would expect, sumptuously elegant and refined. Among many other treasures, visitors can see Heath’s Steinway piano; models of his five yachts; his collections of paintings (including a landscape by Winston Churchill) and ornaments (including a Ming dynasty bowl); and his writing desk, which had previously belonged to David Lloyd George. One item, however, slightly undermines the air of stately grandeur.

In his bathroom, we find, Heath kept a model of Edd the Duck.

For those unfamiliar with this totemic figure, Edd was a cheeky puppet duck with a bright green mohican hairstyle which co-presented the BBC’s television programmes for primary school children on weekday afternoons between 1988 and 1992. I remember him well, because I used to watch him every day. But then, I think this is understandable, given that, when Edd the Duck made his televisual debut, I was eight years old. Heath, by contrast, was 72.

I asked a tour guide how exactly this illustrious statesman, a figure of stern temperament and highbrow tastes, came to be in possession of such a wildly uncharacteristic item, but sadly she didn’t know. Clearly, however, it cannot have belonged to his children or grandchildren, for the simple reason that he never had any. Heath was a lifelong bachelor, who lived alone. The model of Edd the Duck, therefore, can only have been his.

After lengthy contemplation of this mystery, I believe that there is just one possible explanation. Which is that Heath – like me and millions of other 1980s schoolchildren – was an ardent admirer of Edd the Duck, and followed his exploits regularly.

Frustratingly, many questions remain unanswered. For example: did Heath watch Edd the Duck every afternoon, or only on days when Margaret Thatcher was addressing the House of Commons? Was he also a fan of Gordon the Gopher? And, given his passion for music, did he buy a copy of Awesome Dood!, the pop single released by Edd the Duck in September 1990 (sample lyrics: “So rap with me to this cool ballad/I’m telling you now, I’m one funky mallard”)? 
The nation must be told.

Way of the World is a twice-weekly satirical look at the headlines aiming to mock the absurdities of the modern world. It is published at 7am every Tuesday and Saturday

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