Read the text carefully and answer the questions that follow it. Use your own words throughout as far as possible.

I recently saw one of the world’s most famous women tennis players reel with shock at linesman’s call. She stopped playing, walked over to her chair, gathered the five or six racquets that are now required to play one game of tennis, tucked them under her arm and, as she walked off the court, she poked a forefinger up at the umpire in what the spectators applauded as an obscene gesture. She hadn’t quit. She was just biding her time, and temper, till the officials came running, or kneeling, begging her to return. Which, about three minutes later, she graciously3 consented to do, as thousands of spectators came to their feet to pay tribute to an act of bravery in giving the umpire his come-uppance. The umpire didn’t fume or shout. He blushed. He cowered. He knew he had behaved badly. He seemed truly sorry. And the crowd cheered their heroine again and forgave him.

Money has got to be the reason, a primary reason anyway, why the insulted umpire sent his officials to beg the tennis star to return to the court and go on with the game. She earns a fortune. The fans pay to subsidise that fortune. The fans come not merely to see a game superlatively played, they have learned to expect high jinks and low jinks as part of the show. Any sports promoter will tell you that a sports crowd spurned is a dangerous social animal. In other words, the officials, who sometimes seem so cowed, must have in mind the maintenance of public order, which has come to have little to do with public courtesy.

I may seem to have been reacting so far in the old man’s standard fashion to the disappearance of amateurism in first-class sport. And, of course, it is true that much of the genteel air of sports such as tennis in the old days has been drowned out by the roar of the cash register. But I must say that that genteelism, with its pleasant manners, was due to the comfortable fact that most players were upper-middle-class offspring who didn’t have to work for a living. But plainly—it ought to be plain today—it is not only absurd, it is unjust, to expect people who earn a living at a game to have the same nonchalant code of behaviour as the loitering heirs of company directors9 who could afford to travel to France or Britain or America to play a game, while professionals, footballers being the worst example10, were being paid at the going rate of plumbers’ assistants. I applaud the fact that games can now be a career, and a profitable one, and that the expert should be considered like any other star entertainer and be paid accordingly.

But there has to come a point where the impulse to take up a game is often the impulse to earn a million dollars and, so far, in the rush of a whole generation to make the million, there has not yet evolved a decent ethic11 that can discipline the game for the audience that has its mind more on the game than the million. A million, I suggest, is some sort of turning point in the career, and too often the character, of the very young. A twenty-year-old who earns a million dollars, or pounds, is encouraged by the media to see himself or herself as a movie star entitled to adoration, the pamperings of luxury and no questions asked about behaviour on or off the course, the rink, the court or the field. I suppose the television satellite has a lot to do with it. The best players know that, by virtue of world-wide exposure, the organisers will take in many millions, so they don’t pause for long before saying, ‘Some of those millions should be mine.’ And if the difference between winning a hundred thousand and fifty thousand turns on a linesman’s call, it takes considerable character not to blow up14. I heard a young fan say it would take a superman.

Well, it doesn’t take a superman. It takes simply a type of human being who was taught when young the definition of a brat.

(adapted from Alistair Cooke’s ‘The Americans: The Money Game’)


1 What does the writer seem to think of the number of racquets the player had?

2 What did the player expect when she left the court?

3 Explain the writer’s use of the word ‘graciously’ in this context.

4 Why did the crowd applaud the player when she returned?

5 Explain how the umpire reacted when the player returned and why he reacted in this way.

6 According to the writer, what do spectators at sports events want to see?

7 Why don’t sports officials treat badly behaved players more severely?

8 Why did players in the past behaved better than those of today?

9 What does the writer mean by ‘the loitering heirs of company directors’?

10 What were footballers ‘the worst example’ of?

11 What does the writer mean by ‘a decent ethic’?

12 How do sports stars of today expect to be treated, according to the writer?

13 How have the top players reacted to the arrival of satellite television?

14 What is it difficult for a sports star ‘not to blow up’ and why?

15 In a paragraph of 70–90 words, summarise what the writer thinks is wrong with sport today.

Sample Answers

Premium Content

Sign in to access this content.