Magazine article The Spectator

Ice Dreams

Magazine article The Spectator

Ice Dreams

Article excerpt

I HAVE known what it is to be the hero of the pressroom: `Great piece. Loved the piece. Wish I'd written that.' And I modestly take this as a tribute to my journalistic skills, my writing, my courage. Of course, it is absolutely nothing of the kind.

All you have to do to be a journalistic hero in the sporting pressrooms across the world is to criticise the latest American love object. By criticise, I mean slag off: a good, whole-hearted, vicious cataloguing of every quirk and tic.

I had this experience last year when I ran across the ghastly Tara Lipinski who, at the age of 14, won the women's - I use the term loosely - world ice-skating championship. It was a mixture of bad sport and puke-inducing showbiz, and I had a good time not mincing words.

And I was a hero for doing so. Why? Because American newspaper people are not, by and large, encouraged to launch psychopathic verbal assaults on national love objects. This counts double when they are out there defeating foreigners - a rare thing, because most of American's sporting love objects only compete domestically.

It is an inevitable fact of life that media people despise media darlings. Many fond words about Tara's pert and pouting 4ft 8in person had been written through clenched teeth. She was (and is) very talented and possesses the gift of a fine competition temperament. She was highly marked. She was (and is) as cute as Shirley Temple, as wholesome and nutritious as a Hershey bar. Slagging her off was not an option for an American.

But along comes a nasty smart-arse (or ass) foreigner saying all kinds of bad things about the nation's sweetheart - well, it is your duty to report this, isn't it? An American newspaper cannot go on too much about the cod sexuality of an over-made-up little American girl - but an English newspaper's shocking, prejudiced and envious remarks on the subject need airing. …

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