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What are the chances

Posted 04/11/2011 by League Campaigner

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year shortlist has been announced and as usual it contains a number of exceptional works from the world of sport in the past year. Sadly though, it also features the controversial apology for bullfighting Into the Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison.

I'm really surprised that such a respected literary sports award would give Into the Arena the oxygen of publicity its "narcissistic" author so clearly desires. I'm also dismayed from a literary perspective as I suspect the novelty of having a bullfighting book on the shortlist rather than the quality of the prose is the overriding factor in its nomination. That's not just my admittedly biased animal welfare perspective that view was echoed by Mark Rowlands, when he reviewed the book for the Times Literary Supplement.

I had a quick look on the William Hill website. It doesn't seem possible to place a bet on the outcome of a bullfight, bookmakers are no fools they know that bulls have no chance once they are taken to the ring. Nor is it deemed tasteful to bet on how many times the bull will be skewered by the picador's lance. However, William Hill punters can bet on fictional WWE wrestling showing that their oddsmakers place more credibility on a scripted performing art than Mr Fiske-Harrison's sport. If only their shortlisting judges had applied the same common sense.

In addition to Into the Arena, I have read two other books on this year's shortlist - A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Roland Reng and Engage: The fall and rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage. Reng's book about German international goalkeeper Enke who took his own life in 2009 despite being close to the pinnacle of his sport is especially moving without ever descending into being patronising.

Engage tells the story of how Matt Hampson, a young promising rugby player fought back from a terrible training ground injury. Before joining the League I lived in Leicester, I was a Leicester Tiger's season ticket holder and I even worked at Welford Road for about a year, so I thought I was very familiar with Hambo's story, but it turns out I only knew the good bits. The bravery of Matt and his family shines through Kimmage's writing - if either of these worthy manuscripts lose out to Fiske-Harrison's efforts to justify the cruelty of bullfighting then William Hill will not be getting anymore of my business.

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Comments

  • Kay

    04/11/2011 12:19

    James.....you should not be giving ANY business to ANY bookmaker anyway!!! These people make money from animal cruelty.....which includes Greyhound Racing!!!! and giving VERY little funding to homing of the many unwanted hounds!!!!

  • Alexander Fiske Harrison

    08/11/2011 12:49

    Well, yes, but first of all, Mark Rowlands is a former vegan - lapsed to vegetarian - philosopher of animal rights whose book I had badly reviewed two years before (in it he describes trying to make his pet wolf into a vegetarian, which actually is cruel), and of whom even the TLS's philosophy editor said they should not have chosen him to review the book - which hardly makes him into a paragon of impartiality does it? Second, every other reviewer, from the Literary Review to the Mail on Sunday has liked the prose - just you and Prof Rowlands who didn't. Finally, why are you pretending that if only William Hill had chosen another book you'd be fine with them, given that they fund dog-racing and horse-racing, both of which you have written extensively against? (Oh, and a little remark on the quality of YOUR prose: when you put a word like narcissistic in inverted commas, it either means you are quoting someone else - which you are not - or that you don't believe it to be true. I am thinking that that was not quite your intent.)

  • eddie

    14/11/2011 11:38

    Well done AF-H for responding,and well done to LACS,for actually posting it. Seriously,well done.

  • sheryl

    18/11/2011 09:24

    Yes well done as other websites that are pro hunting or shooting etc, do not let us have this say, they either never post our arguments or lets their supporters leave rude remarks about people who do and only post something that makes our cause look bad. The league is very fair when it comes to this and lets everyone have their say as long as they do not swear, threaten, etc in their comments, which shows what a nice bunch the League and it's supporters are !

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