There are, I was once told on a rare foray out of the office, very few cameramen (should that be camerapeople?) who can film live cricket. Not only do you have to be a brilliant television camera operative, you have to understand cricket to a very high level. Reactions are key to this: what appears to be a controlled sweep that might have you panning your camera to the leg-side boundary could turn out to be a top edge and the ball going in completely the opposite direction. That sort of thing doesn’t trouble people covering darts or snooker.
But in all walks of life there is lots of chaff that makes the wheat more special. For every example of cricket cameraman genius, when passage of ball is traced from bowler’s hand to edge of bat to fielder’s grasp with effortless fluidity, there are a hundred shots of crowd-wankers.
Because of the stop-start nature of cricket, the sport is perfect playground of the crowd-wanker. In between overs, or even as the bowler trudges back to his mark, the crowd-wankers make hay. And even though they require little encouragement, they receive plenty.
Crowd Wanker starting young.
The goal of the crowd-wanker is the same the world over: get yourself on the big screen. You need to be able to behave as though that extra chrom0some you tragically possess is working overtime, but what the hell.
Point a television camera at a pocket of crowd-wankers and they will instantly have a collective fit. In a good way that they enjoy. If the camera operative alerts them that they’ll be on the big screen in 10 seconds they have a really big fit that will last as long as they are in shot. It’s brilliant.
There are cultural differences to being a crowd-wanker. On the Sub-Continent they carry are male and tend to carry homemade cardboard signs and have a small plastic vuvuzela-related instrument stuck in their gobs. In South Africa and Australia they are in beachwear, clutching a beer. In England an amusing Viking helmet does the trick, or cross-dressing, or disguising yourself as Sylvester the Cat or the Pink Panther. All children are encouraged to be crowd-wankers, as are women between 18 and 30 as long as they are pomading their bodies with factor 15.
Whoever controls the cameramen controls the crowd and when the watchers become the watched the main event becomes a sideshow. In the 1970s there was a man in America, Rollen Stewart, who attended sporting events simply to hold up a sign that read “John 3:16”. He probably thought he was doing good but he begat people who held up signs with the initials of broadcast networks so that they would get on telly. They in turn begat the Mexican-wavers, who begat the crowd-wankers.
Children of Rollen Stewart
The danger lies in what happens next. If cricket becomes an excuse and an opportunity to simply watch one’s self and one’s own ilk then the game is in trouble. Maybe they should take away the big screens and encourage people to concentrate on the sport. It would be like county cricket, the type no one goes to watch.