Or, The Other, Other Contact Sport
BOB: Well, here we are again, Jerry, at the MCG, for another exciting match. This is shaping up to be an interesting season so far, don't you agree? And who have we got today?
JERRY: Yes Bob. It is. And today at the MCG, we've got two feisty visiting magazines squaring off against one another. Tory publication The Spectator, and their fierce contenders in the international magazine market, The New Statesman.
BOB: Old Tory versus new Socialist! As you can see, they've both got a huge fan base, and the crowd is going wild as we speak! But if you ask me, Jerry, I don't quite know if The Spectator have quite got it in them to bring the match to a successful conclusion tonight.
JERRY: Well, you would say that. We both know what your side is!
JERRY: But no. Look. The line up is impressive. The Statesman have Darcus Howe, strong opinion columnist. They have a strong front line of journalists and internationally syndicated columnists.
BOB: Bit impersonal.
JERRY: But effective. They get the job done. Quirky humour columns, too, by Julian Clary - although his stand in this week is Marcus Brigstock...
BOB: Exactly. Strong all round. And The Spectator... well, I'm just not convinced by this shaggy line up of old school boys and girls. I mean, what have we got? Boris Johnson. Definite star. Good leader writer. Works well with his home crowd, not so much here. Rod Liddle, obviously. We have one or two moonlighting politicians - they make good column filler, but not much by way of depth. A strong book review section in defence...
JERRY: Oh, no-one's denying that. That's always been one of their strong points.
BOB: And what else?
JERRY: The food column.
BOB: The food column. By Deborah Ross.
JERRY: Yes. Who is this Ross person, anyway?
BOB: Does restaurant reviews. Moonlight's as a film reviewer occasionally. Bit of the funny stuff, with personal observations, if you like that sort of thing.
JERRY: Yes. But they're starting! And the New Statesman has taken the initiative brilliantly with a Leading article about immigration: and it's a goal!
BOB: Brilliant! Immigration's always a strong point with them, Bob...
JERRY: Well, Bob, the fourth quarter of the game has only just started, and what an amazing match it's been!
BOB: Yes. I've got to tell you, the calibre of the games pages for both of the magazines has been outstanding. A good line up of humourous mock-essays and parody poems. Both magazines have scored well with them.
JERRY: And Boris Johnson delivered spectacularly, as he always does, with a brilliantly-written headlined article about education. The opposition could counter some of his arguments, but they just couldn't find anything to tackle his sheer rhetorical force!
BOB: Yes. He scored big with that one. But they've still got to catch up after that amazing, just amazing series of goals made in Marcus Brigstocke's whimsical look at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival.
JERRY: The Statesman are tossing the arguments back and forth now. O'Neill. Millard. Bray. Millard again. The back-page reviews of the Statesman are trying to get a review through, but they're just not...
BOB: Oh, look at this! Ross! Deborah Ross has got the initiative, and she's just made a wonderful series of bon mots!
JERRY: Spectacular! I've never seen a better-executed restaurant review! And it's a goooooal!!!
BOB: Wonderful, wonderful! She's certainly been a surprise, Jerry.
JERRY: A star performer of the match, that's for sure. She's been a real winner for The Spectator.
BOB: Brigstocke. Rachael Cooke. The Statesman have just got to get another article through, and then, it's going to be hard for The Spectator to come back.
JERRY: They're not getting through at the moment. That book and theatre review section is rock-solid!
BOB: Oh, look at this!
JERRY: It's Jeremy Clarke - a definite star for The Spectator with his long-running 'Low Life' column! He's just made a great play, with several sly observations, his characteristic wit...
BOB: Oh My God!
JERRY: Marvellous! After a sneaky play with a few mordant asides, he's rounded off his article with a well-timed anecdote. And it's a SPLENDID goal!
BOB: Oh My God!
JERRY: They could win this, Bob!
BOB: Well, I've known a lot of columnists, but few quite so sharp as Clark, that's true.
JERRY: Look at this. It's Howe! Darcus Howe! Leading off with an incisive column about immigration and housing. They're in it to win it, this New Statesman crowd!
BOB: Bit dull, this guy, don't you think? He could be writing this for any two-bit newspaper like...
JERRY: But he gets the job done. HE SCORES!
BOB: Coming down to the final minutes, and it's neck and neck. The Spectator need just one more to catch up. But...
JERRY: Oh! Oh! It's Charles Moore, that dishevelled old ex-Telegraph editor, with his Spectator's Notes diary!
BOB: A sharp observation! Two witty personal reminiscences! And he's through!
JERRY: The Spectator has drawn level!
BOB: Can they bring it home, Jerry?
JERRY: The Statesman! They're angry, and on the attack! Now, they don't have that backlog of cartoonists like The Spectator used to such good effect earlier, but they're retaliating with a splending mock-drama by a comic writer known as 'Red Box'!
BOB: Oh, very nice!
JERRY: Very sharp. V-ERRRRRY SHARP! And it's a goal! They're ahead again!
BOB: But look at this, Jerry!
JERRY: It's Charles Moore! Again!
BOB: It seems there's even more life in his column, and he's on the attack: just full of witty observations!
JERRY: Oh, this is neat! He's quoting a Labour minister. And he finishes it off with a superbly erudite backhanded compliment.
BOB: He says "The non-sequitur in that last sentence is breathaking." And HE SCORES!
JERRY: Marvellous! But there's only a minute left!
BOB: Can they do it? The Spectator is raring to win!
JERRY: OH MY GOD! It's Deborah Ross again! And after that superb restaurant review triple Bon Mot play, she's back - with a film review!
BOB: Marvellous! An arch reference about Keira Knightley, a sly self-revealing quip about Jonny Dep, and a brilliant disparaging nickname for his co-star, Orlando...
JERRY: ROSS is on FIRE! The Statesman just can't stop her! And that's a goal! The Spectator is ahead! AND THAT'S THE SIREN! IT'S OVER!
BOB: THE SPECTATOR has just WON THE MATCH!
JERRY: A WIN FOR THE SPECTATOR!
BOB: Oh my GOD!
JERRY: And the Tories in the crowd are just going wild!
BOB: Bit over the top for them, don't you reckon?
JERRY: Give them their moment, Bob, give them their moment...