Tuesday, 1 January 2013

On CMJ, loyal friends - and the unprincipled

Christopher Martin-Jenkins died early in the morning of New Year's day. A much loved husband, father and Grandpa, a good man, a legendary voice of Test Match Special. Christopher was also a past President of the MCC, had delivered the Colin Cowdrey 'Spirit of Cricket' lecture in 2007 and was an incisive and knowledgeable cricket journalist, latterly for The Times.

CMJ was well-known to all TMS listeners for his allergy to technology; on 11th July 2009, whilst commentating on the 1st Test in the Ashes series, at Sophia Gardens, he was amazingly persuaded to join Twitter. Aggers announced CMJ's Twitter ID on air and shortly after CMJ wryly acknowledged his technophobia when he tweeted:

CMJ's technological shortcomings and his frequent tardiness were chronicled on air with great affection by Aggers and the rest of the TMS team - I always thought of him as an absent minded professor....peerless in his field of expertise and slightly baffled outside of it - but he never failed to make me smile and wish I'd been able to sit down with him and talk about cricket and, indeed, life in general.

When CMJ's death was announced it was telling that, without exception, the comments by his broadcasting and written media colleagues were made with great affection for the man, respect for his abilities and distress at his early passing. Amongst the expressions used by them.... 'erudite' 'knowledgeable' 'witty' 'kind' 'a true gentleman' 'humorous' 'a great friend'.

A great friend.......one of my favourite pieces of poetry is by W B Yeats from 'The Municipal Gallery Revisited': 'Think where man's glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such friends'.

Such friends are not gained by happenstance but by mutual respect, affection, loyalty and by the absolute conviction that one would step in for the other when one is ill, vulnerable or in need.

Such a friend to CMJ was Jonathan Agnew. Christopher's illness had been known about for quite some time - the cause, and seriousness, of it was not overtly acknowledged on TMS. But there were enough gentle hints for those of a sensitive nature to have read the signs. A glance at CMJ's Twitter bio confirmed it, for those who cared to look.

Eight weeks ago CMJ wrote a piece for The Times. At the time TMS and Sky were in the middle of negotiations with the BCCI prior to the start of the Test series against India and it seemed far from certain that TMS would be able to broadcast from India.

CMJ's article in the Times consisted of precisely 700 words. In the 2nd paragraph, 49 of those 700 words referred to an amateur internet set-up that comments live on cricket from their view of a TV screen - but didn't mention the set-up by name; the rest of the article mused gently on cricket times gone by. I have a Times subscription and read it soon after it was published...there was a poignant mention in it of Tony Greig having cancer. Poignant as I knew, as did many others, of CMJ's own situation and I read it with sadness as it seemed, to me anyway, to have been written by a man painfully aware of his own mortality.

With sad predictability those 49 words in The Times were seized upon and used to vilify CMJ and, because of his connection to it, TMS. Certain tweeters, who have strong links to the amateur internet set-up, sent abusive tweets to CMJ. Editor of The Cricketer Andrew Miller, with a shrewd eye on maximimising a commercial opportunity at the expense of a dying man, wrote a piece in the Daily Fail in defence of the internet set-up which his magazine owns. Meanwhile I'm sure the management of The Times were astonished to find they had so many subscribers. 

Into this maelstrom had stepped a true friend of CMJ - Jonathan Agnew. Aggers would have been well aware of CMJ's condition; he would also have been well aware that CMJ was reading tweets etc (as evidenced by subsequent tweets of CMJ). Aggers tweeted a few things with which he sought to divert the spite and bile from CMJ to himself. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The opprobrium heaped upon him was breathtaking - the firestorm of tweets he endured from supporters of the aforementioned internet set-up had to be read to be believed. My comment at the time on a blog someone had written about the affair:



The spite and mean spiritedness of one of the main protagonists of that time, who carries a link to the internet set-up on her bio, is best summed up by her own tweet today, which prompted this blog post. Here's a link for those with the stomach for it:

https://twitter.com/la_sophista/status/286070282576347136

Be proud of what you did for your friend, Jonathan Agnew - loyalty is a vastly underrated quality. Rest in Peace, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, safe in the knowledge that only the very best of men attract the very best of friends. Your like comes along rarely - we cherished you in life and we'll cherish your memory.

8 comments:

  1. And that "internet set-up" to which you refer has graciously tweeted this.... "Terribly sad to hear of CMJ's passing. His was one of the first of many splendid TMS voices that joyously filled my childhood summers."
    Pity others can't see things the same way!!
    Nice blog too Pam.

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  2. Lovely,well chosen heartfelt words Pam. In a peverse way, this vile woman is to be congratulated for finding two words,out of the 100's of 1000's that CMJ wrote,that, taken out of context may be misconstrued as offensive.She's clearly one of these people that have never made an error in her life herself,so feels she can pass judgement on all and sundry.Doesn't she and the other couch potatoes realise that without TMS,they wouldnt exist as a albeit pisspoor entity.
    Ultimately we'll be reading CMJ's books and hearing wonderful stories of his shambolic way, long after she has married some no mark from the Surrey seconds and disappeared.

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  3. I wonder if you understand the notion of libel, Pam: "Andrew Miller, with a shrewd eye on maximimising a commercial opportunity at the expense of a dying man", - this is an outrageous slur on a man's reputation. Nobody as far as I'm aware vilified CMJ over his comments about Test Match Sofa - most of those on the Sofa were merely shocked and saddened. Everyone on the Sofa had a great deal of time and affection for CMJ as listeners to cricket and, in my case, someone who met him a couple of times through work. Feel free to email me copies of the tweets which you feel vilified the man. If anyone was rude to him, we thoroughly regret that that would have happened. Your words on CMJ do you credit but your eulogy to him should not have been linked to attacks on the Sofa. It is disappointing.

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    1. I refer you to Andrew Miller's response in the Daily Mail to CMJ'S Times article, in which he he directly quotes CMJ:

      'Test Match Special, on the other hand, have taken the Sofa’s existence as a personal slight – culminating in a declaration on Wednesday that it needed to be 'nailed' and 'swept offline'.'

      Your mention of libel is somewhat ironic given that one of your commentators, who has the URL for Test Match Sofa on her bio, threatened CMJ with the very same thing:

      https://twitter.com/la_sophista/status/264687808218808321

      If you have any further doubts that Sofa exploited it as a commercial opportunity:

      https://twitter.com/TestMatchSofa/status/264015537477144576

      I'd be a little more careful before throwing the word 'libel' around in future if I were you.

      Delete
  4. No. You can look up what libel is. You'll find it the journalistic guide to the law. You are impossible to debate with. You have your mind set in one way and will not be changed. Are you going to accuse me of libel because you have been accused of libel. I would welcome a proper debate with you but I am unlikely to get it.

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  5. I stand by what I wrote - I note you make no criticism of Sofa representative La Sophista whose tweets are linked above.

    To have seized on a few words written by a dying man is unconscionable. As I type this blog has had 989 page views - the tweets I have received in response have been totally positive.

    If someone wants to sue me for libel I will be delighted to defend my stance. The tweet by the official Sofa account:

    'It seems that with the right antagonists, you can save yourself millions in PR fees. Shall we get the Beeb to attack you?'

    only serves to prove my point that it was done for publicity. Unfortunately for you, it did Sofa no favours at all.

    Now, I've found some toys and a dummy on the floor - I think they're yours.


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  6. Oh grow up woman. People will agree with you if you slant the information in the way that you have. You have no right to assume what the principles of people involved in the Sofa are. I'm comfortable with mine and they involve being extremely sad that CMJ - ar anyone for that matter - had to suffer through such an awful illness. Try reading what you wrote about Andrew Miller again and let it sink in what you have actually said. You are accusing a man of basking in the death of another, one to whom he was almost certainly professionally close (as you will see from next month's Cricketer). That's if you haven't boycotted it in your adulation to the great God that is Aggers

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    Replies
    1. Careful - your jealousy of Aggers is showing.

      Why not write a blog - instead of polluting mine with your obnoxious views?

      Delete