I read this morning that England bowler, Stuart Broad, whilst attempting to justify the early disappearance of Jonathan Trott from the Ashes series, has claimed that cricketers are subjected to "gruelling schedules" where they can "sometimes be expected to spend as much as 270 nights a year in hotel rooms." How terrible!
Now look, I know nothing about cricket. It strikes me as an odd game, which attracts people who seem to be rather less fit than other athletes. In fact, the only thing I know about cricket is that it used to be quite rare to compete for The Ashes, but now that the English cricket team is good, we seem to want to fight for them as often as I eat spaghetti on toast for lunch.
What I feel obliged to point out, however, is that 270 nights a year in a hotel doesn't seem too bad a deal, especially if it's what your (very well paid) job expects of you. After all, 270 nights in a hotel, means 95 nights a year not working at all. And I dare say they're not gonna be sticking England players in the nearest Travelodge!
I find myself contemplating Nathan, who, like many actors this year, is regularly performing three pantomimes a day. I think about traveling salesmen and long distance lorry drivers, who miss their children and partners bitterly when they go off on jaunts around the UK, sleeping in terrible hotels, and the claustrophobic cabs of their vehicles. I think about nurses working night shifts and on Christmas Day, and my brother, who moved to Poland for the best part of ten years as part of his job. Ordinary people do these things because it's expected of them, and, because, in this climate, they're relieved they even have a job. No one's going to give them an OBE for services to lorry driving or nursing. They won't retire at the age of 37 with a knee injury, and spend the rest of their lives earning huge sums of money learning how to ballroom dance or survive in a jungle.
One of the issues I have with British team sports athletes is that they can come across as a whinging, molly-coddled, lazy lot. I've never read an account of Murray complaining about the gruelling nature of the professional tennis circuit. He knows that if he wants to maintain his position at the top, he needs to play matches, which requires staying mentally and physically fit. If he loses a match, he knows he only has himself to blame. If he wins, he earns a fortune.
The trouble with team sports is that it's easy for a individual player to hide behind ten other men. I regularly watch England football matches and see players who can't seem to maintain the strength needed to stay alert for 90 minutes on the pitch. It's 90 minutes, for Christ's sake! You don't see Marathon runners flagging after 40! I don't hang up my baton mid session and say "tired now!" And we wonder why we haven't won a major championship for 40 years! A general lack of professional conduct and a tendency for Brits to support mediocrity means only one thing: excuses. We're told how difficult it can be when a footballer's trophy girlfriend isn't invited to hang from his coat tails at a championship, that it's really difficult to live a life under the media spotlight, that sportsmen should be allowed to get drunk, take drugs and have affairs just like the rest of us...
The bottom line is that there are aspects to our jobs that we all hate. My job is wonderful, unique and thrilling, but the pay's rubbish, and one or two of the BBC staff I work with are institutionalised and over-unionised "yes women!" You take the rough with the smooth. If you don't like a job, you move on...
If some of these national football and cricket players are too emotionally fragile or family-orientated to do the job properly, then that's their choice. A million and one people would happily replace them. But if you're a millionaire, you're adored by millions, and you have a task which involves travelling the world, let's not get into complaining about working conditions. I'm sure there's many in this country who would happily slap you and tell you you don't know you're born!