WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST
Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
Nowadays, Miles Jupp could not contemplate the audacious feat he pulled off in 2006, when he managed to blag his way on to the England cricket team's tour of India as a member of the travelling press corps. Having played the part of a press officer - ironically - in the BBC's political satire The Thick of It among a fairly lengthy list of TV appearances, as actor and stand-up comedian, there is no way on England's current excursion to the same country that he could go unrecognised.
But six years ago it was different. Though he had taken the first steps in a television career, and though Jupp's role as Archie, the eccentric inventor in the CBeebies show Balamory, had led some people to shout at him in the in the street, the chances of his being identified for what he really was were still relatively slim.
Fibber in the Heat, shortlisted for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year, is Jupp's tale of that tour but if you suspect, as would be quite understandable, that this is a story of some wizard wheeze that a privately-educated graduate of Edinburgh University (and the Edinburgh Fringe) dreamed up in order to land a publishing deal, you'd actually be wrong. Of course, it did ultimately become a book. He even turned it into a one-man theatre show. In the beginning, though, he had different intentions.
Back in 2005, Jupp was not exactly wedded to the idea of a career in children's television. Indeed, he had no clear vision of what he wanted to do at all beyond indulging his passion for cricket, which he did at every opportunity. He did stand-up comedy, ambitiously putting on two shows a day at the Edinburgh Festival, but with the most gripping Ashes series for decades unfolding simultaneously, he found that he would much rather be in his flat, watching the cricket on TV.
The plot begins to hatch at the Oval, scene of the final Test, where Jupp queued for tickets for the last two days of what had seemed an endless, epic drama and shared his joy with total strangers when England won. Catching sight of the glass-fronted press box high above him, thronged with journalists, he is taken with the notion, all too commonly held, that theirs must be the ideal job. He sets out to become one of them.
"By the end, arrogance has given way to humility."
In that respect it is an old story. Press boxes are infiltrated by dreamers with alarming regularity. There is always some young man, or woman, often more than one, who believes that the cricket writer's life entails little more than turning up at a match, watching the day's play and tapping out a few paragraphs of flowery prose at the end. Or, these days, turning their thoughts into a blog for little or no remuneration. They tend to be given short shrift.
Jupp begins his story armed with tenuous credentials and very little else and sets off on a journey that leads him quite naturally into the kind of difficult moments that might have been tailor-made for his humorous, self-deprecating style. By the end, however, arrogance has given way to humility.
One by one, his preconceived ideas unravel, the life he aspired to turns out to be his own naive illusion and his experiences very different from the ones he imagined. In parts the story is a raucous romp, spiced with hilarious scrapes, although not all of the characters, the real members of the travelling media, have been happy with the way they have been portrayed. Jupp crossed a few boundaries he ought not to have breached. Yet it is difficult not to feel a certain sympathy, particularly over the effect the adventure has on his feelings towards the game, and the people that play it.
Wittily written but with perceptive honesty, it offers a lesson that could borrow the title of another contender on the William Hill shortlist: be careful what you wish for.
Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp, is published by Ebury Press. For more information and to buy visit amazon.co.uk or go to the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.
The full shortlist for the 2012 award is:
- Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
- That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
- The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (Bantam Press)
- Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)
- Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
- A Life Without Limits – A World Champion’s Journey, by Chrissie Wellington with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)
- Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop with Rod Gilmour (James Willstrop / Rod Gilmour)
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and, with a top prize of £24,000, the most valuable literary prize for sports writing. The 2012 winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, next Monday, November 26.
This year's judging panel comprises broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; footballer and chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.
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