Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/477

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CRICKET AND THE VICTORIAN ERA.

Other entertainment. Both games afford the spectators a wonderful amount of innocent and healthy amusement. The value of this side of games will be touched upon later. At present, the point I am making is that this form of amusement is not possible without a class who devote themselves entirely to the games. Perhaps this does not quite hold good of football, but it certainly does of cricket. Whether spectacular football would be possible without professionals I very much doubt, for without them it would be almost impossible to establish a sufficient number of first-class teams to give exhibitions of the game at all the many towns where such a fervid interest is taken in it. This, I think, is the justification of professionalism in football. The public are very keen on seeing the game, and it is a good thing that they are, but they will not go to see bad or mediocre football. A demand for exhibitions of first-rate football has arisen, and has been met by the inevitable supply. So in spite of the undoubted drawbacks and evils of professional football, which need not be mentioned here, the present form of the game is justified by the amount of amusement and pleasure it affords to a very large section of the community.

Now if this is true of football it is doubly true of cricket. Professionalism is necessary for the continuance of the game in anything like a developed form, not only as a spectacular amusement, but as an everyday recreation. Even club cricket cannot very well be carried on without professionals. Bowlers, ground-men, and coaches are necessary in any but the crudest cricket: without them the standard of skill cannot be high, for adequate conditions for its exercise cannot be realised. Now a high standard of skill is what makes and maintains the popularity of a game. Of course these things react upon each other. Skill arouses interest, interest creates a somewhat fastidious taste, and this taste, in its turn, demands a high standard of skill to satisfy it. The popularity of cricket has more or less kept pace with its development as a game. People went to see players who had made reputations, and as the number of skilled players increased, so did that of the spectators. From watching famous players people have learnt much of the game, so that now they can appreciate skill even in unknown performers. If for some reason skill in cricket suffered a sudden decline, the interest in the game would wane—public interest in it as a spectacular amusement. In this form cricket could not possibly exist without professionals, for unless a considerable number of men devoted their entire time and energies to the game, it would be impossible to fill up