Jokes struggle to raise a laugh in Athletics Weekly, so should we stick to news, stats and results?
Attempts to inject some fun into Athletics Weekly over the years have been met with mixed success. Generally, readers take the sport deadly seriously and jokes are often met with po-faced indiﬀerence.
Indeed, the old Bill Shankly quote springs to mind. “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death,” the former Liverpool FC manager famously said. “I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
In recent years we have peppered the magazine with the occasional cartoon to lighten the mood and our Dip Finish column at the back of the magazine has been well-received, albeit it’s full of off-beat stories and controversy as opposed to comedy.
This is not a new thing either. In the 1960s and 1970s the journalist and coach Cliff Temple often wrote funny and popular features in the final issue of the year or around the time of April Fool’s Day. Temple even contributed gags to radio and television and the name “Emily Lustbody” will no doubt spark fond memories in readers who subscribed to AW during that period.
Elsewhere, Charles van Comedy’s one-liners on Twitter have generally hit the mark, while Jimmy Watkins’ antics on the internet also raised a chuckle or two in the otherwise tense run-up to the London Olympics.
One joke didn’t go down well with some in last week’s magazine, though. In a humourous look at the year ahead over the festive period, our scribe Geoﬀ Wightman, who is well known for his athletics commentaries at UKA meetings and the Olympics, suggested that Jess Ennis might launch a “Bot Bot” celebration to match Mo Farah’s MoBot. But Ennis’s coach Toni Minichiello was less than amused.
“When did @AthleticsWeekly become some kind of Benny Hill parody? Behave! Girl works hard to achieve success,” Minichiello tweeted, before a few others dived in to support him.
Okay, the joke was hardly comic genius and I can understand how Minichiello would be miffed. Yet at the same time not every joke in every stand-up routine or comedy film “works” and if a similar joke had appeared on radio or TV, or in another more light-hearted magazine, I’d be surprised if it had led to similar heckles on Twitter.
Ultimately, I’d love to ask you, the readers, what you want. This is your magazine, after all. Do you only want hard news stories, dry stats, dull-looking listings and results? Or are we occasionally (in a tiny number of pages during the year, I’d add) allowed to crack the odd joke?
In short, do you want your athletics news delivered with a smile or a straight face?