Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Tony Deyal | Fun with Dick and Geoff

Published:Saturday | August 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

"I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that." This is one of the things I wish I had said. Here is another, "I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighbourhood after dark."

These are two quips from Richard (Dick) Claxton Gregory, who died last week at the age of 84. He was a civil-rights activist, writer, and more than anything else, a comedian who used his art to confront racism in America. He said, "Once I realised the value of making people laugh, I got very good at it. Fast."

In 1961, Dick Gregory broke the colour barrier and crossed over to white audiences on television and through his albums. This was a huge step in those days. Most sources quote three of his best one-liners: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night;" "Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, 'We don't serve coloured people here.' I said, 'That's all right. I don't eat coloured people. Bring me a whole fried chicken;'" and "Then these three white boys came up to me and said, 'Boy, we're giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you.' So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, 'Line up, boys!'"

There are some others that are equally funny and priceless. Here are three more of them: "I am really enjoying the new Martin Luther King Jr stamp - just think about all those white bigots, licking the backside of a black man;" "I don't know why America always thinks she has to run all around the world forcing people to take our way of governance at the barrel of a gun. When you've got something really good, you don't have to force it on people. They will steal it!" And "Civil rights: What black folks are given in the US on the instalment plan, as in civil-rights bills. Not to be confused with human rights, which are the dignity, stature, humanity, respect, and freedom belonging to all people by right of their birth."

This brings me to Geoff, surname 'Boycott' who, if his first name was 'Dick', his middle name would have been 'Head'. According to The Mirror, "The England cricket legend, 76, made the comment to VIP guests at the day-night Test against the West Indies.

At a Q&A session during a break in play at Edgbaston on Saturday, the BBC Test Match Special commentator said knighthoods were handed out like "confetti" to West Indies greats. He told Sky Sports presenter Gary Newbon, hosting the session: 'Mine's been turned down twice. I'd better black me face.'"

He was referring to the 11 knighted West Indies cricketers, including Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richards. The last England star to get a knighthood for services to cricket was Sir Ian Botham in 2007. Before that it was Sir Alec Bedser in 1997.

Desmond Jaddoo, an activist in the city of Birmingham where diners, including several black guests, had paid nearly £300 each for a luxury hospitality package for the game, commented, "He should take a long, hard look at why he doesn't have a knighthood rather than offending those who do have one."

According to the Mail, "Boycott, who scored 151 centuries and played 108 Tests for England, says he is being blocked from the honour because he was convicted in France of beating ex Margaret Moore in 1996. He fought the conviction, but it was upheld."

I am not a Boycott fan. I ended one of my early columns with the quip, "Tony Deyal was last seen saying that when the English team collapsed in the second innings of this week's Test match, an old joke resurfaced - not Geoffrey Boycott - but, "What do you call an Englishman who's good with a bat?" A vet."

This time, when the excrement hit the fans, especially cricket ones of all races, Boycott, facing a further boycott and the loss of his cushy job with the BBC, hurriedly responded in the favourite medium of US President Donald Trump. He tweeted his remarks. But unlike Trump, Boycott was apologetic and admitted that his remarks were "unacceptable" and "clearly wrong". He added, "I apologise unreservedly."

 

OUTSPOKEN AND OFFENSIVE

 

Boycott has always been outspoken, sometimes to the point of being offensive. In 1994, when asked how he would have played Shane Warne, his response was, "My tactic would be to take a quick single and observe him from the other end." He also went after the Big Bird, "They should cut Joel Garner off at the knees to make him bowl at a normal height." Maybe the Barbados and West Indies cricket boards have belatedly taken Boycott's suggestion as Garner has been replaced as president of the Barbados board and manager of the West Indies team.

The first Test that almost did for Boycott also brought Garner lower than even Boycott wanted. Garner warned that England would underestimate the West Indies "at their peril". He obviously had the subject and object confused.

The present coach, Stuart Law, showed even worse judgement. He asserted that the West Indies could "exploit the weaknesses" in the England side and prove their critics wrong. Law insisted, "There's been a lot said about this cricket team, and that is motivation for them. We're looking forward. Let's rewrite that history." They did. They were beaten in three days and lost 19 wickets on the third day.

Boycott had the last word and had no need to apologise for this remark. He wrote in The Telegraph: "This West Indies lot are the worst Test match team I have seen in more than 50 years of watching, playing and commentating on cricket." Where are you when we need you, Phil Simmons?

- Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Boycott had made the "black face" quip before in 1981. On facing the England 'pace' bowlers, he said, "I'd like to paint my face black and go in for the West Indies against our bloody attack."