Wednesday, February 22, 2012

James Willstrop Is a Putz

The very informative (and getting better all the time) squash site Daily Squash Report published an excerpt from James Willstrop's book, and the excerpt, available here, exposes this gentleman as a putz.

I'm sorry about that, because not long ago I was all for his ascendancy to the #1 spot in squash. Now I would like all US players and fans to give him one long unending boo every time they see him play. 

A putz is a great Yiddish word that means either an uninformed fool or a penis. You be the judge.

In Willstrop's book, which I urge you not to buy, he rambles on about American squash in general and the World Squash Federation's 2010 World Squash Awards event, held at the Tournament of Champions. 

Mr. Willstrop it appears was very disconcerted by a few hardball and hardball doubles awards that were given out at this event, apparently feeling that this is not really squash in the true sense and that Americans are always fooling with things better left unaltered. (This is why England is still a monarchy, even though most Brits can't figure out what it is the royals do...)

He goes on to complain about the stupid Americans coming up with different terms for shots (Rails? It's a drive!) and heaven forfend, those Yanks have even dispensed with lets! Pshaw!

He mocks our sports -- baseball, American football -- as being not truly world sports. This from a representative of a country that is still enamored with cricket. Isn't that a bug?

In his myopia he has failed to understand that squash has been an American sport for nearly as long as it has been an English sport, but it developed along different lines. I suggest he read James Zug's history of the American game, which is a great book. (Buy it here, Mr. Willstrop.) We have our traditions too, although we, unlike the British squash establishment, are prepared to innovate.

The North American Open is going on as I write this. Give Willstrop a hearty boo for me, thanks.


  1. Willstrop is being honest, the first job of any writer. Not a putz.

  2. I fail to see where Willstrop really went wrong. Most American sports are just played by Americans, so he is indeed being just factual. Also, 'worldy' sports like cricket, football (soccer) and rugby are the worlds most popular games, fact. He merely states that Americans are not big in these sports yet call their own 'world series' etc when in fact the rest of the world is not invited. Honesty, while sometimes can come across as rude, is honesty. You are what the rest of the world refers to some Americans as, waaaaaay too sensitive.

  3. Column: Squash stands among the elite sports

    Published: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

    For sports fans at Princeton, there are the obvious teams to follow: football, basketball, hockey, soccer. There are also sports for which the logistical hurdles are too high to make attending and/or enjoying said attendance a realistic goal: the sprawling acreage of golf or cross country, the remoteness of crew, the heat and pace of baseball. But squash strikes me as one of a few sports here that doesn’t get the respect or interest that it deserves, for reasons that have nothing to do with the competitions themselves.

    What I’m trying to get at is, if you were to sit down and objectively evaluate every sport at Princeton, I don’t think the hierarchy you would come up with would fit the current model. Princeton squash is not inherently less interesting to watch than Princeton football, and yet there is the sense that attending the latter is a passable social event — when the team is decent — while attending the former is an oddity.

    You shouldn’t have to think very long about why this is the case. We care about football and basketball more mostly because other colleges do. Other colleges do because there is immense interest in the professional variations of said sports, and universities directly provide those leagues their talent. By this line of thinking, sports like squash are irrelevant because in America they are irrelevant on a professional level. Showing any devotion to it would be a symbol of just how out of touch Ivy League students are with the things that people actually care about.

    This is a familiar refrain. I’ve developed a gag reflex to any medium-sized sequence of words about any kind of colored bubble at our fine university, but it’s almost sort of relevant here. Just how insulated do you have to be, someone might say to you with a patronizing smirk, in order to become invested in a squash team?

    Which, I’ll go ahead and say, is bullshit. It’s the same lazy trope that gets thrown at liberal arts students, with the same implied italics: What are you going to do with that? This isn’t the ‘real world,’ that amorphous and threatening construct, and the things we do and enjoy shouldn’t have to be dictated by it. We are at an idyllic, prohibitively expensive university that, among other things, houses us and serves us food and lets some of us play competitive sports. What about that exactly even pretends to reflect the way things actually work? Fencing! Volleyball! Other things that no one outside of a few dedicated niches care about! Squash is awesome, and we’re really, really good at it. Let’s get insular, folks.

    Tags: Column, Men's Squash

    Posted by an American at Princeton this week. James was honest and admitted that he may hurt some feelings. This article of elite squash in USA is a year old. It was in the Yorkshire Post on a Tuesday edition which James writes every week. Nothing new just rehashed.....

    Following in his Dad's footsteps as speaking reality in the game....

  4. "I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, but........."

  5. One should also mention that 'The Squashist' has lowered himself to name calling, surely not the trait of a stand up character. He has also shown his extreme naivety by not knowing what a truly global sport is, and assuming to claim he knows what British folk think of the monarchy. Perhaps a role model like a royal is better than the American press who reports upon the Kardashian's etc.

  6. My original blog was about everything that Willstrop said, not just a few chosen opinions. He said that squash was elitist and rarefied in the US. That has certainly been the case, but it is changing, and in cities of a certain size one can play squash in places other than the elitist clubs. A couple years ago, US Squash did a survey of squash players in the US, finding the racial composition of its players only a few percentage points more 'white' than the general US population -- a point that would probably surprise a lot of people.

    That being said, WIllstrop made a few other points that I disagreed with. Here's a quote, about the World Squash Awards ceremony: "We found ourselves enduring an American take on proceedings, so much so that the ceremony should have been retitled: the ‘US squash and hardball awards’." I don't like his use of the word 'enduring' here.... As I noted in my blog, American squash in fact goes back to the 19th century. Hardball doubles squash has many proponents and its own surprisingly lucrative pro circuit. It is I think the most exciting version of squash to watch for the non-squash-playing public. That Willstrop would have to endure these awards, since in his parochialism and ignorance he is unfamiliar with this brand of squash, is risible.

    Another quote: "So it is no surprise that the awards were given gratuitously to American people, who are not of a world standard in squash, at a world ceremony." Again, i have a problem with his use of the word 'gratuitously..." But no, there was nothing gratuitous about it. They were given to top players in versions of squash that Mr. Willstrop, who has sucked at the teat of softball squash since a wee laddie, cannot understand. That's where the 'putz' word comes to play...

    To those who commented above saying that Willstrop was just telling the truth, i say no.... he was exposing his ignorance.

    All the above being said, a little controversy goes a long way in selling books. Even though i say in my blog to not buy the book, I wrote that actually with the hidden intent that it would peak people's curiosity to in fact get the book. I'm relentlessly pro-squash, so a book about squash? Buy it, it would certainly be worth your while. Just because Willstrop fails us in a page or two doesn't meant the other couple of hundred pages aren't worth the read.

    And now I'll shut up about this topic!

  7. Well I would agree with all the points James Wilstrop made there.

    Hardball and hardball doubles are not squash and are not played around the world so why are they giving out awards at the World SQUASH awards.They might as well give out awards for the longest racquetball rally.

    American Sports are clearly not world sports , and to call the winners of the NBA or the MLB world champions is just silly.

    Rails , there was perfectly good word already for it why the need to invent a new silly one.

    No lets , wow great idea that will work really well.

    Saying that it is always good to read new viewpoints and peoples experience of squash and to share different ideas so keep up the good work.


    Cricket is a world sport .

  8. You sir, are an idiot. Criticizing someone for having a superior attitude about his country...while doing the exact same thing. Hardball is NOT squash. Doubles is NOT squash. It's one tiny niche variation played in a 250 mile radius in the American Northeast.

  9. We should really be talking about how to get Squash reinstated as a NCAA Emerging sport. Huge strides have been made at the middle school and high school level for squash. Those are in jeopardy (especially for females) if we can't get more support for the sport at the college/university level.

  10. James was spot on in some remarks but perhaps a bit off in some other ones but it was his personal reflections. I do not see why those thoughts should merit an outburst like the one presented.
    I think that the attempt of playing without let to me actually looked very promising and should be evaluated.
    I do think that all the World Series going on in USA is a bit funny but is it not only the "American way". Honestly I could not care less about what they call it. We have world championships in other sports that hardly 10% of the world's population can compete in - skiing in all directions is hardly a big Indian or Namibian activity.
    I think that it's great when people speak their mind and I think it's a pity that there is such an overreaction to it. Take it easy!
    I think that USA can be a world nation in squash and as a keen supporter of Street Squash I think that that is something others could learn from!!

  11. Wow, you are an idiot with a blog!

    World Series Baseball: USA and Japan, is it?
    World Series Football: USA
    World Series Sports in the USA: USA

    Cricket: England, Australia, NZealand, India, Pakistan, Ireland, Bangladesh, S.Africa, Sri Lanka ..... goes on.

    Seriously, are you an idiot? You have to have some level of awareness if you want to have a well respected blog.

  12. Wow, I guess I really AM an idiot....

    Oh wait! Here's a list of nationalities who play in major league baseball:

    And here's one for pro basketball:

    As for football, I dont' follow that sport, so who's to say. But then again, they don't call their championship the World Series, either.

    And as for hardball doubles squash, it so happens i'm headed to san francisco in two weeks where I plan to play that version of squash, which is far away from the above-noted 250-mile radius mentioned. And that comment is from a canadian where the sport is played, you should know better.

    Hardball doubles is a great sport, and i confess I'm surprised that some of its adherents haven't sprung to my defense. Where are you guys, anyway?

    I wish Willstrop the best. I wish he were a little more informed about world squash, but as the world #1 he gets a pass.

  13. It's nice to see a bit of spice in the squash world! Funny that he would bother to pick on the language differences. Maybe he'd eaten too many servings of bangers and mash that day. Actually Willstrop's vegetarian, so maybe it was an excess of aubergine.

  14. So a few nationalities play MLB. woopee. How many countries enter teams in the World Series? 1. Squashist, you Sir are a goose.

  15. Book is grate and honest, writen from persons perspective. The guy who wrote this is putz himself :-)

  16. Let's put hardball squash into perspective - does anybody remember the great Jahangir Khan, who had hardly played it before, going out to the US and destroying 'champion' Mark Talbott (honoured in the above awards), whilst barely breaking a sweat?

  17. Pro hardball doubles is played by softball squash players who have either finished their career or were simply not good enough to make it (mainly English and Aussies by the way, not too many yanks)


Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....