The English Game (minor spoilers)

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2020 at 02:34

english-game-from 3rd Degree

From 3rd Degree dot Com

The English Game follows the athletic exploits of two of England’s footballing pioneers, Arthur Kincaid and Fergus Suter. Kincaid, played ably by Edward Holcroft, comes from Eton’s upper classes, and Suter (well played Kevin Guthrie) came from the lower classes in Glasgow. They become rivals when The Old Etonians clashed with Suter’s Darwen team in the FA Cup semifinals.  Kincaid turns out to be a gentleman compared to the other upper crust gits on The Old Estonians and Suter is an arse at times, he is a regular guy with a troublesome past that informs many of his decisions. Watch and find out.

Some reviewers of The English Game miss the point of the show and call the mini-series a history of the beginning of football in England. That is just the backdrop. The English Game isn’t about football, it’s about class, upper classes versus working classes, and the football teams symbolize each class. Another very important theme is how women are second class citizens in the Victorian Era, and only by the grace of God and the consent of a decent man, could they have a say over their lives.

Class issues arise when The Old Etonians (from Eton, of course) play against a team of working class mill workers from Darwen. There’s a catch. The owner of Darwen, who is also an owner of a small mill (Britain’s main export and industrial product at the time) has hired two of the best players in Scotland to join Darwen. They are Fergus Suter and Jimmy Love. The problem? Football players are supposed to be unpaid amateurs.

While it is easy for the wealthy Etonians to take time off to practice and play games, the working class teams can’t afford such a luxury, and that’s why all the teams from upper class backgrounds have won the FA Cup, a league-wide championship in English Football that still goes on to this day.

The two teams develop a rivalry, with the Etonians changing rules or not accepting rules changes so they can keep the cup. I know it shocks you to learn that the wealthy elite change rules so they can stay in power, but that actually happened, I swear it did.

Giving birth gives women worth in the Victorian age, and we see the horrors of having children out of wedlock in The English Game. Well, we see a watered down version of the horror. It is dealt with well, except the story was never complete, like a lot of the plot lines in the series.

Another underlying theme, and I say another in case I am forgetting one, is the value of sport in our lives. Is playing the sport worth all the effort and money, does it bring comfort, does the competition make us better people? Certainly, the talented working class Love and Suter make the best of it and Suter becomes a champion. But what about the rest of them? What if they had spent the energy building windmills and inventing medicines? The deeper problems with capitalism aren’t addressed directly in the film: the owners of the mills have enough money to pay players, build stadiums, and give paid days off for the wealthy players, but then they cut the wages of the mill workers. Typical, that.

Regarding the class conflict in the show, the presentation is rather shallow, lacking a deep analysis of class. Granted, Marx’s treatise on historical materialism, Das Kapital, came out only twelve years before the action starts in the film (1879). However, it seemed a glaring omission that no one called out the owner of Darwen as a capitalist. Though the poorest mill owner, he was still part of the Petite Bourgeoisie for he was an owner of the means of production. Sure, he wasn’t the rankest bastard of the bunch, but in the end, he still took value from the labor of the mill workers in his factory. It was no collective.

Some people call out the show for its plodding pace, but it wasn’t all that. The action was uneven with often overly sentimental dialogue. A main producer was Julian Fowles, the man who brought us Downton Abbey, so it is no surprise that the language is maudlin at times. Still, I found the acting good and enough interest in the conflicts to give it a rating of: Matinee.

Tex Shelters

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