Hugh McIlvanney has been rightly been recognized by his obituarists as one of the outstanding sports journalists of our time, perhaps the pre-eminent one, just as his younger brother William was the finest Scottish novelist of his generation. However Robert Low, in an interesting and warm appreciation, published in the March number of “Standpoint”, asks whether there is a future for McIlvanney’s style of sports-writing, whether indeed he should be seen as one of the last of a distinguished line. Low, himself a former sports editor on The Observer, evidently hopes the answer is “no”, just as evidently as he fears it is “maybe, yes”.
There are three reasons for his fear.
First, the old style of match reports is out-of-date. Once we went to the newspapers to find out what happened to follow the course of a game. Even if we had actually been at the ground, there is much we would have missed. So we relied on the reporter to tell us, for instance, who made the pass that led to a goal or try.