The Problems with Rugby, Football and Cricket are…

UnknownSo yet again England has disappointed in sport. This time it is the Rugby World Cup and our humiliation is compounded by the fact that we are hosting the tournament. I don’t know why anyone would be remotely surprised at Saturday’s crushing defeat – after all, we specialise in losing and we do losing well. It’s not just in rugby but in almost any sport – time and time again, the England team promise, the nation expects and the team fails to deliver.

That said we are nothing if not loyal to our sporting teams. I sat there on Saturday for 80 long minutes watching the disintegration of a nation’s hopes and the rather gratifying (to me) immediate drop in the value of tickets for the quarter finals. I sat there and watched despite the fact that I don’t really have a clue what is going on. It got me thinking about the sports that my children play and I realised that there are quite a lot of perplexing things about the sports they play – things I just don’t really get.

So what about rugby? To my mind rugby is nothing more than legal brawling. It is thirty men (yes, I know women play too) who instead of pushing and shoving outside a pub on a Saturday night are permitted to push and shove on a pitch. It is a sort of grown-up version of that very aggressive playground game we played as kids “Red Rover” (remember?). The rules are so unnecessarily complicated in order to disguise the fact that it is nothing more than a fight with an oddly-shaped ball. Then there is the scrum. I don’t get it – the ball goes in and then seems to come out in exactly the same place? The only long-term gain from a scrum seems to be the gradual and rather fascinating mutation of the ears to resemble cauliflowers.

I also have a problem comprehending why “conkers” – that highly dangerous, physically intensive autumn sport – is now banned in many schools on the ubiquitous “health and safety” grounds but rugby is allowed to continue. As every mother will know, watching your son play rugby is a heart-in-mouth occupation which is accompanied by the absolute certainty that your son – particularly if he is vertically or/and horizontally challenged – will be injured at some point in the season. If I could book my appointments at A&E for three months ahead, I would do so for every match day. If I can’t use my appointment because miraculously my son has come through that match unscathed, there will always be someone else on the team who can.

It’s not just rugby that I find a little incomprehensible – the same goes for football and cricket. Take football – how can a game which has a fairly high probability of ending after 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw be a good game? Why would anyone run around a pitch for that amount of time for no positive scoreline? It just doesn’t seem very well thought-out to me. If women had invented football there is no way that we would have created a game which can go on for that length of time, remain scoreless or a draw and then end in a brutal penalty shoot-out where the poor player who misses his penalty is doomed to a life in pizza adverts in which he is derided for his penalty miss for ever more. Compounding the pointlessness of the game, is the even more pointless punditry which accompanies it on TV – a group of men looking awkward in too tight-fitting suits, sweating under the studio lights, struggling to string a cogent sentence together and repeatedly resorting to the infuriating clichés of “it’s a game of two halves” (no s*** Sherlock) and “at the end of the day”. I know it is a sacrilege to say in this country but for me watching a football match is 90 plus minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

Perhaps the worst offender of all is cricket. The problem with cricket is very simple – it takes too b****** long. The old saying is never truer – “A quick game is a good game”. Cricket also takes the prize for use of the most ridiculous language in any game played worldwide. I can only think that positions with names such as “slip”, “gully” and “silly mid-off” are just a smokescreen for what is at heart a very simple game – bowl, bat, run, catch, out…

The other thing about cricket which is clearly of male design is the colour of the kit. White. Yes, someone thought it was a good idea to play a game which involves sliding on grass, in white clothing. This was either some brilliant marketing ploy to make millions for washing powder manufacturers or sheer stupidity. I suspect the latter.

Despite my complaints above, I do enjoy going to watch my sons playing these sports and in fact I can even pull-off a passable attempt at conversation on the sidelines which appears to show me knowing considerably more about the game than I actually do. However, there is one “sport” which my sons play which is second-to-none in its pointlessness – Dodgeball. This game doesn’t even try to dress itself up – it is as basic as the name suggests: throw, try to dodge, get hit, collect in all the balls, start again. The boys seem to love it – simple pleasures I suppose…

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It’s not cricket…

google cricket bat & ball

google cricket bat & ball (Photo credit: osde8info)

Yesterday was a revelation.  I sat and watched 8 hours of cricket. No, not the Ashes but an under 9s local cricket tournament.  Now admittedly 80 degrees and wall-to-wall sunshine definitely enhanced my viewing experience but I can actually say I enjoyed it and by “it” I do mean the cricket itself.  I still can’t believe what I am saying as until yesterday I found the prospect of watching a game of cricket less appealing even than being forced to watch 24 hours solid of Peppa Pig.  I would even go as far as to say that the cricket was exciting which is an adjective I am unlikely to ever use in respect of Peppa, George, Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig.

However, before you fear that the summer heatwave we are currently experiencing (Day 17 apparently – no wonder we are the laughing stock of the rest of the world when we count the days when the temperature rises above what many other countries would consider an average day), there are certain things I find bizarre about cricket.

Firstly, a sartorial point.  Why do they wear ‘cricket whites’?  It seems remarkably stupid to me to wear totally white clothing when you are playing a sport which inevitably involves skidding and leaping around on grass.  Yes, earth-shattering news – grass is green, grass stains and it is a complete nightmare to get out (although I grant you this is a point that may have escaped most men as it is women who on the whole have to scrub the whites clean swearing profusely).

Secondly, yesterday I realised that actually cricket is a fairly simple game and it is dressed up to be remarkably complicated in order for men to think they are playing some incredibly sophisticated game.  It’s basically rounders with two bases instead of four.  Baffling language such as slip, gully and silly mid-off are thrown in to confuse the non-cricketer and to ensure they feel excluded from the cricket in-crowd (sorry, bad pun..in??).  Cut through all the nonsense language and there’s not much to it as far as I can see – bowl, bat, run, catch.

Incidentally, this deliberate over-complication is not confined to cricket.  Football suffers from the same condition.  Nothing illustrates this better than the off-side rule which men always challenge women to explain as a way of demonstrating their inability to understand the game.  Well, ladies, the off-side rule is not remotely complicated and indeed nor is football – kick, run, pass and score. Easy.

The only game which seems truly baffling to me and perhaps defies my complaint that male-dominated sports are over-complicated for no good reason is rugby.  Rugby seems to me to be genuinely complicated and unnecessarily so.  It seems so complicated that for a large part of the game, no-one appears to have a clear understanding of the rules – players, referees or those watching. I know I am going to be accused of totally missing the point but take the scrum for example.  Why?  To the layman it looks like a group of men with overdeveloped physiques, bundling in and achieving very little – a sort of acceptable group man hug – the ball gets put in and then pushed out again often where it came in.  I know that all men (and probably quite a few women) will be shouting at my idiocy at this point but I’m just saying it how I see it.

Back to cricket.  It seems to me that cricket suffers from a bit of a PR problem.  To my mind, this boils down to one simple point – the game goes on too b*****  long.   That is not to say that test series are not exciting but to compare international cricket with village cricket is lunacy.  There is nothing interesting about watching an entire day of village cricket which is often “village” in standard.  Cricket is quite possibly the least family-friendly game and I speak from experience as one who could in the past have fairly called herself a “cricket widow”. I know much has been done to make cricket more exciting – T20 etc – but it is still too long and unpredictable in length.  At least with football, much as I loathe it, I know that after 90 minutes it’s all done and dusted.

When all is said and done, I really enjoyed yesterday’s cricket but let’s face it, in this country with our reliably unreliable weather, it would not have been the same if I had been forced to sit wrapped in jumpers and blankets for 8 hours, shivering in the usual British summer temperatures, bathing in the glorious light of yet another overcast day.

Finally, a note to my husband who I am sure will vehemently disagree with me…spending two days at Lords watching cricket is not a justification for the length the game takes to play – I know and you know that you are not just watching the cricket and that there is more than a small element of socialising involved too…

Things I shall never do (or never do again)

Cartwheel - Evolution #1

Cartwheel – Evolution #1 (Photo credit: Thomas Z. Photographie)

The  sun has at last been out this weekend and my children have come blinking mole-like into the daylight from enforced indoor imprisonment for the last 5 months.  Hurrah!  Finally they can partake in wholesome activities like cricket rather than the definitely less appealing screen-based activities which form such a large part of their lives, particularly in winter, only relieved of course by the odd game of Cluedo (see previous post).

As I sat outside and watched them play, my daughter who is currently going through a purple-gymnatics-rapunzel stage (sometimes all at once), attempted a roly-poly (technically called a forward roll I believe).  For one insane moment, I thought I might show her how it’s really done and then thankfully I remembered the “cartwheel incident”.

A couple of years ago, showing off, I thought I might demonstrate my childhood gymnastic skills by cartwheeling on the beach.  It became abundantly clear half way through the cartwheel that this was possibly one of my more foolish decisions.  Too late. 38 year old women who only irregularly partake in exercise should never attempt anything that they did with ease in childhood.

My cartwheel was less beautiful circle in motion and more immediate and somewhat explosive irreparable puncture.  As my son pointed out at the time, he had learnt something from my cartwheel demonstration just not what I had intended – how not to do a cartwheel and how to keep a straight face when your mother starts her gymnastic demonstration with the grace and flair of Olga Korbut but ends it splattered on the sand looking as though she has been run over by said cartwheel. Utter humiliation.

So somersaults are something I shall never do again. It got me thinking. What else will I never do (or never do again)?  I will never dive or even jump off a diving board again. My relationship with swimming pools has definitely changed over the last decade. When I was young and on holiday, you could never get me out of the pool – pools and I had a largely harmonious relationship.  Now, it’s a little bit more fractious, and honestly I’d be perfectly happy to spend 2 weeks in the sun sitting around a pool without ever getting in it.

Why? Well for the reasons outlined above with regard to my gymnastics prowess, it would be potentially mortifying to dive/jump/bellyflop off a diving board at my age – the permutations for embarrassment and humiliation actually make me shudder.

As for swimming itself…I know it sounds a bit pathetic but I don’t really like putting my head in the water now – not because I’m precious about my hairstyle (far from it…largely as I don’t really have a hairstyle as such to be concerned about) but I just don’t really like it.  A nice leisurely, but regal, breaststroke is about all I can manage these days with my head firmly out of the water.  I’ll leave the more energetic strokes to those a little younger than me.  To be honest, I never really got the point of backstroke anyway – why would you swim on your back, unable to see where you are going, towards a concrete wall?  Backstroke is pointless and to my mind potentially dangerous.

What else?  Oh yes, I am unlikely to spend an entire day (unless ill) watching back to back soap operas like I (obviously occasionally) did at university.  There was a brief period after the birth of each of my children when I dabbled in Neighbours, Home & Away, Hollyoaks and even, on a particularly bad day,  Doctors, but I managed to wean myself off them once I no longer had the excuse of sitting on my sofa for hours ostensibly feeding a baby.

However, at university, (obviously occasionally) soaps determined my daily schedule and it was not unknown for me and my best friend to spend an entire afternoon watching back to back soaps just because we could. Now however I have much more intellectually challenging tasks to complete such as deciding whether pesto pasta is on the cards for dinner (which it is today incidentally) or driving my “taxi” around the local area, picking up my non-fare paying customers and depositing them at their various required locations for tennis, football etc.  I do allow myself one little indulgence though – EastEnders.  Love it.  I always watch it and feel so hugely lucky and grateful for my little life – however miserable my day has been, at least I don’t live in Albert Square.

There are, of course, hundreds of other things that I shall probably never do or do again equally as trivial as the above.  There are lots of things, not just trivial things, which I wish I could do or wish I had done.  Equally there are lots of things that I can do now which I couldn’t have done when I was younger and that’s where the focus should be I suppose.  What would you never do now or never do again?