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…

Operation Christmas School Holidays

Household Cavalry on Garter Day

Household Cavalry on Garter Day (Photo credit: hmcotterill)

Operation Christmas School Holidays:  Commander-in-chief – me; soldiers under my command – 3

Day 1: injuries sustained – one bruised chin (from scaling the kitchen table during dinner), one  minor knock to head during a skirmish (friendly fire incident (between brothers)). Morale – high; obedience – minimal.  Some issues with chain of command.

Yes, it is that time of year again – my favourite – the school holidays with the added stress of Christmas thrown in too.  So I have decided to adopt a different approach this year and treat the entire holidays as a military campaign.  No doubt there will be victories and defeats along the way but I am determined to instil respect for authority and behaviour fitting of those representing their family on the world stage.

I wouldn’t say the first day has been an unqualified success.  My first hurdle has been a degree of overfamiliarity amongst the ranks – notably, I have been addressed by one soldier as “mate” throughout the day which is not a form of address that I feel befits my status and as “idiot” by another soldier when I suggested that he might like to entertain himself rather than play Fifa 12 on the X-box.

A second issue that has arisen has been the inability of any of the soldiers to sit anywhere near the table when eating or in fact sit at all.  Indeed it has become patently obvious why a “mess” (in military speak) is named thus when you look at my kitchen floor post eating.  I am definitely going to have to crack down on this over the coming few weeks and will need to form a strategy for coping at mealtimes (i.e. me coping with their disregard for the food I’ve cooked, table I’ve laid, floor I’ve cleaned etc).

Perhaps the issue which has raised the most dissent amongst the ranks today has been my (some might say ambitious) decision to spend a day without any TV or electronic devices. In retrospect I am not convinced this was a strategically sound decision for the first day of the holidays and I suspect that the person who suffered the most was in fact, me.  After a rather trying start to the day, I can report that the troops rallied and even attempted a group activity by mid-afternoon (decorating Christmas tree shaped ginger biscuits).  Astonishingly, this activity was completed with minimum destruction to the kitchen and without a single skirmish.

So here we are towards the end of the day.  One soldier has been granted leave to attend a local pantomime; one soldier is watching a division 2 football match from circa 1976 (why?  I have no idea) and the youngest soldier is “learning” Spanish from Dora the Explorer.  I do have to report that the TV has now been switched back on – I do believe it is important for personnel to have down-time before re-entering the fray.

What about me?  Well, I need down-time too – leading is so exhausting – and I am going to reward myself with a glass of wine.  Mission accomplished – Day 1 completed, all troops present and correct.  As for Day 2, we’ll be joined by Field Marshal Husband who shares command – sort of – at weekends. Progress report to follow.

Pointless Update

Reunión Furby I

Reunión Furby I (Photo credit: alvarezperea)

Update on my “pointless” list – a kind reader has given me my first (and last) onesie – fortunately for me it does not have novelty headgear too – but all the same it is a onesie probably best described as resembling a snow leopard.  Now I love the person who gave me this onesie but I can confirm that I look more than faintly ridiculous in it and I definitely look like an overgrown giant baby (not my favourite look).  One thing I had not appreciated before I owned such a must-have garment is how flipping hot it is inside one of these onesies.  I started to sweat profusely within about 5 minutes – a sweating snow leopard in a babygrow – not a pretty sight!  I have to admit to being slightly fascinated by the speed with which these onesies are flying off the shelves this Christmas – who (apart from my friend) is buying them? Imagine if you were an alien arriving on earth for the first time and you were greeted by the sight of giant babies wearing all-in-one, furry, faux animal outfits – I’m fairly sure if it was me, I would turn right round again and return from where I came, very disturbed by the sight I had just witnessed.

On the subject of Christmas shopping, I am also very distressed at the return of that hideous creature the “Furby” – who thought it was a good idea to bring it back for this Christmas season for god’s sake?  To add insult to injury this ugly, little monster retails at well over £50.  Sometimes I really do think I live in a parallel universe to everyone else.  I get Peppa Pig (regular readers will know I am actually a little partial to a bit of Peppa Pig) but Furbies – they are wrong, all wrong.

I’m on a roll now…one last bugbear (bah humbug!)…football kits for kids.  My boys support Arsenal.  I know nothing about Arsenal – a deliberate ploy to prevent me from ever having to discuss football leagues with my children or worse go and watch matches with them.  An aside, the only thing I find vaguely interesting – actually rather pleasing in an odd way – is that the Arsenal Boss is called Arsene – almost poetic.  Anyway, my problem is very simple, premiership football teams change their football strip (home and away) every season so I am forced to buy new football strips every season too.  These football strips are not only deeply unpleasant to look at but they are also extortionately expensive.  In my view, these premiership teams are committing daylight robbery by hiking the prices of these kits way beyond their value because we poor unsuspecting parents, ever keen to encourage our offspring into supporting a team, are forced to buy them on an annual basis (last year’s strip is so passé) in order not to embarrass poor little Johnny in front of his mates.

So there you have it, rant over for the day.  You could be forgiven for thinking I complain about everything.  Well I do, I guess, but only with good reason, and actually those who know me will testify that I can be nice too!