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A wry view of life for the world-weary

Category Archives: Sport

Sporting Event Of The Week (7)

Those of us who mourn the fact that the game of conkers has rather gone into the doldrums  thanks to the questionable efforts of the ‘Elf and Safety brigade, at least in schools, fearing that the little darlings will get a wrap on the knuckle from a stray shot or that fragments of an exploding conker will get into their eyes, will be heartened by the news that that the Northamptonshire village of Southwick hosted the World Conker Championships last weekend.

230 competitors from 14 countries as far-flung as New Zealand, the United States and Russia took part in the championship which was held, as usual, in the grounds of the Shuckburgh Arms. The winner of the male competition was an 85-year-old Chelsea Pensioner, John Riley, while Julie Freeman won the women’s competition and then claimed the overall crown by overcoming Riley’s stout resistance.

The competition nearly didn’t go ahead because there was a shortage of decent conkers. Many had dropped early this year – autumn does seem to have arrived earlier this year – but enough were gathered to save the day.

For those interested in playing the game properly, there must be at least 8 inches of lace between your knuckle and the conker and each player takes three alternate strikes at their opponent’s nut. The game is decided when one conker is smashed. If there is no result after five minutes, then each player is allowed a further nine strikes. If there is still no result, the winner is the one who struck his opponent’s conker most times.

It brought back wonderful memories of my childhood.

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Sporting Event Of The Week (6)

News has reached me of Paul “Under-the-thumb” Browse’s success at the 9th World Thumb Wrestling Championship held at the Locks Inn at Gedleston in Norfolk last weekend. He beat Tom “Young Dumb and Full of Thumb” Wright from this year’s City of Culture, Hull, in a tense and thrilling final to retain his crown.

The sport is fairly simple. Competitors stick their thumb of choice through a hole in a wooden board which is decorated to resemble a wrestling ring. Elbows are to be firmly planted on the surface at all times. Contests last for two rounds of sixty seconds and the winner is the one who, in the referee’s opinion, has pinned their opponent’s thumb down for the length of time it takes to say “one, two, three, four, I win the thumb-o-war.” If there is no winner there is a sort of penalty shoot-out in th form of a sudden death game of scissors, paper and stone.

As well as locals competitors came from as far as America, Poland, Germany, Australia, India and South Africa to stand thumb to thumb with the champ. Several hundred spectators watched the fun and, I understand, that next year’s competition is to be streamed live to a worldwide audience.

The rule that fingernails are to be kept short does not deter the fairer sex and Becca ‘Thumby Thumbkenstein’ Anne from Gillingham in Norfolk won the Women’s Championship.

Hobby Of The Week (2)

I am firmly in the camp that views golf as a long walk spoiled, a comment falsely attributed to Mark Twain but which seems to have been first used in print by H S Scrivener in 1903. As a sport it is slightly counter-intuitive in that the worse you are, the longer it takes. Usually, in competitive sports if you are a complete duffer, you are able to get off the field of play in pretty short order.

I can just about tolerate miniature golf aka crazy golf but I am not as obsessive as Richard and Emily Gottfried, whose exploits came to my attention this week. They have visited and played 743 miniature golf courses, from Cornwall to Loch Lomond and aim to finish the lot – there are some 800 in total – over the next twelve months. The only worm cast on the green is that more seem to be opening up – there were only 600 when they started – making their self-imposed task even more difficult.

It all began, as it often does, at Southsea in Hampshire in 2006 when the couple played a pirate adventure golf course there. Richard won a free game, they returned the next day and they were hooked.

As Emily commented, it was a way of “getting out and about the country.” As someone who once visited all the football grounds in England and Scotland, I can empathise with that.

Sporting Event Of The Week (5)

When I’m in foreign parts I can sit for hours and admire the agility of chaps as they shin up coconut trees. Feet with rock hard skin, strong leg muscles and a head for heights seem to be the order of the day.

I was pleased to learn this week that George Iona from the Cook Islands has been proclaimed the first world champion coconut tree climber, scaling an eight metre tree in just 5.62 seconds, a hundreth of a second faster than the pre-competition favourite, Fiapa’i Ellio, from American Samoa. The event was held in the garden of the Tahiti Museum and the sixteen contestants had two attempts to post their best time.

The favoured method was to wear a loop of rough rope around the ankles to get a better grip on the tree’s trunk.

Now there’s an Olympic sport, if I ever saw one. No coconuts were disturbed during the competition which seems a bit of a shame – there is nothing like fresh coconut milk.

And the other World Championship that piqued my interest was the Snail Racing Championship held in Congham, Norfolk last weekend. The competition has been going since the 1960s and the gastropods are put in a circle and the one that reaches the perimeter the fastest is the winner. This year’s champ is Larry the Snail who reached the finishing post in 2 minutes 47 seconds, overcoming the challenge of Uslime Bolt, and getting its muscular foot on the trophy – a vase full of lettuce leaves (natch)!

Sporting Event Of The Week (4)

As our attention has been grabbed by matters Russian this week news reached me of an unusual sporting event held annually in the village of Krylovo in the Urals – hurling a cow pat the size of a dinner plate.

There seems to be two favoured methods of propelling the pat through the air, throwing it as though it was a discus or adopting a cricket-style overarm action.

This year’s winner, Alexander Evdokimov, set a new record, throwing his pat a massive 56 metres, although he was nearly robbed of his glory. Bad weather meant that this year’s crop of pats were not of the right consistency to chuck and the competition was only rescued because organisers were able to get their hands on a reserve supply from last year.

Let’s hope the weather improves in time for next year’s competition. I wonder if they’ve thought of a suitable target?!

Sporting Event Of The Week (3)

TOWT, aka my wife, and I occasionally spend a pleasant weekend in the environs of the beautiful village of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. I have noticed the locals walk with a strange gait and now I know the reason why. It is all down to the ancient sport of shin-kicking, the championship for which has been held on the adjacent Dover’s Hill since 1612.

The rules are quite simple. The contestants stick straw down their trouser legs and assault each other’s shins with gusto. The winner is the last person standing and it is thought to be a variant of Cotswold Wrestling.

Alas, I read this week, the 2017 games, scheduled for June 2nd, have just been cancelled. The organisers cite a number of reasons for the decision including dwindling attendances, a reduction in the number of contestants and increased ‘elf and safety requirements, all of which have contributed to a shortage of dosh to stage this year’s event. The organisers hope, however, that they will be able to stage the event again next year.

As the fates of all of us are in the hands of a group of Alpha males, I have a suggestion. They could all be invited to Chipping Campden and settle the world’s problems with a few bouts of shin-kicking. They could then retire to the excellent Eight Bells and sample some of Hook Norton’s finest. I offer this suggestion to you, Boris, free of charge. Let’s see if you can make a mess of that.

The world would be a safer place and one of England’s finest traditions would be restored. What’s not to like?

Bull Of The Week

Not being a fan of bull fighting, I always raise my montera when I hear of a bull getting its own back. A bull in Mexico City called Caporal certainly got its revenge and I’m sure it was sweet, if a  story I came across last week is true.

Matador, Antonio Romero, was in the ring with the bull, doing his stuff, annoying the hell out of the beast and trying to get it to turn around. Caporal decided enough was enough, caught the matador on the arm, knocking him off balance and proceeded to ram one of his eleven inch horns up Romero’s fundament. According to medics, the horn destroyed Romero’s anal sphincter and very seriously damaged his rectum.

Romero was rescued and is recovering in hospital. There is no truth in the rumour that he is considering giving up being a matador because he finds it a pain in the arse.

As for Caporal, he lives to fight another day.

I Predict A Riot – Part Twenty One

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The Disco Demolition Riot – July 1979

As an Englishman I find the attractions of baseball mystifying. It is a glorified game of rounders that is tedious in the extreme, punctuated only by the cheesy seventh innings stretch. And because of the American fetish with finding a winner – draws are not in their national psyche – if there isn’t a victor at the end of nine innings, it goes on interminably until someone has an advantage. I may have been unlucky with the baseball games I have seen live but this seems a regular occurrence. And they say cricket is boring!

As far as music went, the 1970s was a mix of the very good and the downright awful. Firmly in the latter camp was disco music, something that drove me to distraction and dissipated all of my natural bonhomie. It seemed that there were many at the time who shared my views. So what could possibly go wrong if you mixed a deadly dull game like baseball with a marmite-like genre such as disco music? The events at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12th 1979, that’s what.

For the double header between the local team, the White Sox, and Detroit Tigers the promoters offered entry at a bargain price of $0.98 if you brought and handed in a disco record. At the interval between the games, local DJ, Steve Dahl, an arch-critic of disco music who had recently been fired from WDAI-FM when it switched to become an all disco station, would blow up the records using fireworks. The promotion for the so-called Disco Demolition night worked well with an official attendance of 59,000 and a further 15,000 milling around outside the stadium. According to some reports, the air was heavy with the sweet smell of marijuana.

The White Sox lost the first game 4-1 and with due ceremony a crate full of the offending disco records was wheeled into view. Dahl blew them up to smithereens, creating a small crater in the outfield. The playing area was not guarded and a large section of the crowd – some estimates put the numbers at between five and seven thousand – ran on to the grass, forcing the White Sox team, limbering up for the second game to fell to the relative safety of the clubhouse. The ground was trashed, the batting cage overturned, base poles stolen and vinyl records were thrown like Frisbees or burnt. A large bonfire was lit on the centre of the pitch.

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Appeals for calm went unheeded and at 9.08 pm the Chicago cops in full riot gear appeared on the scene. The rioters quickly dispersed, although 39 not quickly enough as they had their collars felt and charged with disorderly conduct. The ground was so badly damaged – the field resembled “a grassy moonscape” – that the second game was abandoned and awarded 9-0 to the Tigers.

And the aftermath? The owner of the White Sox, Bill Veek, sold them the following year and his son, Mike, was unable to get a job in baseball for some time, claiming he had been blackballed because of the incident. Disco music soon waned in popularity shortly after the riot, with record companies rebadging the stuff as dance music. Dahl claimed in an interview some time later that the Disco demolition Night “hastened its demise”. For Dahl, this was the end of his anti-disco rallies but it shot him to national fame, becoming a radio superstar in the windy city.

It would never have happened at Lord’s!

Website Of The Week

For some stroking a cat is immensely comforting. For me there is nothing better than blowing a trumpet through someone’s immaculately coiffeured hair. Thanks to TrumpDonald.org for this.

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Placard of the Week (2)

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Error of the Week (3)

Two things about half-marathons never fail to surprise me. Firstly, that the organisers can’t measure the course correctly and secondly, that those who participate complain when they get it wrong. I would have thought a reduction in the distance to be run would be welcome.

Well, I read this week, it has happened again. The red-faced organisers of the Great Scottish Run, held in Glasgow last October, have now admitted that “due to human error”  the course was some 149.7 metres short. A right stushie has broken out with people’s records and personal best times rescinded and competitors demanding their entrance money back – £33 a time. Surely, at best the fee should be pro-rated.

Some people are never satisfied. At least they got to the pub sooner for a well earned dram.

What Is The Origin Of (112)?…

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Off his own bat

Writing this post in early January the opportunity to hear the sound of leather striking willow seems a distant prospect. The game of cricket is a wonderful sport and the elongated form – I have no truck for the modern variant of T20 – is a perfect way to while away a day, in convivial company with a glass of something in your hand. You may even be lucky to have the sun shining.

For those living in countries which were unfortunate enough not to experience the (ahem) civilising influences of the British Empire, cricket can seem a bit of a mystery. It has a set of rules which can seem arcane – leg before wicket is a form of dismissal which provokes controversy amongst even the most seasoned practitioners – and a bizarre glossary of terms.

Fielding positions include mid on which is an abbreviation of middle wicket on, silly mid on where silly has the archaic definition of defenceless – it is a dangerous position – slips who wait for a slip from the bat and a third man, so called because when over arm bowling was introduced the position supplemented the existing positions of slip and point. The position of gully is so named because it fills in the gap between slip and point. A bowler achieves a maiden over when they have sent down six balls which have not been scored from and so from the batting side’s perspective is unproductive as, perhaps, maidens were seen in days of yore.

In essence, the principal objective of the team fielding is to dismiss ten of the opposition’s eleven batsmen as quickly as possible and of the team batting to score as many runs as they can before the fielding team achieve their goal. There are a number of ways in which the batting team can score runs, through a variety of extras such as byes and leg byes, wides and no balls, but the majority of the runs are compiled by the batsmen standing at the crease – so called because in the early days of the game a furrow or crease was cut into the ground to show him where to stand – and hitting the ball with their bat.

Our phrase today is used figuratively to convey the sense that someone has done something through their own efforts. It owes its origins, though, to the noble game of cricket and was used to refer to runs, or notches as they were quaintly termed in the 18th century, accumulated through the batsman’s own endeavours. The first citation is to be found in Henry Waghorn’s Cricket Scores of 1742, “the bets on the Slendon man’s head that he got 40 notches off his own bat were lost”.  No match fixing there, then. It was not used figuratively until 1845 when the Reverend Sydney Smith wrote in Fragments on Irish Affairs, “but [I] suppose he had no revenues but what he got off his own bat”.

One of the mysteries of cricket is how it was invented in a country where the weather can be so variable. In the old days when pitches were uncovered and ground maintenance had not reached today’s peak, a prolonged bout of rain could make the pitch very treacherous for batting. The term used to describe such a pitch was a sticky wicket which was used in July 1882 in Bell’s Life In London to describe the Australian tourists’ predicament. “the ground.. was suffering from the effects of recent rain, and once more the Australians found themselves on a sticky wicket.” The phrase is now used figuratively to describe any sort of difficult predicament.

Summer won’t be too far away.