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Grand Stand Against Sport
Jess Wynne


When it comes to sport I am not particularly interested. Generally speaking, I look upon them as dangerous and tiring activities performed by people with whom I share nothing except the right to trial by jury. (Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life, 1978.)

With the brief to find an angle on the issue of sport, I enlisted the assistance of my most valuable and informative sources. ‘Get your boyfriend to write it, he’s a boy’ offered my mother (perceptive and accurate as ever). Boyfriend in question looked alarmed and asserted "I’m not going to talk about sport, it's bloody pointless".

So how true is this statement? Sport to me is epitomised by the action of leaving the room after my father has entered with the intention of switching on rugby or cricket. Sundays are inextricably linked with the migraine inducing sounds of Formula One (sorry God). My dad would announce, to anyone who looked like they might be vaguely listening, before each race that ‘this was going to be a really good one’ . And he was always wrong; every race was the perfect dictionary definition of monotony. Except of course when drivers were involved in horrific crashes – hardly something to wish for and not particularly frequent anyway. Perhaps they could spice it up a bit…well probably not, forget that, I’m boring myself just writing about it.

I’m on no mission to abolish sport. As a small child I was desperate to be an ice skater. Gracefully, I would pirouette, spin and glide, reaching a grand finale via tripping over furniture or stubbing my toe. The sitting room of a small one bedroom flat is no substitute for an ice rink. I bet Torvill and Dean never had to perform in such deprived circumstances. At ten I achieved my dream to ice skate; the experience was thoroughly disillusioning. I had all the co-ordination and grace of a camel and, worse still, the skating boots that I loaned were a scuffed, dull brown. With hindsight I realise that my attraction to this sport had little to do with admiration of athleticism and skill and more to do with an overwhelming desire for those dazzling white skates.

Nowadays I prefer to watch the gymnastics. This is in part a masochistic ritual. However much I might desire the capacity to perform these stunning feats of athleticism, I am intensely aware that I am too old and too heavy. This is what I find most disturbing about sport. If I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer or a Wimbledon champion, then I couldn’t be. Twenty-one years old and past it. Depressing and highly annoying. So I shroud my envy in pithy comments and outrage. God, look at all those little Romanians – that can not be a natural shape for a woman … she looks twelve years old? She’s thirty-seven! Look at the shadows under her eyes… I reckon they keep them in captivity with no food and water, somersaulting day and night…no wonder she’s smiling, she’s bloody relieved to be out of Romania…no wonder they cry so much after taking a tiny step backwards when landing a quadruple half-twist, double flip somersault… I fool myself. Well almost.

But of course all this is not ‘proper sport’. Look at the system for judging ice dancing for instance; it is basically dependent on the prejudices and bias of the nations involved in awarding points. It’s all subjective the (male) sports enthusiasts in my household would say scornfully, it’s not fair, it’s not cricket…

Ah cricket, a game named after a small, green, springy insect and scarcely more engaging.

Cricket is a game which the British, not being a spiritual people, had to invent in order to have some concept of eternity. ( Lord Mancroft.)

Nuff said really. Then there is golf, or as Mark Twain so perceptively put it ‘a good walk spoilt’, another sport that could be enlivened with… say the presence of ferocious, hungry, wild animals. Let several tigers loose and see who manages a hole-in-one before being savaged. After all, extreme sports are very fashionable at the moment.

In general therefore, its not the existence of sport that bothers me but how seriously it is taken by those involved. Ever actually read the sport section of The Times – better than Nytol I assure you. And I won’t even begin to discuss football hooliganism. Sport seems to impinge on everything. For example it is the natural enemy of the sci fi fan. Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (insert name of programme that is one of the few you might actually consider worthwhile paying your licence for) ‘ will not be back for a fortnight, instead viewers a wonderful treat – live uninterrupted snooker coverage’. Snooker – a sport best performed under the influence of large quantities of alcohol allowing the game to progress with the participants oblivious to the fact that the second ball potted was the black…Oh that’s pool is it. Well never mind, same principle. Would provide more compulsive viewing actually.

Maybe what I’m trying to impart is the idea that there is no point watching sport. Get out and play it you lazy sods. Even I can see the benefits…Unless it kills you. This is quite common apparently, I had a teacher who had three friends killed abseiling, three potholing and three rock climbing. However, this might prove nothing other than the obvious dangers of befriending a Welsh humanities teacher. Oh and there is the issue of the violence, injustice and jealousy inherent in sport. Basically sport is fine and lovely if it is in no way competitive. As with many faced with the British educational system I was traumatised by my early involvement with sport – in the form of P.E. Nevertheless I did fall prey to its attractions in various forms. It was everywhere. It was the peer pressure. Everyone was trying it. My friends told me it would make me feel great. So I tried horseriding – dangerous, addictive, a costly habit. I did all that up, down, up, down, trotting in circles with my hands on my head which is compulsory in all English riding establishments. I attempted both showjumping and cross country in an uncontrolled and precarious manner. Now however I find myself very much aware of the fragility of the human form – why try to control and interact with an animal with such a strong flight instinct? Better off riding animals of prey such as tigers; just remember to aim them straight for golfers and don’t fall off at the teeth end.

So then sport – more dangerous, dirty and debilitating then sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Why bother?


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