It’s the season for discovering new things about sports you know nothing about – or not, as in the case of dressage, the only Olympic sport dominated by Gloucestershire, and about which we all remain in the dark, unable to actually tell what makes for a 90% score rather than an 80%. In diving, we all know to look for the splash; in dressage, is it too much sand being kicked up by the hooves?
In this post-Olympics spirit of trying out new things, to watch obviously, on Friday I went to my first ever rugby league match. At St Helens, no less. A very balmy evening. In a hot August night sort of way. Not barmy. I have no attachment whatsoever to rugby, one way or the other, and was struck not so much by the difference between the two codes, as much as the difference between this contemporary version and the remembered version from the 1970s that you used to see on Grandstand. An altogether leaner game, it seems. And not a flat cap in sight.
On the theme of the cultural differences that sport draws into view, there is a profile of Imran Khan in The New Yorker, one of those regular pieces that wonder whether he is likely to ever get to exercise significant political power in Pakistan. Amongst other things, the piece has to negotiate Imran’s status as ex-crickter for its presumed American audience, inevitably groping for an appropriate baseball reference point. That shouldn’t be that difficult, really. But Imran ends up being described as having once been a “hard thrower”, a description also used in relation to Sarfraz Nawaz. Oops. This couldn’t be more wrong, could it? Technically, throwing in cricket is cheating. What ever happened to The New Yorkers’ famous fact-checking?
Anyway, enough of this, back to work.