May 31, 2006


Croquet's dark side (BBC Magazine, 5/30/06)

The angry press coverage of John Prescott's game of croquet puts the spotlight on a game struggling with its identity.

Some of the coverage of the deputy prime minister's distinctive choice in recreation has centred on its reputation as a sport for toffs, juxtaposing this with the working class origins of the former ship steward and MP for Hull East.

But as much as the world of croquet is fighting hard to shed its image as a sport of the posh, there is a darker side to the stereotyping of the hoops-and-mallets game, a belief that it is a uniquely "vicious" pastime.

One correspondent to the Daily Telegraph describes it as "one of the most self-serving, unsporting games ever played, requiring ruthless meanness and ungenerosity of spirit towards one's opponents".

Another correspondent, in the Times, recalls an episode where the Archdeacon of Oakham was quite insistent that it was "a vicious game".

For the uninitiated observer there is no escaping the observation that a major part of the game seems to involve bashing other people's balls off the pitch.

And they don't even play beer croquet over there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2006 10:05 AM

Funny that this takes me back to youth.

We had a croquet set, which, being five boys, the game naturally morphed into "Killer Croquet", no wickets or anything, just one turn at a time trying to knock your own ball perfectly against another's. If you suceeded in leaving the balls touching, you then got the oportunity to jam your foot down onto your own ball, holding it in place, and then wallop it as hard as humanly possible (without breaking your foot), John Henry style, thus sending your opponents ball, many times fully airborne, sailing out into the neighborhood, sometimes multiple houses down the gutter.

Of course, if you went for his ball and bounced off, or wound up an inch away, he is now one inch away from sending YOU out into the boonies, hence the challenge.

That's it, the game entirely.

Fond memories that seemed rather relevant here.

ANd BTW, about a million times superior to any possible video game.

Posted by: Andrew X at May 31, 2006 11:23 AM

Croquet wouldn't be nearly as hard on Barry Bonds' knees and apparently his personality would fit in rather nicely here.

Posted by: John at May 31, 2006 12:49 PM

I've not played much croquet. The temptation to use those mallets in ways that are not defined by the rules is overwhelming.

Posted by: Brandon at May 31, 2006 12:56 PM

Same with Jarts.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 1:01 PM

I've been meaning to plug Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. It will not be everyone's cup of tea, seeing as England's national sport in the books is croquet, rather than soccer.

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