The Top Three Stupid Sports
The Top Three Stupid Sports
I like my sport as much as the next guy. But not stupid sports. In my book, stupid sports are the ones you'd never play or watch from choice, but have to suffer on free-to-air satellite TV in so-called 'sports bars'. Sports with no merit whatsoever save for the ability to distract and irritate.
In Third Place - Freestyle BMX
Bicycles are great. For 150 years they have given freedom, mobility and health to literally billions of people worldwide. Within 20 years of its first appearance, the bicycle had evolved, through experimentation and applied science, into an almost perfect extension of the human body. It was scaled to the human frame, with shoulder-width handlebars, a step-over or step-through frame and 27-inch wheels. For the next hundred years, improvements in road bikes were spawned from bicycle racing's constant search for strength and lightness in materials, but the basic proportions were unchanged because they were already perfect.
About 100 years into its evolution, motor traffic had 'evolved' to become such a threat to the cyclist that a new breed of bicycle, the mountain bike, began to appear, allowing the leisure cyclist to go off road. Mountain bikes, too, are human machines. The wheels are smaller and stronger, the bottom bracket higher, the bars wider, and the frame incorporates suspension. But these are all rational optimizations of a perfect machine for a specific environment. The mountain bike is not meant as an improvement for normal road riding.
So, what about the BMX? Well, sorry guys, but it's a kids' bike. It was designed to appeal to the 10 to 13 age bracket. It is proportioned to the smaller body. In fact, the BMX is a good kids' bike - safe, efficient and adaptable, unlike its short-lived predecessor, the fatuous Chopper machine. But there's something ridiculous, almost pathetic, in the spectacle of a grown man, often a superb athlete, perched on his silly toy and performing circus tricks in a purpose built arena, supposedly in the name of sport. Come on lads. If you think you can cycle, buy a proper bike and let's see if you can hack it with the big boys in the Alps or Pyrenees.
In Second Place - WWE Wrestling
Wrestling is an ancient sport. It featured in the original Olympiad, which was a celebration of the grace, strength, speed and beauty of the human body. But even before that, it's impossible to imagine a time or place when fit young men did not compete in spontaneous friendly wrestling of one form or another. It is natural and entirely healthy. 'Wrestling' is even pre-human and has been part of animal behaviour since earliest times.
Unfortunately, when wrestling ceases to be a natural expression of the joy of life and becomes a professional sport, always the rot sets in. In the nature of wrestling, it helps to be heavy. So we soon find our athletes sidelined by the monsters. Japanese Sumo is a case in point. These guys are huge. Strong and quick, yes, but grossly fat too. On the other hand, in its favour, Sumo is more than a sport. It is an ancient cultural heritage, deeply Japanese, and almost impenetrable to the Western mind in its subtlety and sophistication. And, it's real. When these giants throw the rice and step across the rope, the competition is 100% honest. They wrestle, according to their rules, until the best man wins.
Where does that leave WWE? Firmly in the nursery. It is infantile, hideous and monumentally stupid. The pretence that it is in any way real is an insult to the intelligence of the viewer. And there's the key word - viewer. It is not a sport; it is a TV freak show. It was created by, and exists for, TV and TV alone. An apotheosis of bad taste, spandex and anabolic steroids, this latter-day mock-coliseum caters to the lowest common denominator in society. Its very existence degrades us all.
In First Place - 20-20 Cricket
I love cricket. I played for years and still enjoy watching and following the game. But cricket comes in many forms. Top of the tree is the test match, or more accurately the test series. For the benefit of non cricket fans, a test series, say England versus Australia, comprises five matches, each lasting five days, and played over the course of a summer. It is not a fast game. It's a game of strategy and developing situations. It is a fascination, not a spectacle. The changing weather and the developing state of the pitch are as much 'players' in the unfolding drama as the 15 men on the field. (11 fielding, 2 batting, 2 umpires).
More recently, to suit faster modern lifestyles and, it must be said, the TV audience, a shorter version of the game has emerged, the One Day International, or ODI. Purists argue, with reason, that the ODI has lost some of the traditional skills of the longer game. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of room for finesse. There is still time to build an innings. There is still a place for all bowling styles. Intelligent captaincy still plays a big part. And, in its favour, the ODI has brought about a marked improvement in fielding skills and the general athleticism of the game. On balance then, the ODI has been a movement for good and, in making possible the wonderful Cricket World Cup, could even have a claim to have salvaged the sport from obscurity.
BUT, we now have a new kid on the block, the 20-20 game, that lasts only a few miserable hours. This is a mockery of cricket. The bastard child of TV and sponsorship with no care for the sport beneath. It reduces the game to a mere slogging match. Everything about it is ugly, from the garish garb to the childish team names (Hyderabad Heroes??), to the aggressive batting stance. Perhaps it is less hideous than WWE Wrestling, less pointless than Freestyle BMX. Nevertheless I still place 20-20 Cricket top of my list of Stupid Sports for the disservice it has done to the world's greatest game.
Postscript - China has included BMX in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. But I'm unrepentant and stand by my position. After all, synchronised swimming is also an Olympic sport!