Saturday, February 02, 2008
I have never attended an Olympics, a World Cup or a Super Bowl.
In fact, until today I had never attended a World Championship
of any kind. Today I attended the 2008 World Croquet Championship.
Yes, an exciting event. Being held in six different venues, I
made my way over to The United Croquet Club in nearby Hagley Park.
I suddenly felt my middle class upbringing become very evident
as I was one of the few there that wasn't wearing all white
(Think tennis courts in the 1920's) but several older folks
(the average spectator age seemed to be hovering above 80) made
me feel very comfortable and even asked me where my unique accent
brought me from (At first they thought I was Irish!). One man
even asked me what my connection was to the game being played on
the field today. None...just an interested spectator with a short
history of playing the game myself. I didn't tell him that the
"American" version I grew up with hardly resembled this version...
Let's turn on the way back machine. There has been many a
blood-thirsty croquet battle on the lawn of Pat and Ted Hamann
in Indiana. Nothing like sending your brother or brother-in-law's
ball across the street or driveway with a well aimed shot. In
addition to the rabid fanaticism that prevailed, it was far from
a gentleman's game, played on a yard roughly half the size of a
football field. We played for keeps. THIS was croquet! One of
the few things I hope to inherit from my parents is their croquet
set. I come from a dedicated line of croquet players, albeit that
with a short tradition.
However...this was NOT the croquet I was to see today. The
wickets are different...very narrow. Not bent clothes hangers
being used to replace long-lost wickets that have long ago rusted
into the earth or run over with a lawn mower. Only two competitors
playing at a time, instead of up to 6. Only 2? How can this be?
No ganging up on weaker competitors like sisters that seem "afraid"
to hit the ball. And two balls being used at the same time by one
player? Communism I tell you!
Despite the differences, I did manage to have a good time. There
was seating for up to 200 (so I read), but there must have been
two dozen spectators, if that many and I'm convinced most of those
were relatives of the players. I looked over the bylaws and there
are actually rules against doping and the threat of random tests
were being held over the competitor's heads. Doping? In Croquet?
What would be the benefit of that? Not a lot of benefit to have
biceps the size of tree trunks or be much swifter than your opponent.
I'm not even going to think about the testing process.
The action of course was riveting, but if you were truly bored, the
United Croquet Club shares premises with the Bowls club. That's
a whole other story for another time. But speaking of stories,
my favorite Croquet story (what...you don't have a favorite croquet
story???) is that our friend Debbie from Vermont once played
croquet with Katherine Hepburn. So to this day, whenever I see
the Hepburn clan playing croquet in the movie, "The Aviator" I think
of that brush with fame Debbie had. But I digress...
I left the field after about an hour. I mean, how much excitement
can one handle? But I left the honourable field with a sense of
accomplishment. You know those lists of 1000 things to do before
you die? Well, I'm sure that very few of those lists include
attending a World Croquet Championship. But if they did, I'd
only have 999 more things left to accomplish!
Posted by Tom Hamann at 3:36 AM