The Lighter Side
June 4 2019
I was told recently that a current English Football League manager I know does not want his son to go into professional sport. It’s a shame that the pressures he faces up to could result in his son missing out on a dream career and it got me thinking about how much fun it really might not be for some of the players and coaches we comment about on a weekly basis. I never played rugby after school. Basically I was rubbish and hated being rubbish so naturally played the only sport I showed any talent at – cricket.
I see today’s top cricketers and whilst marvelling at the skill levels, I do not envy their lifestyle. Constantly travelling, long tours away, 4 or 5 day games. It is no surprise to me that many are turning to, and specialising in, the white ball game as the rewards are higher, the games and tours generally shorter. With the latest technology, the TV cameras can show every success and failure in ever more detail and slower motion, techniques are dissected in high definition.
All I did was play typically 45 overs a side, somewhere around the upper divisions of the Wiltshire League for most of my playing days of 30 years, watched by a man with a dog. We took it very seriously on a Saturday and enjoyed getting a mention maybe in the weekly paper. Invariably whatever the result we still enjoyed the sport for what it was and had some great laughs and team spirit along the way.
In the same way that sportsmen at after dinner speeches recall their tales, it is no surprise that the games I remember best are not necessarily the big wins and promotion seasons but the games with a funny twist. If I could pick one out it would be going back around 10 years ago. Picture the scene, an idyllic sunny Sunday, the middle of summer. The friendly match was away to a team on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, a popular fixture in a great location that attracted many of the Saturday league die-hards who might not usually play twice in a weekend. The opposition were a good team and enjoyed an after match BBQ.
I remember about an hour into the game I was brought on to bowl. I seemed in good rhythm and after a few overs of defensive batting the skipper decided to put some pressure on. ‘Neil, come in close on the catch please’.
Now, Neil (we’ll call him that as it is his real name) had a great sense of humour and always kept us entertained, but he didn’t seem all that keen on being close to the bat, he had seen me bowl before…. He wandered in slowly, eventually he was cajoled into position by the smiling skipper.
Sure enough the inevitable happened. Within a few balls, I had succumbed to the pressure and delivered a horrible full toss on leg stump. The batsman took the opportunity and made a huge swing, connecting perfectly with the sweet spot of the bat, the sound of leather on willow echoing off the nearby trees.
Unfortunately for Neil, 3 yards away, the next sound we heard was that of leather on flesh and bone as the ball, travelling at vast speed, hit him a nasty blow on the thigh.
Of course, we laughed. A lot. Neil didn’t, he yelped and groaned, then muttered something I can’t repeat about my parentage.
The ball flew into the air whilst Neil collapsed to the ground. The batsman, a bit miffed at missing out on a boundary, called for 2 runs. Enter stage right our best fielder – Ian. Now Ian is a big chap, tall, broad shoulders, in rugby terms, probably sized as a blind side flanker. He took his cricket seriously and charged around the boundary looking for a run out. The batsmen hesitated mid-wicket, Ian picket up the ball near the boundary and hurled a bullet throw at the stumps.
As our eyes followed the trajectory of the ball towards the wicket keeper, our attention was drawn to Neil who had now started crawling away, face down from where he had fallen. ‘Look out Neil!’ came the shout…. Too late. Before he could react the ball had hit Neil full on again, this time in the small of the back and worse, this time from friendly fire.
Everyone was in hysterical laughter apart from poor Neil. He got no sympathy whatsoever as we blamed him for missing the impossible catch and then preventing the run out, this would surely mean a club fine. We tried to stop laughing and continue the game but I found I could not bowl whilst laughing, it was like trying to keep your eyes open whilst sneezing.
Eventually the match continued. Around 10 minutes later, the only evidence was Neil’s repeated cursing. I then noticed at the end of the ground a car had poked its nose into the entrance off the leafy lane. Between overs, the driver who I would say resembled a retired civil servant (no offence anyone),took his chance to drive around the outfield to park up with no play in progress. We could all see why he did not want to take any risks, his big Rover saloon car was immaculate, the sunshine gleaming off every surface. We could picture his plan for the day; wash and polish the car in the morning, Sunday lunch, then off to watch a bit of local cricket. Perfect. What could possibly go wrong?
He drove carefully around the ground perimeter attracting admiring glances from the pavilion but he did not stop there. No, he had a better idea. To avoid the chance of the ball damaging his car (had he seen me bowl too?) he drove off to the furthest corner of the ground, maybe 100 metres from the boundary edge. He was taking no chances with hard cricket balls, no sir. Smart thinking.
As I ran up to bowl the first ball of the next over there was the unmistakable sound in the far distance of breaking glass and a heavy crunching sound. I stopped, we all looked over to the shiny car in the very long, uncut grass.
Unknown to the unfortunate driver, some rusty old gang mowers had long since been abandoned in the corner of the ground and overgrown by grass and nettles. Our unsuspecting gent had inadvertently wrecked his car whilst doing his very best to look after it.
So, whilst Neil nursed his bruises (sorry Neil) and the dismayed driver pieced together the remains of his broken fog lights and number plate, another Sunday friendly was played out in the summer sun. Great memories.
I am sure you all have (better) funny stories to tell from your amateur club days as an antidote to the strains of professional sport. I am guessing a few might involve Deep Heat or hair remover. Please tell them here, make us all laugh and add to our Sports Network income. Thanks.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:06:15:08:56:33 by CoochieCoo.
My own amusing sporting memory does indeed involve Deep Heat (or at least it’s hotter, sharper competitor –Ralgex).
Captaining a school team on a cold day, I decided to follow a tip from our coach, an experienced player who had graced some excellent teams. As there was frost on the ground and freezing fog gathering (a lot less concern about health & safety in those days), he suggested warming the hands with Ralgex to avoid “wooden fingers” and inevitable handling errors.
So- as we warmed up in the changing room I did as prompted.
“OK lads. It’s cold out there but we are going to catch the opposition cold and attack from the start. Everybody give their hands a good coating of Ralgex so we are all warm and ready to go. Wingers- you may have to wait a bit for a pass, so apply a double dose.”
So far, so good. Except that, after my rousing call to arms, the left winger (who was to go on to a highly successful business career, including CEO of 2 media companies) decided to go for a leak just before the match- without washing his hands first.
The mishap had us all in stitches and did wonders for his speed, but none for his concentration!
As usual we managed to combine this with St Patricks day, and so joined in the festivities at the local ex hotel (it gave up its hotel status after some miserable btds wrote unfavourable (but possibly technically correct) reviews about it on TripAdvisor). Imagine scenes of debauchery, as this wildwest outpost celebrated in the way only wildwestern outposts can. Alcohol consumed by the gallon (with shotts), mad psychotic twins prowling around the dance floor, Longhaired frenchmen insisting on dancing with all of us, shirts whirled around overhead ripping the 'chandeliers' from the ceiling, boy/girl interactions all the way to the washrooms, etc, etc. We rather kept to ourselves - being somewhat overwhelmed. After a bit we decided to launch into sunshine mountain (a mild, happy, song without a single rude word or action - so far as I'm aware). As we climbed onto the chairs the landlord roared at us to get down or we'd be permanently banned from the bar. Dutifully, we got back down and pondered the unfairness as we looked at the Islay revellers. Clearly you don't mess with your local clientele - especially on Islay.
Ohh happy days - although the yen to run out again hasn't come back yet. Maybe I've grown up?
Anybody else got a tale of playing in remote/outlandish locations?
Or of an amusing tour incident?
I can't comment on the driver of the battered Rover but suspect he became a big fan of Halfords spare parts department (other outlets are available).
The game started with mist, mizzle and mud aplenty with absolutely no skill, ability or commitment from the two sides until our fly half hoisted a Garryowen into the riverside end and found the only pebble in the mud bath and bounced straight into the reedy quagmire by the river with a plop
Needless to say, the experienced home side weren’t going to fetch the ball and so the arguing began until our openside flanker, a forward with just enough intelligence to be impatient, marched into the quagmire to fetch the ball. Knee deep in the mud he hoisted the ball in triumph, swore and promptly fell face flat in the mud as he tried to return and lo our very own Fran Cotton emerged screaming he was stuck.
His concerned teammates took immediate action by laughing themselves senseless and eventually formed a three man human chain to fish Fran out and lo Fran had a twin as the first man in met the same fate. Needless to say human chain members two and three immediately let go and saved themselves whilst the two Frans eventually extricated themselves. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to a game being called off for mud or twenty seven players rendered incapable due to paroxysms of laughter. For years after they were known as the Frans…
If ever there was a symbol of the change in rugby that is it. Modern players even in deepest winter barely get their knees dirty........because pitches are always in such good condition.
I guess a lot of us have experienced those days before mobile phones when we would set off to an away fixture in a convoy of 6 cars and only 3 would arrive..... Satnav? Just a dream.
We once played a team in West London and hired a coach for the day. On the way home the driver was getting very annoyed at the antics of some of the drinkers. When they insisted on a P stop on the M4 hard shoulder, shielded by the coach, the driver waited until they were in full flow then drove off much to the entertainment of the passing motorists.
We had a game where the match was stopped whilst a parachutist landed in the middle of the pitch. He refused to tell us where he had come from whilst he re packed the chute and just wandered off.
Another where freak weather meant bizarre low fog covered the pitch to hip height. The game had to be stopped but as the players walked off one of the players 3 year old children ran on to the pitch but got lost in the fog and the players went back on to help find him.