Pole Vaulting And Other Fun And Games
A confession of my intellectual inferiority in the form of a Boar column about sports.
Not long back, in the grip of essay fever, I fled from my spreadsheet of Georgian murder trials in search of some relief. It was in short supply being a Sunday night, and so I was drawn by powerful forces (my American coursemate) to watch Superbowl with said coursemate promising to explain the many and varied rules of the sport. To be honest I’m still not entirely sure what the rules to American football are, although it seems to involve most of the rules of rugby combined with most of the rules of chess, only I couldn’t see any horses on the pitch and no one turned into a queen when they reached the end of the board. It was complex, and when it’s 1.30am and you’ve spent the day wrestling with homicidal Cockney animosity in 1718, grasping difficult and new concepts is rather more than a mind can cope with. Well, more than my mind can cope with anyway.
Essentially I’m a moron. Ok, may not a moron, but certainly intellectually rather lazy. I like my sport simple. Even (proper) football, my beloved preferred way of acquiring more bruises and sprains, has one too many rules, and this is taking into account that one of the laws of football can be summed up by nine words – “tuck your shirt in and pull your socks up”. Whilst I can explain the offside rule I cannot remember if you are allowed to score direct from a throw in. And I’m not entirely sure what constitutes a professional, instant red card foul, except for the nagging feeling in my stomach that I’ve probably committed a few in my time and that it’s a miracle I’ve not been sent off. Maybe the refs know I’m a bit of a moron (there’s certainly a consensus amongst some that to be a goalkeeper, like I am, you’d have to be) and are going easy on the girl in the neon goalie shirt who was once charmingly described by some opposition substitutes as “mental, actually fucking mental”. I would have taken it as a compliment but I’d been kicked in the head by one of their forwards and wasn’t really mentally all there.
In theory athletics is the easiest sport to understand. Whoever runs fastest or jumps furthest wins. But that’s a little too simple. See, as much as I like things to not be complicated, I also demand at least a modicum of excitement. The 100m is exciting once. Watch anymore than one race in a day and you just end up thinking “So what? They’re running in a straight line. Where’s the adventure?”. The answer is probably mere metres away at the pole vault. I love watching pole vault. I really could watch it all day. It’s so strange. You can understand the human desire to see who can run the fastest, or jump the highest, but at what evolutionary stage did we acquire an innate desire to see how far a human can fling themselves using only a very breakable pole? It’s the constant risk that the pole will break and send the poor human flying arse over tit which makes it so exciting.
And yet for years women weren’t allowed to pole vault! It took 80 years from the first official men’s pole vault world record before there was a women’s official pole vault record. The 2000 Olympics were the first to allow female pole vaulters. It’s odd to think that even as late as the 1990s there were people in this world who wanted to deny women the chance to land on their heads clutching nothing more than a broken fibreglass stick and the shreds of their dignity. I suppose we’ll never achieve equality in this world until we are willing to allow all members of society to make complete tits of themselves in front of their peers. Now I must go as I have to deliver some fibreglass sticks to George W Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If ever there were two people who I want to see land on their heads it’s them…