Sunday, July 13, 2008
Jousting Boats and Sport
These are jousting boats.
I never knew such a sport existed, yet here it is in Cognac with a tournament of 8 boats and it is a very nice, relaxed affair. All the crews are having a great time, splashing about, winning some, losing others. There is a beer tent and a public address – so everything is as it should be.
The great thing about it is that it is fun and in the best sense it is amateur. You can see from the photo below that some of the rowing is, to say the least ragged. But somehow this is the whole point. And if it became too slick and professional it would probably become dull. As it is it is pure sport.
There are two types of sport. The first and the type that dominates far too much of the nations attention is professional sport, where the aim is absolute excellence. Everything that can be done to gain a victory is done and the sportsmen are identified from an early age, selected as being the best, then coached, trained, protected, and, mostly, paid extravagantly. These people are separate from us in so many ways, the only role we have is as spectator and supporter. We can look-on and applaud but don't know in our bones what it feels like to run so fast or hit a ball so well.
The second type of sport is truly amateur and is for everybody else. All of us who have other lives, other jobs, other responsibilities but who need to be physically active and participate in something despite not having any great talent. It is this sort of sport that is closest to my heart, and it allows me to call myself a runner. It is also helps you understand yourself better and gives you the perspective to recognise the distance between desires and achievements. It is good for your body and your mind.
Also, and this is most important, I reckon that most true sports are rooted somehow in the pub. I can imagine a bar session that had reached the stage of stupid ideas when someone said “ I bet we could joust with boats. They would then all join in and draw up the spec for the type of row boat, platform lance etc. until they had a silly but practicable plan. Well that's how I like to imagine it. (I would be really disappointed if the idea came out of a business meeting in the tourist office or from the PR department of one of the Cognac houses). It's also how I like to imagine the genesis of some of our odder running events. Surely you have to be a tiny bit tipsy to think that running between Birmingham and London, along the canal, is a good idea.
That's another characteristic of the second type of sport – it has elements of fantasy, imagination and fellowship. I don't see too much of those things in professional sport, it is all far too serious.