March 17th 2013 | Comments

Ten Sports for Gentlemen

The world of sport is fraught with danger for the gentleman. Not the danger of injury or certain death, but that of playing the wrong sport. Once everybody knows you spend Thursday evenings down the local sports centre playing Badminton, no amount of sexist banter about playing partners in mini-skirts will save you, my friend.

To this end, we have compiled a listed of the ten sports approved by the National Association of Gentlemen, the gentlemen’s national association we just made up:

1. Cricket
Cricket is not a sport, more of a life choice. There’s equipment to maintain, choosing whether you bat or bowl, then what kind of bowler you are, the entire social aspect, the cut-and-thrust of political intrigues. To outsiders and wives, it is just middle-aged men throwing a ball about the village green. THEY ARE WRONG. In fact, cricket is so complex to the uninitiated that it will appear in a future Gentlemen’s Guide.

2. Rugby Union
Rugby Union is played by gentlemen who lack the finesse to play cricket, but wish to remain gentlemen. Union is all about observing a strict set of rules, the breaking of which results in debagging and social disgrace. It will help if you know the words to the Gentlemen’s National Anthem (“I’m a stupid dicky-di-dildo”) and don’t mind going through life without ears.

3. Rugby League
By necessity (for example, being in charge of an army unit putting down a mill workers’ rebellion), a gentleman might find himself working in the north of England. There, it is quite acceptable to take part in the working men’s alternative to Union code, providing nobody south of the Watford Gap border post is informed. You will note that League has 13 players instead of 15. This is so two may act as stretcher-bearers.

pipe smoking

Unfortunately pipe smoking is no longer considered a sport

4. Ice Hockey
A sport invented by British soldiers, but shanghaied by our colonial chums. Best described as a fight where a sporting event broke out, the game involves skills with a long stick which would otherwise be illegal, therefore making it one the true gent should investigate Also, the man of the match wins a case of beer, which should happen in all sports.

5. Downhill Ski-ing
Another British invention (Are you sure? – Ed), skiing was discovered by secret agent James Bond when escaping from baddies in the Swiss Alps. Beforehand, the locals were utterly stranded every time it snowed, which was all the time. Like all sports we’ve invented, we’ve kindly allowed Johnny Foreigner roundly thrash us ever since.

6. Curling
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. What could possibly be gentlemanly about the poise, skill, strength, tactical thinking of bowling huge chunks of granite down an ice rink? I think you’ve just answered your own question. Just wait until they start doing it overarm.

7. Billiards
Not pool. Not snooker. Billiards. Three balls on a table the size of Mars in the back room of a Gentlemen’s Club off Pall Mall; wagers exchanging hands the size of the Venezuelan national debt whether “Squiggy” Saunders can score a winning hazard while hanging from the light shade. This is how gentlemen play sport.

8. Polo
Not to be confused with water polo, because the horses tend to drown. Helps if you are insanely rich and know people with names like “Tabitha” and “Prince William”.

9. Horse Racing
On no account should a gentleman take part in horse racing – they have specially trained lunatics who fulfil all training and riding functions. The Sport of Kings exists solely so that owners of the livestock may spend insane amounts of money on something that will eventually go mad and die. Ideal training, therefore, if you are a member of the aristocracy.

10. Squash Racquets
See notes about badminton (above). The only reason a gentleman should enter a municipal sports centre with a racquet is for the noble sport of Squash, in which two participants are locked in a wardrobe and forced to thrash each other with hard rubber balls. A sport of speed, cunning and painful revenge, it is the ideal preparation for the world of business.

You will note that neither Association Football nor Golf are on this list. And quite rightly too, for they are no sport for gentlemen of any stripe. Notable exceptions: Gary Lineker, that Irish golfing chappy who made us all cry.