Monday, 21 November 2011

Why do we do what we do?

It's become a concern to me that these blogs are following a somewhat similar pattern. Don't get me wrong, it's a happy pattern, but reporting about another victory each week and trying to come up with new things to say is only good for so long. There are only so many times that I can bang on about not being complacent and not lowering ourselves and playing to our potential and not being arrogant and so on and so forth before it becomes a bit repetitive. There has to come a point where this starts to be a routine, when it becomes a discipline, when I don't need to bang on about it, when we know it by heart. I'd like to think we're getting there, maybe I'm being generous though, what do you think? What I know is that our 7-1 win had a hint of routine to it. I don't say that to spite our opponents (who probably aren't worth their bottom of the table tag), just that we were confident of a result (OK, maybe over-confident to begin with) and we delivered.

So instead this week I'd like to talk about the phenomenon of Hockey itself and just what exactly makes me turn out for it every week and why I think it deserves the hype that I (but not many others) give it. Let's start with the obvious, lots of blokes like to play sport on the weekend. It's a good way to stay fit, is a good laugh and gets you out of the house. Pretty much all of those blokes are not professional athletes, that includes everyone on our team. When you go out and play sport the man will typically choose the lowest form of sporting activity on earth, the Sunday league football match. That's right, 22 men kicking the crap out of each other on a battered piece of old waste ground. There'll be plenty of swearing, maybe even a fight, probably best to leave the kids in the playground. At the end of a turgid 90 minutes of what should be the greatest sport on earth to play the unfit, uncouth, men drag themselves from the field of play and leave to go back to their lives having dispatched or been dispatched by another group who live less than a mile away from them. I don't want to take their fun away but it is quite a desperate past time in my opinion.

So OK, having layed that down at the door of the Sunday league, why is Hockey so vastly superior? The silver-backed defender of the raw, physical 'English' game of football will point instantly to notion of Hockey as a 'Girls game' as a sign of terminal weakness in the game. The fact that violent conduct, dissent, and coarse language are all much more severely punished in Hockey will only add to this notion of it being a sport not for the 'real' man. The more cultured of the defenders may even point to the overall class difference between the two games; Hockey being perceived as the public school game and football the working mans pleasure (L.S Lowry, Bovril on the terraces and all that...). Of course it's all bollocks. Hockey is a sport all about speed, technical ability, and fearlessness (E.g. The fearlessness of running our for shorts or loitering at  the back post when the ball is driven into a crowd of sticks at 90mph and you can't see it until it's in your mouth). Do not doubt that you can get hurt or be hurt (there is a difference, ask Kiwi) playing Hockey. The 22 men that make up a Hockey game are all armed with weapons, rather than making this a violent game I think it lends potential numpties a moment of caution before they decide to go charging around like a bull in a china shop (Or a fat centre-half in a six-yard box). The game is physically demanding and plays in a very similar way to football, or perhaps that should be the other way around seeing as Hockey is 3000 years old?

Anyway, let's forget football. I love Hockey simply because it isn't football. In Hockey we trek across half the North West to some grey town in Cheshire or Wales seeking a challenge. It's a day out I suppose, it certainly adds something to the experience. I like that in Hockey those journeys aren't just the reserve of the sports elite level players but open to all, from division 11 to the national premiership, you want to play, you get on your bike. I don't think many people would agree to that being an advantage but I don't think it would be the same game without it.

There is a gentlemanly aspect to the game as well. A sort of hark back to what we perceive as more civilised times. Hockey holds itself to the similar principles of sportsmanship present in Cricket, but I worry for it. Since I began playing I think that has become a notion that has shrunk and one that is held onto only by the older players of the game. I think that our team doesn't have too much to answer for in that shrinking but it would be sad to see the sport lose its tag of nobility. I'm talking specifically about the way we treat our opposition (principally off the pitch, ther's no mercy on it) as well as our umpires. There are fewer opposition teams I see that stay around after a game these days, and even fewer instances of two teams mingling with each other after a game. It's a shame, but I'm proud to say that our team doesn't suffer from this particular illness.

That's it for me, the beauty of the game, the friendliness of the people who play it, and the togetherness of the team are what make this sport special and truly the best sport, to waste my weekends playing. I hope you agree in your own way, for your own reasons. Don't worry if you don't agree with my comments on football, I'll freely admit to being a huge fan of the game and to watch it is the best, but don't come at me telling me those pub teams have something better than me, because you're wrong.

Next up for us is another late push-back away game in what I might start calling the ESPN slot, hopefully we can match up to the prime-time billing.

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