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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Laterally SpeakingUnlocked Fun and Games

Unlocked Fun and Games

As we slowly pull ourselves out of the viral hole that mankind has fallen into, we are going to have to make a start at a return to normality. I’m not sure that anyone knows what ‘normal’ is supposed to be now. Shopping, eating out, getting on a bus, meeting more than one person at a time (at 2 metres) let alone meeting lots of them at pubs and parties is going to take quite a bit of time to rediscover.
But the Game must still be played (as they sort of say) and since we’re all being encouraged to take exercise, stay fit (and of course alert) and maybe indulge in a modicum of sporting activity, we shall have to see what activities may be permitted in an ex-isolation world. I, therefore, offer you my lateral guide to ‘un-locked down Sport’.
Obviously solo endeavours are easiest since we can’t infect others very much while jogging, fishing by one’s self, playing golf alone or doing solo yoga exercises in the garden etc. But if the activity involves other people then we need to make sure that everyone’s OK. Most sport is competitive because we have to try to win or lose at something to make it fun. Playing tennis by one’s self against a wall is OK, but after fifteen minutes it gets a bit boring because the wall always wins. Of course, if you’re isolated from others in a sort of titanium and plexiglass cocoon, then it’s quite safe. This means that Grand Prix and motor car/cycle racing should be OK, although care will have to be taken when shaking up the champagne and squirting it over everyone at the end. Perhaps anti-bubbly face masks and latex gloves could be given to everyone on the winning podium.
The hygiene limitations of horse racing are unknown at present. Apart from jostling in the paddock, do horses themselves carry the virus? Will equine flu re-appear? Is it really feasible to race round a track keeping a minimum of 2 metres from your fellow competitors? Perhaps all jockeys should wear sanitary surgical gowns and bubble helmets? These and other four-legged questions may eventually find answers…
The majority of two-person competitions should be OK provided we take extra precautions. Wimbledon has already been cancelled for this year, but 2021 might see new regulations introduced. New balls might have to be introduced every game (instead of every seven games) and no shouting, grunting or screaming when you serve as it spreads splutter and spittle over the court. Players may not shake hands but they will bow to each other in oriental style between sets. Two-person contact sports are probably a no-no—particularly judo and wrestling which would undoubtedly spread viral sweat from one competitor to another. Boxing, however, may just be possible provided both boxers wear face masks and protective robes. The two-metre rule would have to be temporarily forgotten otherwise no boxer could reach out and hit the other (which if I recall is mostly the point of boxing), while the gloves themselves will act as anti-viral insulators, provided they are thoroughly disinfected with suitable wipes between each round.
However, the majority of team sports may prove too difficult to overcome. As I write, football is still hovering between the absurd and the frankly impossible. Currently, I understand that non-contact training is allowed but tackles, blocks and bumps are out. How are you supposed to get the ball off your opponent if you can’t touch him? Perhaps you have to ask nicely… “Excuse me, but if you have a moment could you possibly lend me the ball?”. If you ask politely enough, perhaps the referee will insist the ball is passed to the other team? I can’t see many goals being scored, but then it wouldn’t matter that much because there’s nobody in the stands to watch the match anyway. Sterile and Safe? Yes. Boring? Very much yes. And no more hugging or wild pitch-side celebrations, if by some miracle a goal is be scored! And no kissing… absolutely NO celebratory kissing on penalty of 14 days quarantine in an empty and windblown football stadium.
Cricket should be OK but the distance between batsman and wicket-keeper would have to be marked out on the pitch. A delivery counts as a ‘no ball’ if the keeper stands too close. However, I’m afraid that rugby is almost definitely a big NO. Tackling would be out and any players involved in a ruck or a maul would be cautioned by police for over-close contact. Don’t even mention the word ‘scrum’, unless you can find a way of putting all players in sterilised body armour and fibre-glass helmets! All of which sounds rather too much like American Football…
But think of the benefits of new un-locked sport! For a start, it will provide massive extra employment for all sorts of new Health and Safety personnel legally required to be present whenever a sport takes place. We will have jobs for Private Gel Sprayers, Mask Cleaners, Spittle Analysers, Forehead Temperature Gunners, Brow-Moppers and Personal Hand Washers (lots of those). In addition to Ball Boys, tennis will have to have Ball Wipers, Ball Sterilisers and Racket Purifiers. Snooker, ping-pong, basket-ball—all ball games—will be legally compelled to employ hordes of Ball Cleaners and Alcohol Gel Ball Appliers. This might even be a solution to our forthcoming inevitable recession and bring full employment back to Britain! Stay Alert and Look After Your Balls (if you’ll forgive my expression). Stay Safe!

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