You know where you are with
traditional sports - that's what I always say.
Barring infringement of the rules, the victor is
always first past the finishing line, or jumps
the highest, or scores the most goals or points,
or plays the least strokes. There are clear,
objective, numerical criteria that separate the
winner from the rest.
Much more problematic are
pastimes that have somehow drifted away from
their rightful moorings as leisure pursuits and
found themselves floating in the uncertain waters
of competition. Such pseudo-sports
have no clear, objective criteria that separate
the winner from the rest. The victor is defined
by the subjective view of a judge or judges,
possibly informed by the random history and
tradition of the sport.
Perhaps some primeval
survival instinct to outperform rivals
transported the tranquil hobby of gardening into
the gladiatorial stadium of the horticultural
show. Possibly it was the same instinct that led
human expression through music, dance and song to
be fettered by comparative ratings. That most
basic activity, cooking, now demands combat on
prime time TV. Even art, in media such as
painting and photography, has been seduced into a
Faustian pact with those who would seek a
physical incarnation for the formless spectre of
Where will it all end?
I said to George, the organiser of our village
show, after expounding to him this view on
competitive pseudo-sports. What
further non-competitive leisure pursuits will
they drag onto a battlefield? They certainly
wont get me involved in any.
You wont be
wanting to enter the Domestic Leisure
competition at the village show next week, then,
competition, I replied. Whats
There are several
categories within it, he explained.
Theres the Lounging on the
patio whilst drinking wine event. Then
theres the Staying in bed until the
pubs open tournament. Also theres the
Watching whatevers next on TV as you
cant be bothered to walk across the room to
where you left the TV remote challenge. We
want to try to engage the villagers who might not
normally get involved with the show, he
clarified, by targeting their interests.
My curiosity was engaged. I
rather prided myself on my expertise in
undertaking those very pursuits. I paused to
think of the long hours I had selflessly
dedicated to perfecting them.
My previous principled
resolve against such competitions began to weaken.
After all, engaging with the village show would
support a valued, historic local tradition. Also,
others might be able to learn from my skills. I
visualised the first prize rosette for
Lounging on the patio whilst drinking
wine being presented to me - delivered to
me at home, of course, to avoid my inconvenience
in collecting it.
So came the day of the
contest. Three judges arrived shortly before I
poured my third glass of wine. I took a sip,
placed the glass on the table, settled back in
the recliner and began to doze. They stayed for a
full ten minutes, inaudibly conferring whilst
busily noting details on their clipboards.
It was later that evening,
after the show was over, that George came to
something for you, he said.
I modestly feigned surprise,
even though that first prize was totally
You got a
Highly Commended, he announced.
What does that mean?
I asked, hiding my shock, anger and bitter
It means you
didnt get the first, second or third prize,
he explained, but the judges thought you
were the best other competitor.
How many competitors
were there? I asked.
he replied. Would you like to hear the
Well, yes, I
responded with feigned amused disinterest. Highly
bloody commended, I thought. How on
earth could those morons justify anything other
than first prize?
The judges thought
that your reclining position was very good,
George commenced on a positive note.
However, they thought that the table was
too high and too far away so you had to stretch
to reach the wine. The winner also had a larger
wine glass so it didnt require refilling so
George continued with full
details of the judges reasoning.
Better luck next year, he concluded.
I accepted my rosette.
It was all good fun, I said to him as
he went on his way.
screamed when alone in my kitchen. None of
those criticisms were justified. What do those
bloody judges know? Theyve just made some
random choice based on God knows what subjective,
personal, capricious, irrational criteria. It
wouldnt surprise me if the winner was a
member of the same fucking Masonic lodge as the
senior judge. Now, nobodys going to realise
that I was the best because theyll
all associate the best with the winner.
On the following week I met
George in the village. Will you be entering
the Domestic Leisure competition at
the village show again next year? he
It was good fun,
I lied, but, frankly, I cant see the
point of pseudo-sports that have no clear,
objective criteria for victory. You know where
you are with traditional sports - that's what I