Way back when I was 15, I spent summer PE lessons learning how to play cricket. Actually, that’s a complete lie. We were never taught any outdoor sports in PE, it was expected that we knew the rules and therefore how to respond when told to be ‘scrum-half’ or whatever. I just made it up as I went along, most of the time. In this particular lesson there were 100 or so kids split up into three practice groups: one bowling, one batting, one throwing/catching. At one point, I looked up to see my friend Rachmaninov* throwing a cricket ball to somebody in my vicinity. After a moment I realised that it was in fact coming directly towards me.
I deftly twisted my body, stuck out a hand and caught the projectile.
All right, so I made that up. What I in fact did was run away. Like, directly away. Like, in a straight line from the ball. I then ducked, which had the remarkable effect of causing the ball to collide perfectly square-on with the back of my head. Next thing I know I’m on the ground (I like to think I was knocked out for a moment, but that’s just so I can say “I was knocked out for a moment” and get sympathy from women) and a crowd quickly gathered around me. I busied myself trying to figure out whether I could move my legs, see properly, feel my brains leaking out of my ears, that kind of thing. After a minute the teacher – Mr Sympathetic, I think his name was – arrived. He looked me over and said “get up, Westy.” I felt compelled to point out that people die from this kind of injury, but he frightened me, so I didn’t. I stood up, felt no ill effects whatsoever, and carried on playing.
Despite being entirely to blame for this incident, I like to bring it up occasionally to annoy Rachmaninov. I have a theory, however, that this ball homed in on the part of my brain devoted to understanding cricket, and broke it. For example, just now I witnessed the following:
- Man 1 throws ball
- Man 2 hits ball away with bat
- Man 3, in a stunning flying leap, catches ball
- Massive cheers, and everybody crowds around Man 1.
Man 1? What about Man 3? He did a massive flying leapy catchy thing! All Man 1 did was throw the ball in a straight line…how hard can that be? He does it all the damn time! Poor old Man 3 had about 3 nanoseconds to react to an 80mph ball heading towards him and still managed to grab the thing, yet Mr throwy-throwy got all the glory. Poor Man 3, I felt sorry for him.
I think I’m going to invent a new sport called Really Hard Sport, where they only have to do really difficult things. Like catching 100mph projectiles or skating up trees. We could then have another sport called Really Easy Stuff That Makes People Cheer, where you do things like throwing balls in straight lines, or kicking lozenges between incredibly wide and very tall posts with nobody in the way or even nearby. What do you think? Am I on to something?