BY NORRIE T MACDONALD
Speaking last week about how football, the only sport I really thought I knew anything about, had undergone such a radical transformation, made me examine my perceptions about other sports.
When it comes to their rules, am I completely at ease that I actually know what’s going on?
Heck no. Are you?
Football used to be very basic and straightforward, offside was the only really complicated bit and I understood it perfectly when black was black and white was white: now I don’t even comprehend what it is that’s happening with the competitions that our teams (particularly our national team) participate in.
What were we playing in over last weekend?
How many back doors are we being offered now to make it to the European Championships?
Is it a back door?
What is the Nations League and how is our group made up only of ‘diddy’ teams like ourselves?
Why are Spain playing Portugal, England-Belgium, while we appear to be in a group with countries younger than my mother?
What even is the Nations League, and are UEFA /FIFA simply intent on giving every single team as many possibilities as they can to qualify for a finals, no matter how meaningless?
I have to be honest, I’ve stopped watching Scotland.
If I don’t know most of the players, don’t understand the rules any more, and don’t know what competition we’re playing in, why would I?
Doubtless Steve Clarke will be put to the sword when he cannot manage to come close to manufacturing even a plastic purse from an often-depleted squad, certainly one devoid of enough major talent to progress.
Do I know what’s going on in a rugby match?
I get completely flummoxed by some of the decisions and nuances of their laws.
But then again, it’s not my game and the understanding of the rules of any sport where my interest is merely in the passing, often confounds my ‘enjoyment’ of it.
American football, even, I have a working knowledge of what’s going on.
I’ve even been to more Orlando Magic games (two) than I’ve attended rugby matches in my own country.
But don’t even start me on their biggest sport, baseball, which is as confusing to me as backgammon and bridge combined.
It’s basically a ball and a bat, running round a diamond and more statistics than are currently being thrown at us by the chief medical officer and Boris.
I simply cannot get into it.
But then again, I was never meant to.
Where the premise is simple (get the ball into a defined area: a goal, a hoop, a hole in the ground, across a line) then there shouldn’t be too many rules necessary to prevent us enjoying what originally started out as some fun, some exercise, a pastime.
There were, originally, less than 20 laws of the game of association football.
They began with just five (or 13 depending on where you get your facts from) and progressed to 17.
Nowadays offside itself takes up more definition than the original five in their entirety.
When it comes to golf, there is a whole handbook.
A radical overhaul recently has seen some of the silliness eradicated and the original 13 rules, outlined in just 333 words, have been reduced to just a small, compact, encyclopaedia.
I was recently at a golf quiz where, of the 150 questions asked, I was proficient in less than a third (and I guessed a lot of those).
Try explaining stableford or a par/bogey competition against the course to a Martian.
Give me cricket and I have a clue.
It’s quite simple.
I have an old, framed, tea-towel in my shed which proclaims them thus: ‘You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
‘Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.
‘When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.
‘Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
‘When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
‘There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.
‘When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!’
It’s important to know the rules, what their purpose is and how to best interpret them so as to understand what it is that’s going on in the field.
RULES OUT THE WINDOW
The rules appear to fly out the window down at Askernish where their correspondent, captain and current winner of just about everything, happens to be the same guy.
He could just be making it all up, sending me bogus reports and watching his star rise, while bewildered colleagues helplessly look on.
They say that history is written by the winners, but the reality is nowadays that it is written by those with the only pen.
From Colin Russell, a man who can be described in many adjectives, not all of them beginning with the same letter.
Alliteration can be a tricky path.
I jest, however, he indeed is having a sterling month.
October Medal — a perfect day for the last regular competition of the condensed summer season but, as always is the case at Askernish, par is a good score whatever the weather.
The top three all came from the first group out and, with his playing partners making a sluggish start, it was Colin Russell who took advantage to card a nett 72 and take the medal (despite his opening drive not reaching the fairway).
Runner up was vice-captain Derek Cowan on 75, and a further two strokes adrift back in third was John Archie MacIntyre.
Up the road at Benbecula… ach never mind.
ROAD TO HARRIS
Scarista on Saturday saw the second instalment of their Road to Harris competition and it was with a deal of excitement that I made it down for the first time in a month.
It was blowing a hoolie (my kind of day at the links) and any bad hole would be quickly consigned to the bin.
The par/bogey format has its compensations.
Winner on the day, continuing his recent fine form, was Murdo F MacLeod who finished +3 versus the course.
He managed to prevail on countback (luckily we have computers now for this sort of thing) from a pack including Russell Tennant and Kenny ‘Kuna’ Morrison.
Morag MacDonald tied the course to win the ladies event (yet again).
Melanie Duff finished second.
Congratulations are due to Grant Fulton, Scarista member and son of ‘The Bold’ for his recent elevation to elected member for the ward of Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch.
He won by a cricket score, no countback necessary.
As an independent, he will bring a wealth of experience and expertise across a range of subjects to the comhairle.
Well done he.
TAM IS SMILING
Up at Stornoway, Norman ‘Tam’ MacLeod has shaken off his Malaysian hangover to begin to compete where it matters most.
Being stuck on a boat, tied to a pier, for several months at a time does imbue a swing-rustiness which only lager and practice can eradicate.
14 days quarantine doesn’t help either.
One thing is for certain; it doesn’t, ever, wipe the smile off his face.
His 40-point total for a win last Wednesday contained an eagle, no less (at the second), and a scattering of par golf which contributed massively to his tally in the October stableford.
Runner-up, John MacAskill, was defeated by the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Martyn Macleod required no such measuring tape to gauge the distance between himself and second place on Saturday; his beautiful 73(63), edging Donald ‘Sweeney’ MacSween 82(64) by clear distance.
His only real blemish was an untidy double at the second.
Two birdies redeemed that particular mishap, the rest of his round being constructed without any fuss or fanfare.
A bonny, and accomplished, player on his day; Martyn could do with more regular golf.
Going up to double figures (if only for one competition) just made him angry.
Sweeney bogied the last (Martyn parred it), to emphasise again the importance of Mars Bars over the closing holes at Lady Lever Park.