The green, green grass of home

The green, green grass of home

Posted: Monday, June 23, 2008 10:30 pm
By: Larry McGehee

I am national chairman (self-appointed) of the Committee to Make Croquet the National Pastime. I may also be the only member of the committee. I need your help. We face some fierce rivalry from other sports. The Movement to Restore Lawn Bowling is “rolling along”, revived after its alleged demise.(Rip Van Winkle fell asleep for twenty years on a bowling green.) Lawn bowling (from whence comes the name for several Bowling Green cities) “won’t get off the ground”. The cost of pin boys is too high, and they are unionized. Croquet, by comparison, is relatively inexpensive, and hence more democratic. Its sole cost is in equipment, which is easily portable and easily stored, contained in an ingenious handled rack that holds six mallets, six balls, nine wickets, and two posts. You can drive the posts in the ground with one of the mallets, and you can lift and carry the entire rack with one hand. The other piece of equipment is a patch of level lawn, about the size of a home garden or a condominium front yard. Preferably the rectangle should be grassy. All chipmunk holes ought to be chinked, and all mole tunnels rolled flat before playing. Leave a few concealed rocks to frustrate your opponents. Here again there is an advantage of croquet over lawn bowling. Lawn bowling requires a narrow but long rectangle for playing, not available in most post World War II housing. Croquet is more suited to the postage stamp shapes of modern lawns. The wicket distances can be compressed or expanded to fit the space available. In the absence of a lawn, croquet can be played in a carpeted den indoors, if you don’t mind a few wicket and post holes in your floor. At a birthday party for an office colleague a few years ago, my wife and I were honorary senior citizens among a crowd of much younger couples. A croquet set was brought out and stuck up, and a whole new generation, rulebooks in hand, introduced itself to this most exciting of all sports. I was distressed that none of them took the game seriously. They paused often to talk, were oblivious of their opponents, and moved at a snail’s pace about the yard. Worst of all, they were unaware of the most important croquet rule of all: driving an opponent’s ball. I strategically chose to be the black mallet, so I could go last. By my turn, the other five balls were scattered around the entrance to the first wicket. I roared out of the starting wickets and attacked the other balls, rather than the first wicket. The casual tappers looked on in bewilderment as I aimed at and hit the red ball. Suddenly, placing my own ball beside it and my foot upon my ball (hence the familiar expression, “the ball of the foot”), I drove my opponent across the yard to the far corners of the court from whence it would take her (I recognize no special rules for women in croquet) three turns to return to the first wicket. The opponents suddenly became an angry mob. Mallets raised, they descended upon me. Raising my own mallet for self defense, I shouted for order. Using their own rulebook, I showed them how they had ignored the most important rule of all- the annihilation of one’s opponents. Still in shock and angry, they refused to believe either me or their own rulebook. Fortunately, I was saved by an aged lady in tennis sneakers, out for her morning walk with her poodle leashed to her chrome walker. Serving as arbitrator, she confirmed what I had done as “eminently fair; if not in love or war, certainly so in croquet.” We returned to the game, and amidst groans and threats, I systematically sent the four other opponents green, yellow, orange, and blue to join the red in the Siberian corner. Then they turned on one another, so intent on hitting and pile-driving each other that they never returned to the first wicket. Meanwhile, I silently rolled from wicket to wicket, back to the starting wickets, the post and victory! When I read of drug scandals in professional sports and students arrests in intercollegiate sports, deaths by fire or riots at soccer games in Europe ands South America, and of another firing of yet another New York Yankee manager by George Steinbrenner, I know my cause is just. Make Croquet the National Pastime. Larry McGehee, professor-emeritus at Wofford College, may be reached by e-mail at mcgeheelt@wofford.edu Published in The Messenger 6.23.08

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