Saturday, August 18, 2012

Croquet is a sport that has been taken out of Olympic competition due to lack of interest. I saw girls dancing around waving ribbons this summer at the Olympic competitive arena. There seems to be plenty of interest there. But Croquet, no one seems to play it anymore. All you need is a manicured lawn and wear traditional white clothes and a good shading white hat and you are good to go.
Our world is consumed with rough and fast paced sports, this one is more relaxed and it is not unheard of enjoying a cool alcoholic drink between turns. It is a refined sport that is silent interrupted only by the sound of wood on wood. The mallet tucked between your legs hitting a ball between your legs to aim at getting that ball between the metal arch pierced into the ground. It is a sport for the well mannered. Is that why it was cut from the Olympics ? Are there any well mannered people left?
The rules of Croquet were first formalized under the all England Pro Croquet Club in 1868. The Game mixes the skills of pool and the strategy of chess. So, it is the perfect sport for geeks and the elderly or the smart . The game is that you hit 4 wooden balls through a series of metal wickets first; and then to win, you have to hit a large wooded stake.
In 1967 the New York Croquet Club was one of the first created in the United States. Since then , it has been on everyone’s bucket list to play a tournament or to be able to at least play a game in New York City in Central Park. John Osborne has played there all his life. His father Jack was not just a founding member but also developed the national standard for American Croquet. In 1977 Jack founded and headed the United States Croquet Association.
His son remembers those days where players and clubs were popping up everywhere. The growth of the sport then was huge. It was popular as both a competitive and backyard game. Yes, forget Disney, tell the kids to hit a ball around the yard and don’t let the ball do anything but roll around. Sounds good to me! Except these days I’m sure they would prefer to be tossed and spun around somewhere.
Things have changed . Now anyone can join a club; they would be glad to have anyone. When his father founded the New York Club it was promoted as a sophisticated, high class, if you are trying to promote beer get lost kind of club. They said, “We are the Champagne sport.” But it was that elitist attitude that made so many people try to get in the club.
Now, they will take anyone from anywhere. One day each week the New York Club even opens it’s doors to the public and gives for free. Hey, my friend , try this on a day trip to New York City; bring 20 of your relatives along too, it’s free! People will inquire and say good Crochet? John will have to respond, no, leave your knitting needles at home. This is the game of Croquet. Some people don’t even remember what it is! America needs this thinking sport and stop playing dodge ball.
The growth of the sport has leveled off in recent years. It does retain it’s popularity among retirees maybe because they are the only ones who remember rich elitists people playing the sport. Or maybe because it is fun and low aerobics not like tennis that can be hard on your ankles. But it does have a very strong and enthusiastic following.
It has become almost like those Star Trek Conventions where people dress up in costumes. It is a very big event in the town of Annapolis which is also home to the Naval Academy and is home to the 30 year rivalry with the neighboring college Saint Johns. Each year the college kids invent a costume to wear to off set the Naval uniforms of their opponents. The college is the clear winner.They have won 25 out of the past 30 games played over the thirty years.
At this point everyone knows the Navy will probably loose because they never practice, those guys are out in the oceans not on fields of green. Whereas, a college kid is hanging out on lawns all day long and can work on his Croquet skills. Still, thousands of fans go to the event. It is the largest Croquet event today and they don’t come to play or to see them playing, they come to drink.
Croquet became an Olympic sport in 1900 but was then discontinued for lack of interest.
Source: The International Olympic Committee

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