The A to Y of Seldom Watched Sports (Part One: A-E)

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In a previous article I coined (or selectively borrowed) the term The Dark Months in reference to the off season of October through March for AFL enthusiasts like myself and lamented the relative drought of on screen entertainment during this difficult period.

However, early into another voyage across the football doldrums I encountered an epiphany of sorts where I found myself recounting my days at Almanac College and in particular the inspirational words on graduation day of Faculty Dean John Harms still echoing in my ears “We accept Mastercard or Visa but please students…No cheques!”. Shortly after moving the pom-poms on our graduation beanies from right to left and tossing them sky high he would go on to say: “And always feel encouraged to write about other sports.” And so I set myself the task of allowing myself exposure to as many different sports as my marriage would allow during this time.

Those stirring words, coupled with the desire to participate in a new sport (thanks largely to a rapidly deteriorating knee condition), lead me on a couch bound expedition to investigate the merits of other televised sports.

Please allow me though to preface all ensuing comments by saying that when I suggest “Seldom Watched”, I mean seldom watched by me. So, fans of NASCAR for example, please spare me your bludgeoning of the Queen’s English by telling me how many millions of mullet brandishing fans obsess over your sporting passion and I will, in return, feel no obligation to respond by casting aspersions over your blatant disregard for dental hygiene.

These are my preliminary findings:

Archery – Given its medieval roots it’s interesting to note that Archery has continued to hold a certain fascination for many, where say Jousting for example has become more an exclusive proclivity of the perpetually single. In some small part I think we have Hollywood to thank through the various incarnations of Robin Hood and the more recent big budget exploits of Katniss Everdeen. To no lesser an extent, we should perhaps also acknowledge the tireless off-screen efforts of Cupid and Sagittarius, whose dedication to the craft in the absence of tailored pants should not be easily dismissed.

As it happens I live in close proximity to an Archery Club that sits in relative seclusion against a backdrop of thick bushland. So seizing upon the opportunity that such a secretive locality presents I decide that, once I’d finished dumping material evidence, to amble inconspicuously back to the main path and research this one in person.

It wouldn’t be too long before I heard the familiar “thunk” of arrow on high density rubber. The club’s President and Secretary wandered over enthusiastically to greet me in matching, embroidered Terri Towelling hats which I choose to take as a positive. Both are warm and welcoming men with just the light sprinkling of creepy that one might come to expect with a sport involving the use of medieval weaponry. Graeme’s (the President) spirited dedication to explaining the finer points of safety leads me to wondering about the likelihood of a recent misfortune. Regardless, he is a wealth of knowledge on different bows and their origins, the sport’s history and competitions. I learn a great deal. I learned that crossbows are illegal without a licence and governed by the same set of laws as guns. They’re not just for Doomsday Preppers or disgruntled mountain folk any more people. He goes to great lengths to explain about what he terms the “Right Gear” (like arm guards and finger plates) in a not so subtle dig at the feathered cap and green tights I was once more being asked to remove.

I am then quite proudly escorted over to meet the club’s one “purist” who had fashioned his own long bow, painstakingly and precisely over time, forsaking the burdens of friendship and female company but at no stage does he meet my eyes and it makes me acutely aware of my remote surroundings.

I’m handed a compound bow and I must admit to a little disappointment. To me it doesn’t look like a bow. There are more strings, wheels, pulleys and levers here than I use during foreplay and I start to ponder how much of the skill is being compromised. Then I learn that the reigning Olympic champ is a young South Korean gent who is legally blind. They could have hung Christmas decorations around him at the medal presentation and he wouldn’t have known the difference. Let it not detract from his wonderful achievement in any way but I feel that it might just loan credibility to my theory that perhaps all the science behind the modern bow is doing some of the heavy lifting. Be that as it may I haven’t completely dismissed this one yet. It has merit and I promise Graeme to return. I really want one of those Terry Towelling hats.


Or Remedial Snooker as I’m certain it was once known for those who fear the over stimulation of too many colours and moving objects in one confined space. I was always going to struggle to reacquaint myself with the game given my history with it. All too suddenly the memories of my grandfather trying to impress upon me his love for the traditional English version come flooding back: The smell of his mothball infused slacks, his fanatical devotion to the cardigan, the impassioned re-tellings of the feats of the great Walter Lindrum (“They changed the rules because he was too good!”), but what I wouldn’t give to have him back for one more lecture.

So once more I tried to watch but it’s truly a sombre affair all round and I can’t decide which is more depressing, the crowd or the commentary. I’m a cheerer, I’m a heckler, I like to impose myself onto a sport verbally and any sport that denies me this basic right isn’t likely to be for me. Apart from the sedate sound of an occasional lucky spectator passing away peacefully in their sleep, crowd participation is largely absent. And when the commentary sounds as though the contest is being viewed through a keyhole, I’m likely to opt out.

At least Snooker had the sense to have a streaker back in 97 to stir the emotions and remind viewers that they had a pulse. If any game set on the slate table is ever likely to win my affections it appears increasingly unlikely to be Billiards.

The worldwide preference for Snooker, I would wager, lies in the scoring. At least there’s a clear end point. Breaks of 2, 3 or (in the case of Lindrum) 4,000, as they nursed the balls up and down the table’s cushion made for some epically long games where a finishing point was usually agreed upon before play commenced, presumably once a competitor was forced to withdraw through the onset of Deep Veined Thrombosis.

If that wasn’t strange enough for you it has only been since 1980 that regular world titles have been established to crown a clear champion. Prior to this it was a matter of challenging the champ and hoping he accepted. As a point of interest the first champ, a chap called Kentfield was named World Champion when his scheduled competitor died the day before the match (Police ruling the pool cue lodged at the base of the skull as “Not Suspicious”). Kentfield would accept no challenges for the next 24 years before finally forfeiting the title leaving him undefeated but also completely winless during this time. Am I the only person bothered by what may well have been one of the greatest sporting scams of all time? Does anybody care that if you handed one of this game’s longest serving champions a cue he may well have chalked the wrong end!

If I needed a final straw, I’ll go with the uniforms and ask: Is there really any place in sport for the vest? How seriously can I be expected to take a competitor who appears, at any second, likely to offer me a wine list. Then there’s the referee where I can close by saying that given my most recent check-up I am unlikely to straddle a table in front of a man wearing white gloves ever again.



Has the image of any sport suffered as much a battering in recent times as Cycling? Perhaps the NRL has given it a shake recently and then there’s the seedy underbelly associated with competitive backgammon but for the sustained tarnishing of an image, it’s Cycling leading the peloton on this charge, all the way I’m afraid. I’m aware that Cycling has an enormous following overseas but like Billiards my disinterest started at a young age. My father was a pushbike Postman for nigh on 40 years so if there isn’t a basket on the front and trousers aren’t tucked into socks, the whole concept looks foreign to me.

The drugs in sport crusade that swept up many of this sports’ biggest names did nothing to endear it to me either. Personally, I knew something was up when a rider won stage three of the Tour despite forgetting his bike. And when they started ignoring drink stations to stop outside the house with a pair of sneakers strung up over the power lines, the writing was on the wall.

All jokes aside there’s a lot to admire and respect about world class Cycling. Some form of the sport has been contested at every Summer Olympics.

I enjoy the synchronised beauty of the team pursuit, the sustained endurance of road racing and even though the first half of the sprints feels as though they should be throwing newspapers as they idly drift along, I marvel at their explosive power once they finally decide it’s time to get down to business.

The truth is were it not for the abundance of scandal that plagues the race I would probably rise early like so many others to watch the Tour each year. With all disgraced former winners now stricken permanently from the records the new reigning champion is…Henri Pelissier from 1923 who was himself tested and fined for higher than normal levels of garlic in his system but thankfully nothing synthetic.

I have considered the possibility that Cycling appears to have a higher number of drug cheats merely because their testing is amongst the most stringent and is a positive reflection on their standards and perhaps their systems for policing such nefarious activity should be celebrated above the results.

It’s the sub-culture that’s lost me, in particular cycling’s commitment to the worldwide plague that is lycra. Any outfit where you have to grease the sides before being lowered into has to violate some code of decency and I call upon the United Nations to act.

There’s a gang mentality about this lot too. I used to ride to work in footy shorts and sneakers and I tired quickly of the contemptuous sideways glances you get from the other riders who frowned at my aversion to metal clogs and sponsored corsets. Have you tried putting that stuff on? The only way to successfully enter a pair involves controlled breathing and squeezing the hand of a loved one whilst a mid-wife mops your brow between pushes.

It’s a no from me but I’ll give it a quite look in from time to time.



OK, we’re on to something here. I turned my back on you a long time ago but I couldn’t stay mad at you and now I’m back and I have to say, things have changed a little.

I watched a lot of darts in my formative years, when John Lowe and Eric Bristow would go stomach to stomach but it’s been re-imagined and re-packaged and re-launched upon the world.

It has a bit of theatre about it now. Gorgeous promo models enter to a signature rock anthem and lead the combatants out through the crowd and towards the playing arena. Presumably as a pleasant distraction from the dishevelled competitors lumbering behind them, that have to stop twice en route to the stage to catch their breath. All the time giving the distinct impression that they may have just climbed out of a dumpster.

If anyone can make a cotton polo look like lycra it’s these boys. Mike Smith is my favourite. His commitment to the 4XL is dogged. Either he refuses to trade up a couple of sizes or he’s waiting for the fire department to cut him out of this one with the Jaws of Life, either way, I can’t look away when he enters the room.

I remember the Bristow days and I particularly loved the presence of a few pints of lager on the tables behind the players. Now there’s water or Powerade to sip between throws and it aims to loan the sport an air of professionalism. I just want to cherish these lads for who they really are. Get involved Dominoes and Berocca, if any high profile athletes are looking to endorse your wares, it’s these lads. Some of these boys may only be weeks away from hiring mobility scooters so who are you trying to kid with these sports drinks? I say let the lads strut out mid-yard glass and have the Promo girls roll out a trolley of pastries between sets. You want good television? These champs punching out “One Hundred and Eiiiiigggghhhttties” with half a vanilla slice stuck to their chin is compulsive viewing.

Say what you will though, it’s working. The crowds in the UK are phenomenal and it’s all to do with them having the time of their lives. Between the fancy dress, incessant singing and binge drinking, I seriously question how many are actually watching the game at times but I don’t question whether it’s a top night out for them.

This stands in direct contrast to the recent Australian Open Darts Championship. The organisers folly lay in the serving of Light and Mid strength beer. Once the crowd sobered up half way through and realised they were at a darts tournament a riot quickly ensued. It appears we aren’t quite prepared for this serving of English culture. Sure we can drink and wear funny costumes like a Pom but we just don’t know as many songs as they do. There’s only so many renditions of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi!” one can endure before the mob starts using the throwing of chairs as punctuation. Pity really. Loving this at the moment.



Another that offers itself to the line of questioning: Is this a sport? The jacket and yoga pants say “No”, Olympic status says “Yes”.

This sport displays an enviable connection between man and beast but then so do sheep dog trials and caddying for John Daly but neither of those carry Olympic status.

I can’t say I dislike the Equestrian. I know too many enthusiasts to attempt such a bold statement. My reticence is born more out of my genuine distrust of horses. I’m not sure where it started, it’s not like one ever tried to sell me insurance or dodgy weather proofing for my roof tiles. It’s more that I find myself intimidated by any muscular mammal more than twice my size. This in part also explains the tenuous relationship I have with my mother-in-law.

I am willing to argue in favour of two of the three disciplines as having sporting and therefore Olympic merit (at a stretch I might add) but the third seems purely artistic to me. None of these disciplines were ever contested at the original Olympic Games despite the horse filling an integral part in Bronze Age society. This could be a reflection of the aspersions I have cast in terms of its sporting merit or it might be more about practicality given the Ancient Olympics were contested naked. The dismount alone would have had traumatised Greeks scrambling for the exits in droves.

I can get into the Eventing and Show Jumping where horse and rider negotiate weird and wonderfully themed jumps with points deducted (or is it added?) to your time for each obstacle you knock over. Performance is clearly defined for the ignorant such as myself and I’m always happier where no judges are involved and results are not governed by individual interpretation as it is with Dressage.

Dressage provides the unique opportunity for the horse to look every bit as silly as its rider for a change and many achieve this by electing to have their hair styled by Snoop Dogg before performing tasks that appear physically unnatural to them like walking backwards, sideways and bowing before twerking and filling out a tax return.

It’s all undeniably clever and beautiful but if we’re just showcasing the discipline involved with teaching an animal to perform what are essentially tricks then why do the efforts of cockatoos in riding those adorable little bicycles continue to go unrewarded?

Some of the jumps are designed to look like walls and park benches and many are decorated with bushes and floral arrangements and it’s all good fun, tempered with a certain dignity. Be honest though, with their stiff postures and forced smiles that have me convinced there are bonus points for appearing constipated, who amongst us hasn’t quietly barracked for the horse to throw their rider on reaching the water jumps? Admit it, we want to see how they scale the bigger challenge, of trying to look pretentious while you’re picking river grass out of your teeth.

Still, they’ve come a long way since the days where, undeterred by the inconvenience of The Great War and horses (busy serving at the front in either the Infantry or in casseroles) were replaced largely by the peasantry. Forgive my churlishness, I fear the staunch Republican in me is showing given the penchant the aristocracy appears to have for this sport. Princess Anne once competed at the Olympics but which games specifically, which discipline she competed in or the name of her jockey all escape me at this time. There I go again. Anyway, onwards to “F”.

About Jamie Simmons

Born in Melbourne, a third generation Fitzroy supporter, in 1972 before emigrating to Tasmania during The Great Broccoli Famine of 86. Leaving my island lodgings, largely at the request of locals, to settle once more on the mainland in 1997. These days living out a peaceful existance on the outskirts of Brisbane, where I spend most of my time serving as a fashion warning to others.


  1. Jamie,
    I don’t mind going for a ride but I don’t rate cycling as a sport.
    I play pool a lot but can’t sit and watch it.
    Darts I don’t engage in, despite owning a dart board.
    Equestrian, well a former ABC journalist once told the newsroom that ‘horse people are weird’ and while I don’t necessarily agree, I never necessarily watch horses.
    Archery is something I’d like to be good at. My dad has a bow, nothing modern. It’s over a hundred years old. Apparently it belonged to a Native American. It’s too old to use but boy it is to be admired.
    As for watching, no thanks.
    For all the above sports, you gotta love them to watch them, and while I love pool, there’s footy and cricket to watch instead.
    That said, maybe if I watched more pool I’d become a better player…

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