Minority Sports Night

Last night, I ended up watching a whole evening-ful of minority sports, quite by accident. I’m not sure I could watch any of them for any longer period of time, but it was different enough to entertain me for a once off. In case you want to try something similar, here’s my guide to what I saw and what I thought.

You will need: Some red wine, a couch and some minority sports.

It started accidentally with the second half of some women’s World Cup hockey. New Zealand’s Black Sticks (you’d never get away with that here) versus hosts and world number one team in hitting a ball with an inverted walking stick, the Netherlands. Given that I was making bacon sandwiches before I started flicking through the channels, I missed the first half and with it, the only goals of the game. But it was fairly entertaining still, with New Zealand giving it a bit of a go and some exciting counter-attacking by the ladies in orange.
The rules are a bit difficult to work out if you are watching it for the first time and the commentators were – reasonably enough – assuming that the viewers had watched some hockey before. I have, but it was on ice and the players were bigger and wore more padding. So I was a little confused from time to time, but I gathered that the aim was either to score goals (obviously) or to hit the ball at your opponents’ legs (less obvious). If you manage the latter, you get a free hit of the ball, at which point you either to score a goal (obviously) or to hit the ball at your opponents’ legs (now more obvious).

Final score 2-0 to the Netherlands.

Over then (accidentally again) to the EFC fight between Cape Town’s Don “The Magic Man” Madge and Joburg’s Boyd “I’ve Got No Nickname” Allen. It was at the Grand West Arena and I’m guessing that Parow was completely empty last night.

Crickets. Tumbleweeds. A solitary tolling bell, perhaps.

Again, I don’t know a lot about EFCing, but apparently, this was a big fight and there were a number of EFCing people who were talking it up beforehand. Of course, they would do that. No self respecting sports channel sticks up soundbites of experts saying stuff like:

No mate – this is going to be rubbish. Save your time and go and do the washing up instead. Yeah, I know there’s a lot of it and the kitchen is freezing, but believe me, you’ll die of boredom if you sit down and watch this. Save yourself: go and soak that bacon pan.

Now, my experience is also that these things can be over-hyped in the extreme, but given that there was only the washing up to do and the kitchen was wholly unheated, I decided to sit through it.

What followed was rather incredible. Two guys, very evenly matched in every single statistic, both 70kg of pure muscle, kicked seven bells out of each other with amazing power, energy and determination for 25 minutes. I don’t mind telling you that I was transfixed. I even missed all the sponsors’ names. You know, the one who sponsored the fighters’ gloves, their shorts, their walk into the ring (sorry – “the hexagon” – as if a boxing “ring” isn’t actually “a square”), the actual sponsors of “the hexagon”, the company that sponsored the replays, the company that sponsored the company that sponsored the replays, the company that sponsored the ring girls (OMG – no-one tell the feminists!), the company that sponsored the energy drinks in the break between rounds, the one that sponsored the third LED globe from the left on the overhead lighting gantry and, of course, the betting company that sponsored the whole fight… so – you know – go and bet. Or something.

The aim of EFCing is to hurt your opponent as much as possible, but you’re not allowed to hit a hockey ball into their legs. However, you can just hit them or kick them, or shoot them (can we check that last one is right before publishing, please? – Ed.).

The fight went the distance, amazingly, with one guy having a big cut on his head and the other nursing a bloodied nose (who knew?) and was then declared as a draw, which seemed fair enough. However, by all accounts, including the breathless and sycophantic wonderment of commentator Sias du Plessis, I feel that I may have inadvertently ruined my future watching of EFC by starting with the best fight ever. This tweet, from regular commenter, biobot, summed it up nicely:

Looks like it’s all downhill from here.

Final score: A draw.

I avoided the (heavily sponsored) post-event press conference and switched onto the Isle of Man TT Races.

My links with the Isle of Man mean that I usually watch the TT for the flashing glimpses of scenery, rather than the actual motorbike racing. And to be fair, while I have a passing interest in the zoomy bikes and the nutters who sit on them, this was pretty much the case this time around too. It’s a difficult thing to watch in any other way, given that the course is nearly 38 miles long and there are only so many cameras to go around, so a lot of the incident, such as it is, happens away from where you’re actually looking.

Technology though, is making a bit of a impact, as you can now stick smaller, better cameras in more places – namely on helicopters and on the actual bikes. The latter works better, as the bikes now go so fast that the helicopters can struggle to keep up with them. That said, there’s still an awful lot you (sometimes thankfully) don’t get to see, like the fatal accident of Sheffield rider Karl Harris during the race I was watching.

The commentary is great, with just enough information to let you know what’s going on, but not so much that it drowns out the noise of bikes. It’s presented with good humour by ex-riders too, so it’s down to earth, honest and insightful. And behind it all, there’s still the glorious Isle of Man scenery in HD. There’s more TT programming on Supersport tonight and over the weekend, so delve in and have a look at my beautiful island.

Final score: Michael Dunlop won. Again.

None of these things will ever come close to replacing football in my list of great sports I like to watch, but I actually enjoyed a quick trip outside my sporting comfort zone last night, and I’ll certainly be giving it a go again soon – I believe there’s some international egg-chasing this weekend, so I might give that a go.

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