Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Sporting Life

So today I thought I'd write a bit about sports - or what I shall refer to from here on as "sport" because it's never pluralized in the UK, unless you were to say something like "Football and rugby are two sports that I play".

Sport is incredibly important to people in the UK, or at least to the men. I daresay it is more important than it is to men in Canada. The sport section of most newspapers is often as big as the entire remainder of the newspaper - news, business, arts and entertainment all combined (except on Saturdays and Sundays when those sections get expanded and the newspapers go section-crazy to deliever you a phone-book sized paper).

If one judges popularity of a sport based on the number of newspaper pages devoted to it, then football (soccer - apparently that name comes from some bizarre shortening of "association football") is the most popular sport by far. I haven't revealed anything startling as most people have probably heard something about the football obsession in the UK. Even knowing that, I found the extent of the obsession surprising when I came here. There's at least half-a-dozen leagues between England and Scotland that have to be reported on, in great detail, every day in the newspapers, and these teams are somehow entwined into various European leagues in ways that I can't figure out. People say that Canadians are obsessed with hockey, but the English, Scottish, and Irish make the Canadian obsession look like a passing interest. I'm not exaggerating - you should see how much written-word is devoted to every match that is played. What's funny is that all these countries are obsessed with a sport that they're not even very good at, as World Cup results will show.

After football, rugby probably gets the second-most number of sports pages, but it's a distant second. Then, depending on the season I guess, and whether it's a Scottish newspaper or English one, there can be articles on cricket (more in English papers), tennis, hockey (field hockey), horse racing, track events. There's actually articles on snooker (pronounced snooooh-ker) and darts which I consider to be games rather than sports. In my opinion, if the participants can actually smoke and drink during the activity then it's a game, not a sport.
Then on a general results page, you'll often find brief summaries of North American pro sports game scores, including the NHL under the heading "ice hockey". I find that remarkable, as it's an obscure sport over here and it's not like I've ever seen anything in a Canadian newspaper about a Scottish sport like shinty (something like violent field hockey).

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