Friday, 21 February 2014

3 things you probably don't know about soccer ...


Soccer - "The Beautiful Game," as she has been called yet another marvellous gift bequeathed by Great Britain to the rest of the world. Yes, indeed, Noble Readers, we Brits are responsible for more aspects of the modern world than you could properly shake a stick at. (Regular visitors to this blog will know that aschool of my fond acquaintance, Rossall College, was the place that spawned lawn tennis.) Even Americans, who have manfully resisted soccer - mostly by treating it as a girl's game - enjoy grown up national pursuits of football and baseball which, in part, have their origins in the Englishman's love of sport.

Be that as it may, I thought I would mention three facts I recently learned about soccer that few die-hard fans will know. The first is that nowadays teams play left-to-right, so to speak, until half time, and then right to left in order to compensate for the wind. But in Victorian times footballers played one way only until a goal was scored, then started off again in the other direction, and so on. Isn't that interesting?

The second priceless nugget concerns the first ever international soccer match, which was between England and Scotland. It took place in 1872, was played on a cricket ground in Glasgow, Scotland, and the honours were shared evenly as the game finished in a rather uninspiring 0-0 draw. But well done the Scottish cricketers for their magnanimity in any case.

The third glittering bauble of soccer information I wish to make known is that the England captain on that not-so-famous day in 1872, was a man called C.J. Ottaway.

Ottaway was an Old Etonian and a prodigious sportsman. His excellence in a range of sports including cricket and various kinds of tennis and athletics was pretty well unparalleled. Sadly, after playing in three consecutive F.A. cups, he died aged only 27 after a night's dancing. This, methinks, should stand as a warning to the rest of us, and serve as a reminder of my own cherished dictum that sport should be generally avoided on the grounds that it wears out the kneecaps.
Manchester United vs. Arsenal, Football Match at Old Trafford, October 1967 Posters

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Is your surname Blake, O'Donnell or Carpenter?


North Koreans aside, most TV-owners, I imagine, have at least glimpsed an episode of MASH at some time or another. It was a curiously affecting show since it purported to be set in the Korean war but was actually about another war entirely - the one in Vietnam.

The TV show ran for eleven seasons, so somebody besides me must have found it worth watching. It's a sobering thought that the Korean war itself only lasted three years one month and two days, or 1,127 days, so the 251 episodes of MASH cover the war at a rate of one episode every four and a half days of actual warfare.

If MASH is to be believed, in the Korean war there really was never a dull moment. In the real Korean war, around 36,000 U.S. military personnel were killed, or about 32 per day. This compares with some 58,000 U.S. deaths in Vietnam over 20 years. Which means 8 deaths every day. The war also accounted for eleven hundred British military dead out of 14,000, which translates to 8%. The equivalent U.S. death rate was 11%.

In the show, three MASH personnel were killed: a Lt.-Col. Blake, a driver called O'Donnell, and a Nurse Carpenter. So now you know.