Thursday, 21 June 2018

Sherlock Holmes watches the world's most libertarian sport [updated]

Well, not Sherlock Holmes himself, but his author, Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the following about the world's most libertarian sport, Australian football, after watching the 1920 VFL Grand Final between Carlton & Richmond:
I know something about football, for I played Rugby for the Edinburgh University and soccer with the Hampshire team. I have also seen the best American football. I consider the Australian game is magnificent, and from the spectacular point of view it is probably the best of them all.
    The man-handling element in the British game, when the play is fast and the scrums break up, make it an extraordinarily fine game, but in the Australian game there is such constant movement that it stands by itself. They have developed several points which are quite new to me. One of them is accurate passing by low drop kicking. I think that could be introduced into the English game with very great advantage, for it seems to be faster than any pass by hand. Another point that struck me was the extraordinary accuracy of the screw kicking—that is to say when a man running past the goal kicks a goal at right angles to his own line. I have never seen anything to touch the accuracy of both the punting and drop kicking.
    I should think that it is the most gruelling of any game I have seen, and yet the players appeared to be as fresh in the last quarter as they were in the first, and they were playing with just as much vigour.

World's most libertarian sport?
Football is not a game of rules, it is a collection of understandings. It must be so because a game that is played across a vast open field with an odd shaped ball by 36 players who are permitted to tackle and bump and maintain physical contact cannot be subject to rules. Its like suggesting that a war be subject to the off-side law.
   So, it is a collection of understandings that governs the behaviour of the players. They will not act dangerously and push an opponent in the back, they will not trip each other, they will not strike each other with intent, they will not throw the ball, they will not tackle each other above the shoulders. These notions are what we might call football’s “truths”. The umpire is only there to adjudicate when a player goes beyond these boundaries. True, there are rules around certain aspects of the game, like the scoring, but the essence of the game is not found in government.

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