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Croquet: Not a sport for the lily-livered

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: January 3, 2013 6:12AM



I am blessed, or maybe just lucky. In my long athletic career, I never suffered even one debilitating injury that put me on the sidelines. My vigorous sports included horseshoes, golf, croquet, tag, high school basketball. On and on the list goes.

One Sunday afternoon I did trip over a croquet wicket and hurt an ankle, and after we basketball Owls beat the Epsom Salts, I slipped in the shower and damaged a knee. But I never missed wielding a mallet or double dribbling a basketball because of my injuries.

Memories of those painful experiences on the athletic fields hit me the other day when I saw in our sports section a list of pro football players hurt in action.

More than 200 guys banged up in the pursuit of gridiron glory and wealth! No wonder the teams carry such big rosters.

They were listed as Out, Probable, Doubtful, Questionable.

Their injuries: Head, Calf, Ankle, Hamstring, Neck, Elbow. Maybe some other body parts, but I was feeling sick just reading the list. I hurt all over.

Why does the league put out such detailed information, and why do the sports pages run it all? Maybe the players’ mommies are worried about them. Is this stuff the bettors want to know? Say it isn’t so!

These fellows get sick pay. But I reckon they love to play this vicious game, so being on the sidelines hurts too. But it is safe there.

There is, I admit, a touch of artistry and grace in some football plays, along with the grunts, the aching heads and other pains. But it has become an awfully rough game — maybe it is a big-time sport and not a game.

We should feel proud, though, that here in civilized America, land of the free and home of political commercials, we don’t have riots. We don’t stoop to creating wild fan uprisings that injure fans and one another when the home team loses. Sometimes people are killed. Maybe that happens only in soccer.

I feel good knowing that we are a cut above such behavior. But just when I begin to feel proud that the gridiron injuries result from the art of friendly opponent contact, I remember the “bounty” thing.

Coaches and some players are fined and suspended because players tackle their opponents with “malice aforethought,” as crime charges used to read. They intend to hurt and maybe put the other guys on the sidelines. We never had such bad behavior in croquet matches or in basketball even against teams that wanted to “Kill the Owls”!

Another sport of violence that turns me off is professional boxing. Watching it on radio made Tunney, Dempsey, Louis and others sound like real heroes, brave men. Seeing it on TV changed my mind. Nothing more brutal than the Zale-Graziano bouts.

True, pro football and boxing give us more action than listening to a piano etude, but piano players stay tuned longer.

For me, a peace-loving kid from the farm, the ideal sport is golf, the perfect stage for sportsmanship. I am touched when I hear the story about the golfer whose partner collapsed with four holes to go. “After that,” the fellow said, “it was hit the ball and drag Bill.”

Anyway, after my wicket incident in my grandfather’s backyard, I would have been listed as “Probable” for the next Sunday challenge. I can feel it now. The excitement. The fertile vocabularies. The strawberry shortcake after the spirited croquet outing. We all won. Every time.



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