Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Bowlers Beware the Hidden Dangers of Sports Research

According to Raymond I should be exploring the outer reaches of sporting research in my blog. He makes it sound a bit like an episode of Star Trek. Apparently sports psychology is the future for aspiring champions like Raymond. He even quoted a Guinness advert that tells everyone to ‘believe’ (he didn’t say what mind). After a few pints of Guinness most of our members would probably believe anything you told them with the exception of Horizontal Herbie who prefers to collapse in a heap. Herbie would most likely not be selected to take part in the Guinness advert Raymond was talking about. See what you think:

What’s that all about then? By the looks of him he must have had a few pints of Guinness before the game started. Can’t blame him mind! Only the Irish could invent a game that involves running around a pitch trying to decapitate every body in sight with clubs. They only chuck a ball on the field to make it look legal, reminds me of our local derby with Gelligalled. At least he made it back to the pub on his feet and the dog didn’t get run over.
I did think of suggesting a trip around the Guinness Brewery but Raymond put me off when he showed me another YouTube video. If this bloke Conan’s experience is anything to go by we could have a riot on our hands before we got half way round.

Didn’t sound very Irish to me, but that’s the trouble with our Celtic cousins, too gullible for their own good. Apart from his dodgy accent he didn’t look anything like Conan the Barbarian and I should know I’ve seen it seven times. I bet profits took a right hammering before they managed to get him out of the building. At least Herbie would have had the decency to collapse long before then.

Raymond wanted me to talk about the book ‘In The Zone’. He said there’s a bit in there I should study very carefully. It’s called the 'Karpman Drama Triangle’. I told him straight, “Raymond,” I said, “if I wanted to ponce about on the stage I’d join the Mid Rhondda Operatic Society.” Would I heck, not after what happened to one of our ex-members Cyril who was forced to join by his overbearing wife. 

The first production Cyril acted in was ‘The Desert Song’. He was one of the Riffs who had to form a chorus as the Red Shadow sang his song. All the Riffs wore dressing gowns with tea towels draped over their heads. You could spot Cyril a mile off he had ‘Souvenir from Tenby’ written all over his. They looked more like Ruffs than Riffs with the exception of Cyril who wore his Captain Jack Sparrow outfit to compliment his tea towel. All of us in the front row burst out laughing so loudly the Red Shadow took umbrage and we were escorted out by the ushers.

Cyril kept his head down for a few weeks but worse was to follow. The next production was ‘South Pacific’ and this time Cyril was to play a G.I. At the end he would stride onto the stage and hoist a chest over his shoulder before marching off. He did it with great gusto. It beat tea towels and dressing gowns any day of the week. We managed to get tickets for the last night. The show had been a great success and Cyril strutted onto the stage like a proud peacock to perform his little cameo. I swear he was looking at us and smirking smugly as he gripped the chest and hoisted it onto his shoulders. Only thing was it didn’t hoist.

Try as he might Cyril couldn’t budge the chest. Nobody laughed, we were all gruesomely transfixed by Cyril’s purple face and bulging eyes. The veins on his neck began to stand out like ship’s rope and it was a toss up which would burst first. I was relieved we didn’t have front row seats this time. Like a clip from ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ we watched Cyril drag the chest inch by painful inch across the stage as the cast appeared and took their bow. He had almost reached the wings when he valiantly decided to make one last supreme effort to lift the chest onto his shoulder. You could hear the tearing sound from the back of the theatre. It was almost as loud as Cyril’s scream. It was a shame really because he wasn’t a bad Lead. Nobody ever owned up to filling the chest with rocks and Cyril never played for us again. I see him about now and then but every time I say hello he glares and limps off without saying a word, very temperamental these theatrical types.

There’s only three people in the ‘Karpman Drama Triangle’, a Victim, a Persecutor, and a Rescuer so it can’t be much of a drama and what it’s got to do with bowls is beyond me. I tried reading a bit but to be honest I’d rather read Rowlands’ book and that’s saying something! I decided not to muck about with the mental side of the game after the incident with Mog that got us suspended from the Cynon Valley League for a season. That was a rum do I can tell you.

Mog looks like a geriatric Beatle with Roy Orbison’s glasses just back from a funeral. He’s never had much luck with the women and he’s got a nervous stammer so I usually finish his sentences for him. That’s the kind of bloke I am. Anyway, someone on the Committee suggested we needed to toughen up our mental attitude. You could tell he’d been talking to Raymond, probably read that bleeding book as well. Mog was held up as a prime example and nobody could argue really. None of us fancied reading Raymond’s book so we all perked up when our Secretary suggested we employ the services of a hypnotist. Problem was we didn’t have any money in the kitty. That was when Terry had his bright idea.

Looking back it wasn’t all Terry’s fault. He’s almost deaf and obviously didn’t quite get the drift of what we were talking about. When he heard the word hypnotist he perked up no end, said he knew a talented hypnotist who needed to get some practice and was looking for volunteers. The vote was unanimous in favour of volunteering Mog. If Terry’s hypnotist could work the oracle with Mog we’d all be up for it. We were so enthusiastic and keen to get the sessions under way that not one of us gave a thought to the fact that Terry was also entertainment secretary of the local social club. Big mistake!

The sessions went on for three weeks behind closed doors. Mog emerged a little paler but in every other respect we could not detect any real difference. Still the proof was in the pudding and as match day approached we could hardly contain our excitement.

After the first three ends a sense of anti-climax set in like a cold damp mist. Mog was his usual drippy indecisive self and I was getting a sore throat from shouting at him. By the fifth end I was at the end of my tether. We were three shots down, nothing unusual there, and nothing was going our way. I asked Mog what shot should I play. He hovered over the head like a nervous dragonfly and my patience finally snapped. “For God’s sake get on with it man!” I shouted. He just looked up blankly and I smacked my hands together to try and get some kind of response.

We found out later that clapping loudly was the trigger Marvin the Marvellous, our hypnotist’s stage name, favoured in his act. His piece de resistance was to convince his subject he was General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The poor bloke would be stranded alone on the stage desperately fighting off hordes of imaginary Sioux warriors with his imaginary sabre. Before the poor beggar collapsed with fatigue Marvin would creep up behind him and chop him between the shoulder blades with his hand. Convinced he had been struck down by a hostile tomahawk ‘General Custer’ would drop to his knees and the battle was over. Marvin would click his fingers and the bemused individual would struggle to his feet and stare out into a crowd of drunken cheering faces.

As soon as I clapped my hands Mog stood suddenly upright and glanced around like a startled deer. Grabbing hold of a steel bowl lifter he twirled it around his head grimacing wildly like one of those berserk Irish hurlers.
“You’ll never, ooo you know, take me alive you filthy savages,” he yelled as he rampaged across the green scattering team mates and opposition in every direction. A lucky few made it to the sanctuary of the club house locking the doors firmly behind them ignoring the cries and pleas of their compatriots who hammered on the doors in vain. It was like a scene from the Titanic.

Little groups of bowlers huddled together for mutual protection as Mog galloped around the green like a man possessed. A few of the less nimble bowlers were gingerly rubbing their calves or clutching bruised posteriors. As luck would have it one of the phantom Sioux warriors must have shot Mog’s phantom horse from underneath him because he fell to the ground cursing. Quick as a flash he was up on one knee aiming his pistol frenetically at anything that did or didn’t move. “Eat my lead,” he cried which was preferable to being attacked with a stainless steel bowl lifter. I realised we had to do something quickly before his ammunition ran out.
“Terry”, I cried “get hold of Marvin on your mobile.
 “He’s in Benidorm,” replied Terry.

It must have been one of the opposition who phoned the police. I never knew we had so many in South Wales. They arrived in squad cars and vans with dog handlers ready to leap into the fray. There was even a helicopter hovering above the green but to be honest I think the SWAT team was a bit over the top. Fair play to Mog he put up a brave fight but trying to beat off Crazy Horse and the Sioux nation as well as the South Wales Constabulary proved a little beyond him. Four burly police officers eventually wrestled him to the ground. During the struggle one of them must have struck him between the shoulder blades because he went limp as though he’d been hit over the head with a tomahawk.

Mog woke up in a police cell four hours later and couldn’t remember a thing. In the end the detectives interviewing him gave up and released him on bail. The match was abandoned and not one of the opposition bowlers stayed for tea. We were left with piles of tuna and egg sandwiches that nobody wanted. There wasn’t even a wedding or a funeral we could donate them to. So, everything considered, I think I’ll leave exploring the outer reaches of sporting research to Captain Kirk and give Guinness a ring instead. I think they’d make brilliant sponsors. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Wobbling at the Point of Delivery

 In my father’s day the great attraction of bowls was, and I quote:
Vernon boy, its cheap as chips!”
How times have changed. My father must be turning in his grave up the allotment.
Nowadays lots of clubs have their own different coloured tops just like football teams. Some even change them every other year!

I can still vividly recall the day my father handed me my first white bowls shirt. There were tears in his eyes.

Vernon,” he said, “look after this it belonged to your Great Great Uncle Ivor. Wear it with pride son.”

He was too choked to say any more. Great Great Uncle Ivor must have been a big bloke because it reached down below my knees. I had to tuck it in my trousers which severely restricted my ability to bend and helped me develop my own distinct bowling style. I believe that was my father’s plan from the start. He was always a great thinker about the game.

Anyway, I became curious about Great Great Uncle Ivor and began asking a few questions. Turns out he emigrated to Australia very suddenly back in the day.
“Transported to a better place,” was how my mother put it.
My father kept strangely quiet on the subject. I think he was a bit jealous of Great Great Uncle Ivor lying on the beach all day drinking the amber nectar and eyeing up Aussie beauties in bikinis (if Harry/Harriete from Maerdy is reading this I mean real girls mind).

Talking about Australia they take their bowls very seriously over there, too seriously if you ask me. Have a look at this video made by John Patrick Tiplady discussing appropriate clothing for lawn bowls, sounds too bleeding expensive for my liking. Afterwards I’ll tell you how to get your hands on some cheap clobber while performing a delicate social function at the same time.

How much is that little lot going to cost then? Here’s a much cheaper option although you may need to buy a copy of the local paper for a few weeks and check the obituary columns. If your luck’s in there’ll be a couple of suitable entries. After all, none of us are getting any younger are we, especially us bowlers. Now you have two options:

1.     Trawl the local charity shops until suitable items of clothing and equipment surface. This is the tactic preferred by one of our members known affectionately as ‘Lefty’. He has been so successful that most of us are wearing and using recycled clothing and equipment. Jealous of our capacity to survive in times of economic austerity some of our opponents refer to us as ‘Deadwood Bowls Club’. We rise above such petty remarks.

2.     Make direct contact. It is always neighbourly to offer our condolences when a fellow bowler passes on to that Great Rink in the Sky. I always phone to offer mine to the grieving widow concerned (too be honest a few of them don’t always sound that grieving). Tact is all important in these situations. I usually say: “Sorry to hear about your loss Mrs Doe, John was one of our best players. What size shoes was he by the way?” At this point, overcome by emotion and touched by my concern many bereaved spouses simply put down the phone. Best to give them a couple of days before trying again.

I don’t know what kind of club Mr Tiplady is a member of but apparently a lot of breeding goes on behind the scenes. He didn’t mention what kind of breeding though. Nothing like what goes on behind our local Youth Club I hope. One of our members breeds pigeons and another breeds ferrets but I think it’s going a step to far to try and breed champions. Tampering with peoples genes is not natural. No good will come of it mark my words. 

Another thing Mr Tiplady went on about in his video was the need to wear protection against the sun. You can tell that video wasn’t made in Wales. Welsh bowlers spend half the time in wet suits wiping their glasses and slipping off the mat. On one particularly wet day last summer my Lead and Second did a passable impression of Torvil and Dean before disappearing over the banking. We’re more likely to get dry rot than melanomas. It might be alright wearing flat shoes in sunny Australia but in Penypont you need something with a bit more purchase.

Mr Tiplady would never succeed in getting some of our members to stop “wobbling at the point of delivery”. Raymond tells me the severity of the wobble is directly related to the number of beers consumed in the pub beforehand. It’s a wonder most of our bowlers can remain upright for the duration of the game. We had one who was particularly prone to adopting the horizontal position when attempting to deliver his wood. I recall one very embarrassing occasion that probably cost me a call up to the Welsh Veterans Squad.

As a top skip me and three of the boys had been selected as a rink to represent our club in a County match against a visiting team from Worcestershire. I knew we had a problem when I saw who they’d chosen for Lead. Herbie's nickname was ‘Horizontal Herbie’ and that should tell you all you need to know. To make matters worse the game was played in a club that had its own bar. Prising Herbie away from the bar was like trying to winkle a muscle out of its shell. I was all for dropping him in a vat of boiling water but we didn’t have one handy.

We eventually manoeuvred him unsteadily onto the green. He didn’t just wobble at the point of delivery he lurched so violently from side to side that two of the opposition began displaying symptoms of sea sickness. It was then I realised our fatal error. The selectors always made sure that whoever played Second to Herbie was young, fit and strong because they would have to hang onto Herbie’s leather belt to stop him hitting the floor after he’d let go of his wood. Mog was none of those. After the first end you could see he was struggling. To be fair Herbie is not a small bloke and Mog isn’t exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the third end Mog’s back gave out and he let Herbie go.

Herbie hit the green face first with a sickening thud. The alcohol must have deadened the pain because he got straight back up, wobbled a bit and smiled. Five ends later it was obvious Herbie was going to stay down. Nobody rushed to give him the kiss of life because by now he was reeking of Guinness and had started to dribble. We clustered around him looking for signs of life. After about three minutes he began snoring so we guessed he wasn’t badly hurt. We decided to break early for tea. Hopefully by the time we got back Herbie would have come round.

Our strategy worked. After tea we returned to find Herbie wandering around the green mumbling incoherently. He didn’t answer to his name but he was able to finish the game on two feet. We lost quite heavily thanks to Herbie. He did touch the kitty once but it didn’t count because it was on the next rink. We decided not to stay for a drink afterwards and shepherded Herbie back to the car. He slept all the way back oblivious to the disgrace he had brought upon our club. We propped him up against his front door, rang the bell and drove off quickly before his wife could answer. She’s never liked me, says I’m a bad influence on her husband. There’s only one bad influence on her Herbie and his name is Arthur Guinness.

Before I go I have to mention I am still looking for a proper sponsor for this blog. To be honest I want to ditch Rowlands and his book. I’ve been getting very peculiar looks lately. The other day one of the junior members asked me about Mavis Jones and the incident in the air raid shelter. How many times do I have to explain that I dropped my conker and was trying to find it in the dark? I’ll will definitely have to get round to reading the ruddy thing.

Next week I shall discuss the mental aspect of the game. Believe me I've known a few nutters in my time. See you then.