Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Mallets of Summer

We've been trekking around the Middle Atlantic for a couple of days now. At the moment, we're tucked snug into a townhouse in Southwest Washington--a neighborhood I first encountered 50 years ago as a slum, a swamp, a trackless void. Such are the vagaries of human advancement. But that's not my point. What I really went to tell you about is the Great Game--the encounter we stumbled across yesterday in Maryland, at Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy and also (for extra credit) St. Johns College, tiny, austere and dedicated to the study of the classics. Evidently somebody actually took the trouble to dream up a sport at which the Nancy Boys from up the hill can beat the sailors down by the bay.

And that would be? You said "cricket?" Not a bad guess and cricket might actually work but the true answer is croquet, that species of ground tennis where competitors hit balls through hoops with mallets.  And what a party it turns out to be: the St. Johns front lawn (is it a "quad"?) was jam packed with picnic gear, bottles of bubbly, sport jackets with sorts and more bow ties than I've seen since the last rally of the Presidential campaign of Nelson A. Rockefeller [one guy with a crewcut, wearing shorts and a Reese's Peanut Butter tee-shirt, and waving a bottle of  beer, seemed to have parachuted in from an entirely different venue, or planet).

The "Johnnies" (it says in the local paper) won 3-1, which is by all accounts a moral victory for the seafarers, who most of the time simply can't hold a mallet to their uphill neighbors.  A snippet of amateur video is below but for a proper slide show go here.


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