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Why Heavyweight Boxers are more logical than Rabbis and Priests


After a weekend of FA Cup fifth round matches, which saw lowly Crawley Town put-up heroic resistance before losing 1-0 to Manchester United and, last night, Leyton Orient draw 1-1 with Arsenal, I am left wondering why we are all so fascinated by these unequal struggles. Could it be that, as neutral fans we enjoy seeing the over-paid elite – the Andrex Athletes* – having one put over on them?

We all like the idea of ‘Sport for All’ but – in these days of uber-commercialism, increasing obesity and declining physical activity – it is pretty clear that sport just ain’t. So, it is good to think that those whose sporting prowess has more in common with our amateur kickabout can beat the galacticos.

Getting the rules right. With common rules you are stronger and more inclusive.

In 1922, in God’s chosen sport (cricket), for reasons known only to themselves, the eternal enemy (the Australians) decided to count eight balls to an over (balls bowled from one end) even though there had been universal agreement since 1900 that there would only be six. Clearly, it would have created problems if each cricket-playing country had adopted its own system of counting, and numerous attempts were made to agree on this rule. With cricket world cup currently underway on the sub-continent, it is obvious to anyone watching that only six balls are bowled in cricket – a rule that has been fully adopted worldwide since 1979.

In order for sport to make sense, you need to operate under the same rules worldwide: it is as simple as that.

This was nowhere more clear than in last year’s autumn rugby internationals. The different interpretations put on the rules by Southern Hemisphere referees made a mockery of one of the defining characteristics of the game of rugby union football. Only five scrummages were given in the course of England’s match against Australia and none of them was allowed to run its course, thus depriving players and spectators of an important part of the rugby contest. It may be true that Australia and New Zealand want to play running rugby, but if that is all you want to do,  you should take-up basketball.

Different Rules: Failure to referee the scrum deprived England of an advantage

The issue of a historical mismatch between two or more parts of the same sport need not be a cause for misery, though. There are several instances of re-unification title fights in the history of boxing – especially in the heavyweight division. These come about because of the existence of several different international boxing associations – most notably the WBA (World Boxing Association) and the WBC (World Boxing Council). Each have their version of world championship and so you risk having three different boxers all claiming to be heavyweight champion of the world at the same time.

The problem is that each sporting committee has its own vested interests in remaining separate. Empire-building is alive and kicking in the land of the stuffed shirt and, although rugby is no longer administered by Will Carling‘s ’57 old farts’, it is still run very slowly by the elite for the elite.

So what have the rabbonim and priesthood got to do with the sweaty world of professional sport? Well, perhaps more than you might think.

The social elites of organised religion operate to exclude just as do the committees at Twickenham or Lords.

There is still a premier league of Christian churches that leave their Christian poorer relations excluded from the fold. In Islam and Judaism, likewise, there are orthodox elites holding-on to power, privilege and prestige while smaller, more moderate and inclusive progressive co-religionists are kept outside. No-one wants to be the one remembered for letting the true faith be diluted by making peace with dissenters. Each, of course, believes that they have sole patent on the right way of doing things.

Isn’t it time that they took a leaf out of the book of the cricketers and heavyweight boxers and looked to create a common set of rules? Wouldn’t a re-unified broad church of tolerant believers working to enhance society be better for for everyone?

*Andrex Athletes – Former England Rugby captain Laurence Dallaglio alluded to this popular brand of toilet tissue when describing Premier League footballers as ‘Andrex Athletes – very soft and incredibly expensive’.

  1. Where were you, Neil?

    And then coming back with … cricket??? Do we really want to model ourselves after sports?

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.,

    • Hi Alexa,
      Back from a bout of busi-ness!
      Me? Take sports too seriously? What can you mean?
      There is a point to all this, though. It does strike me that negotiated consensus in a plural environment is an important part of liberal democracy.
      We are starting to see a step in this direction with the European-style coalition in the UK at present and, as I point-out, the example has been set by the major world sports, so why can’t faith communities work it out?

  2. You are right, of course, Neil.

    Personally, I love the world of science, and how scientists come to agreements.


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