It is reported that in the High Court a judgement has been handed down to the effect that the card game Bridge, cannot be regarded as a sport because it is not physical. The English Bridge Union went to law against Sport England because the definition mattered when it came to government grants and lottery money.
The idea of Bridge being a subsidised sport or activity in the name of British prestige etc. is fascinating. It tells us how times have changed. But maybe the Bridge players will find willing sponsors, Formula One motor racing is getting very boring these days.
It can be physical in many ways. The footsie messages and tapping under the table, the dealing, stacking and shuffling the cards, the use of hands and other things were integral to winning and losing.
Imagine if televised, and I suspect that if Bridge was done on any of the Sky Sports Channels the decision would not have been the same. The hushed commentator would be saying, Smith has just touched his left nostril with the fourth finger of the right hand. This might mean a low club lead is imminent.
Go back to the mid 19th Century however and trawl the local papers and some of the national ones. Sport was not as we know now. It was hunting, shooting and fishing.
Long reports would tell of the meets, who was out with which, what was hunted and killed. Was Bay Middleton out with Turner Macan and The Oakley, with perhaps the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and The Prince of Wales following?
For shooting, the reports were as long and as fawning. If one of the leading shots gunned down a couple of hundred of our feathered friends he could be sure of being regarded as an admired sportsman. For high class fishing a trawler load of a catch could get you a headline.
Our favoured sports of today were then games or pastimes. All very well for the lower orders and those who could not make it in accepted sports. But many did become major sports although it took time to be recognised as such.
In the early 1950's when I first saw synchronised swimming and was told that there where hopes for it as an Olympic Sport, it was thought by many then that the idea was quite batty. When we relaxed in a public house and played a few games of darts we never dreamed the rise of this to be one of the featured sports of our times with large crowds, big money and full TV coverage.
It is of course the money that matters, ask any golfer. Table tennis was an interesting case. Lawn tennis has made it into being a sport with a great deal of following, but table tennis has not. It has many players, quite physical but without that edge on TV. This is a game where there is no doubt about the skill and fitness needed at the higher levels.
But returning to the past, the shooters were often not too fussy about the birds that they shot. I note that in the High Court the judge was a Mr. Justice Dove.
Pass me the double barrelled Carson.