Ask a Gentleman: Sports

Colonel Birch explains the civilized combat of the athletic contest to the unwashed masses...

Dan Brooksby Dan Brooks

Ask a Gentleman: Sports

Dan Brooks is no gentleman, but his mostly successful completion of high school has prepared him to transcribe the remarks of Colonel Rawlins Birch, the nation’s foremost authority on masculine etiquette. This week, the colonel consider the pursuit of sport.

By Colonel Rawlins Birch

Competitive sports are an integral part of life in the United States, since they combine the most popular American activity—winning—with the second most popular American activity, saying that the thing you lost at doesn’t matter anyway. For the Gentleman of means, sport is a good way to occupy your leisure time.

For the Gentleman without means, sport proves you can afford health insurance. Both will distinguish you from other people, which is the primary pursuit of any decent person.

Primitive man engaged in extremely simple sports, such as running and watching your wife die of the flu. In contemporary society, sport has become much more refined, and often involves complicated etiquette. In order to avoid embarrassment, the Gentleman should familiarize himself with the most popular sporting activities.

Conventional sports

Baseball is considered the national pastime, probably because you can be 85 pounds overweight and still play it at a professional level. The increasing number of Latin Americans in Major League Baseball also makes it satisfyingly American, and provides ample opportunity for the other national pastime, racism.

Football is arguably even more quintessentially American than baseball, since only a small number of people are permitted to play it for reasons of genealogy and you pretty much have to go to college. The gentleman who weighs less than 200 pounds is expected to restrict himself to touch football, which is exactly like regular football but without pads and with exposed tree roots instead of pads.

Racists who feel they have exhausted the possibilities inherent in baseball might enjoy basketball, which is the nation’s most talked-about sport among both young people and embittered hockey fans. When expressing your racism through contemporary basketball, it’s considered polite to speak in euphemism. Having “good fundamentals,” for example, means being white and the coach’s son. “High-flying,” “unorthodox,” “aggressive,” “slashing,” “athletic” or “thuggish” means being everybody else.

Hunting and Fishing
Like its close cousin, war, hunting is popular primarily among the very rich. Proper hunting involves horses, coursing hounds, bugle players, red jackets and acres of land, none of which are accessible to the ordinary American. While the Gentleman is advised to have as little contact with ordinary Americans as possible, economic realities sometimes assert themselves. Those without the means to hunt might consider taking up fishing, which is like hunting without land, guns, or physical motion. Fishing is also the only sport in which it is considered acceptable to drink beer during play, with the possible exceptions of softball and dating.

Soccer—or “football,” as it is known among people who have just returned from a semester abroad—is not a sport. You can tell because Europeans are good at it. If we’re going to call soccer a sport, we might as well say the same thing about smoking cigarettes, wearing striped turtlenecks and making a list of who’s Jewish. Rugby, by comparison, is kind of a sport, to the same degree that British people are kind of Americans.

Unconventional sports

The Gentleman who is too uncoordinated or drunk to play one of the sports listed above might consider an unconventional sport, such as driving in New York or running for President. In both cases, he will be expected to talk about regular sports once he arrives.

Talking about sports

Following a sport will always give you something to talk about with strangers. You should do it anyway, though, in case you have a job interview of something. The beauty of sports is that you don’t actually have to know anything to talk about them; just nod a lot and opine that they used to be much better in the past. A sentence like “It’s too bad Steve Sax isn’t playing for Boston this year,” gives the reassuring impression that you have been a sports fan for a long time, and forces the other person to either agree with you or argue that society is better off without him.

Dan Brooks writes about politics, consumer culture and lying at Combat!