Can we have our balls back, please?: how the British invented sport

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Allen Lane, Nov 6, 2008 - Humor - 444 pages
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CAN WE HAVE OUR BALL BACK, PLEASE? is the highly entertaining story of how the British invented sport as we know it today (and then almost forgot how to play it). Long before Drake refused to interrupt his game of bowls when the Armada was sighted, the British have had a passionate relationship with games. Here Julian Norridge explores how those games became major sports like boxing, cricket, horse racing and hockey. Their stories cover the whole of Britain - from Welsh-born inventor and tobacco enthusiast Major Walter Clopton Wingfield coming up with a game involving new-fangled rubber balls (lawn tennis), to an apocryphal English football match using severed Viking head as a ball, to Scottish shepherds inventing golf more than 700 years ago. But this is far more than a book about sport, it also takes a very funny, very British look at our popular history and mythology. Full of tales of hunting parsons, prize-fighting ex-slaves, corrupt princes and cuckolded husbands, this is sporting life in all its eccentricity. It chronicles the constant battle between fair play and gambling; between amateurism and professionalism; and between advances in the dame and plain cheating (such as turning up with a cricket bat wider than the wicket). Can We Have Our Balls Back Please? proves that there is an awful lot to be proud of in our history, it suggest where our strange feeling of superiority really comes from and it shows why we are always disappointed when we lost, but rarely surprised.

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