It was as English a scene as I have been part of for many a year. As I sat next to my wife, she looking radiant and I suited and booted, the sun shone through the windows of the cricket clubhouse as we watched our friends finally tie the knot at their Covid-postponed wedding.

The final cap on the scene of Englishness was the sight of two cricket teams going at it hammer and tongs outside the window, as the sound of leather on willow echoed around the field, punctuated only by screams of desperation as the bowler claimed LBW for the fourth time that over.

So, as I sat with the attention span of a goldfish, my attention flitted between the ceremony and the cricket game, and I nearly yelped at the most inopportune moment when number six got clean bowled by a wicked yorker.


A batsman leaves the crease after being bowled out. Photo: Pixabay

A batsman leaves the crease after being bowled out. Photo: Pixabay


It was at that point, however, that I came to and, after nigh on a half century as a fully paid-up participator and fan of sports, I couldn’t help but think: what’s the point?

Despite classing myself as an avid fan, more so since the advent of Sky and its expensive yet credible sports output, there are different levels of fanhood. I recall, when I used to have a season ticket at Underhill, former home of Barnet FC, learning of a fan who, to save missing even one moment of the action, had refused to be best man or even attend his brother's wedding as we had a date in the pits of the football pyramid against Chester or Dagenham or some other lower league non-entity.

Many thought this act was ‘noble’ and showed ‘loyalty’, but I found the whole situation sad and some of my love for the beautiful game was lost that day. How could a man put some overpaid primadonnas kicking a sack of air around a patch of grass for 90 minutes above that of a one-off event for a sibling? I felt little but pity, yet was thankful that this guy was not my brother.

So why the obsession? Is there any point in watching sweating hulks of men with ears that make Van Gogh’s look aesthetically pleasing writhe around in mud on the verge of a coronary? The same could be said for the fascination of watching men in appalling clothing hit a little white ball 500 yards with a metal club before trying to find the ball in undergrowth again and again.


Brett Ellis loves watching mountain stages of cycling races. Photo: Pixabay

Brett Ellis loves watching mountain stages of cycling races. Photo: Pixabay


I confess I enjoy watching men wearing tight clothing and less than 1% body fat pedal up hills in the rear end of France for thousands of miles. Maybe tennis is your bag as the upper middle classes again dominate a sport where the ball is in play for a fraction of the game time, which is filled with grunting, the sipping of Robinson's barley water and the changing of a racquet every five minutes.

But again I ask, what is the point? Why are we so obsessed with the watching of such activity? I concur, playing is different as we use it to get fit and live longer as we satisfy a primeval urge to compete. The sense of competition is key in any aspect of the animal kingdom but watching others do it makes no sense at all.

And yet I, with you, continue to be addicted. Tomorrow we have been invited to a cousin's house for a soirée in London and yet I have made my excuses as I have to do some ironing and send some emails, which of course could wait, although I have failed to mention there’s a nondescript football match on Sky which, although not a fan of either team, I just must watch. Why? I don’t know and I cannot and have never been able to put my finger on why, but I guess most of what we do is pointless anyhow as we clutch at anything to fill the void before we shuffle from this mortal coil.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher