Misunderstood long form sport should be treasured

The good things in life never last. Or at least that is what I am told, so enjoy them while you can. This is a perennial problem for most sports and its fans; football, rugby, and basketball are all constrained to a set time limit, while other sports like tennis or Formula One are rarely going to see events last longer than a few hours – unless something truly exceptional is taking place. In short, the action is all too fleeting.

But fear not, there is a solution: long form sports are a true blessing that rarely get the love they undoubtedly deserve. Cricket. Snooker. Lawn bowls for goodness sake! There are so many great sports out there that are willing to take up an afternoon, or even days, of your life. To some, this is a true representation of what hell must be like, but for most sane and rational people, these sports should be treasured. Allow me to paint you a picture.

It is Edinburgh in February. It is cold and wet. Quite frankly the thought of leaving your flat and your pyjamas seems about as appealing as having a wrestling match with a rabid polar bear, while your friends and colleagues pelt you with rotten fruit and their honest opinions of you. Your flatmates are out, being more productive or sociable than you ever intend on being, and you have managed to virtually complete Netflix. What is there left to do?

Suddenly, while absent-mindedly trawling through Twitter for the 73rd time, you see a tweet pop up about how Stephen Maguire is leading Shaun Murphy three frames to one at something called ‘The Crucible’. Intrigued, you delve further into this murky world of ‘frames’, ‘breaks’, and polite applause. Upon discovery of a link to watch this sport, you realise that snooker is just pool for adults. You like pool. After a couple of pints you are even pretty good at it.

But then you notice something, why is neither player potting anything? Why are they just hitting the cue ball up and down the table? You keep watching, begging for answers, until finally a pot is made. Then another. And another. The ease of it is hypnotic and before you know it, the black is being lined up to seal the match. More polite applause as you finally tear your eyes away from the screen, content that your appetite has been sated for the time being. But wait, the referee is setting it all up again. Surely there cannot be more.

Oh but there is, only this time you know what to expect. You watch with bated breath waiting for the first player to make the critical strike and begin the ball-potting massacre. After four hours, it is finally over. The sun has set and the pangs of hunger are beginning to set in. But it is all good; you have spent your afternoon warm and comfortable, while snooker has caressed the eyes, and the gentle Northern Irish tones of Denis Taylor have comforted the ears.

That right there is what makes long form sport such a joy. It is not in-your-face, or overly loud. It does not expect you to know exactly what is going on right away, but give it time and you will soon become absorbed by the intricacies of it. Cricket too has this appeal, as does lawn bowls. It eats up your time, but not in a guilty way that Netflix does: this is sport after all, a much more respectable way to spend an afternoon.

Long form sport does not expect you to sit and watch it in its entirety, but it is ever so grateful if you do. And you will be too should you choose to put the time in.

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