What sport, above all others, embodies the fire of the human spirit? What sport combines more grit, guts, and gregariousness than Odysseus or Ulysses ever knew? What sport propels men, women, and children beyond their hardened limits and into the world of excellence and legend?
Most of you, I’m sure, have already guessed the answer. Maybe you got it from my last name, or maybe you have actually experienced the ethereal, emotive responses that this exercise engenders. Regardless of the reason, you get my eternal props for your correct answer, and I’ll be mailing you the transcripts of some “Ozzie Guillen as Obama’s Press Secretary” outtakes.
For the rest of you, the heaven-sent sport in question was the progenitor of civility, the preeminent judge of one’s character, and the original wear-your-slacks-and-drink-some-tea pastime.
That’s right—I’m talking about the sport of croquet.
Now, there may be a few of you inbred ingrates who chuckle at the thought of croquet being the epitome of human achievement. But lest ye forget, there were also people who laughed at Picasso, Petey Pablo, and Puff, the Magic Dragon. If these cultural and intellectual giants had bowed to the gaggle of giggles, the modern world would be without their unsurpassable talent and gifts, to say nothing of the greatness of “Freek-A-Leek.”
Fortunately, the founding fathers of croquet did not hide from those ignorant chortles. They stood their ground, rightly believing that what they had produced would one day change the world for the better. Now, as we stand on the eve of a new era in America, we can look to the future knowing that the past and present will always be held together by the glue of croquet.
This sport may be old, but in accordance with the all-inclusiveness (and obesity) of the 21st-century, can any sport match croquet in welcoming both athletes and non-athletes alike?
But it’s recently come to my understanding that, inexplicably, there are those who have not partaken in this greatest of sports. I can’t help but feel the deepest pangs of sympathy, and although I may not know you personally, I feel that it is my duty to enlighten you as to the courage and temerity that croquet exemplifies.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I have the aforementioned greatness in my bloodlines—my grandfather, Jean-Claude Michel, is the inspiration for the annual Jay Michel Memorial Croquet Tournament in Seattle, Wash. Please, don’t be jealous, but feel free to deride your grandparents for not attaining the importance that mine did.)
Before defining its perfect nuance, let’s take a look at why croquet gives other sports more shame than Nieman Marcus gave Sarah Palin. Basketball and soccer may have the fluidity of Coca-Cola, but you’ll end up tired and—I shudder just thinking of this—sweaty.
Baseball may be “America’s pastime,” but could you really fit a baseball diamond in Camp David? Tennis may pride itself on its sportsmanlike demeanor, but croquet gives you the opportunity to whack your opponent’s ball into oblivion, or at least the neighbor’s yard. Why John McEnroe chose tennis, we’ll never know.
Sure, croquet can be described as “just another game you play with your family by the estate in [insert overtly-pompous European grounds],” but there are key differences between croquet and other sports you can play whilst decrying the loss of upper-class tax breaks.
Lawn darts supposedly stump croquet in terms of danger, but as the ribs of a friend of mine can attest, croquet mallets are often harder than Michael Chiklis. And while bocce ball may always own ties to the Mafia, croquet traces its roots back to the rebellious French nobility. (Side note: The mallets can also double as sabres, leading many notable croquet historians to theorize that the Three Musketeers may have originally begun as croquet maestros. En garde!)
Croquet has surpassed all sports, even in the realm of the marital matters. Though they were
unavailable for comment—likely debating what to get me for Christmas—I can attest that the marriage of Jules and Kathy “Inaugural Winner of the Jay Michel Tournament” Michel frequently cracks during a heated game of croquet. Either Jules enjoys sleeping on the couch, or he unwittingly believes that he may some day beat Kathy. Either way, croquet has influenced their marriage in ways their children could only dream of.
Truly, croquet is both the sport of kings and the king of sports. Its impact is often compared with the invention of fire, and is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Clearly, the world would be a worse place without it.
For those who’ve yet to enjoy the game’s unimaginable bliss, I can only hope that you come out of your shell and play a round with us, because in the end, it’s the greatest thing you shall ever do.
I mean, unless you’re listening to “Freek-A-Leek.” But that’s on a whole different level.