The four sportsman

Four sportsman are arguing about what to do with an empty expanse of grass. They’re talking over one another, proposing and defending their ideas.

The first, a rugby player, is explaining to the second, a cricketer, how strong you need to be to play his game. He’s describing the shape of the ball and the two ways to score. He’s telling the cricketer what a lineout and a scrum are. 

The cricketer then explains that his game has three forms. Twenty20, one-day matches and tests. He describes the difference between a spin bowler and a fast bowler. He’s trying to help the rugby player understand what an inning is, how the batting order functions and why shots that reach the boundaries are worth more.

The third person, a footballer, is explaining the virtues of the beautiful game to the fourth person, a golfer. He’s telling him what a goal is, what the goalkeeper’s job is and how the offside rule works. He’s describing the different formations and the difference between a central defender and a striker.

The golfer then describes what par is, what a birdie is, and what a bogey is. He tells him when you use a wood, when you use an iron and why you need a putter. He describes what a handicap is and why there’s these things called bunkers.

Each of our sportsman is trying to explain the nuances of their game to someone who is trying to play a different one. But it’s like a teenager trying to explain his ambition to his parents. If he wants to be a lawyer, but his parents are artists, do you think they’ll understand? If they don’t, it’s because they don’t see the world through the same lens as their child. They all inhabit the same planet, but the rules and spirit of the child’s game are alien to the parents. 

Saul Alinsky would call this a failure of communication. To communicate, he says, the first rule is to stay within the experience of the other party. To a cricketer, the idea of being tackled by a eighteen stone prop doesn’t exist. A rugby player will look at you blankly if you tell him you’re going to chuck a ball at him at upwards of eight piles per hour. An American will have difficulty understanding the difference between the working class, the professional class and the gentry. Just as we are non-plussed by their gun laws.

The frames of references of all these people are too different from one another. That is why they can’t understand each other. That is why, often, we can’t understand each other. 

We’re all in the same space, but we’re playing our own game, with it’s own rules and objectives.