Sunday, September 18, 2005
Ivan and Abdul
Sport seemed an obvious pastime for a couple of shelved warriors to take up, since sport seemed to them to be a kind of substitute, or polite, kind of warfare. It soon became evident to them, however, that sports were like warfare only in the most superficial respects. Specifically, they found that sports were hedged round with the most outrageously arbitrary restrictions. In golf, for example, you were expected to use a golf club to get your ball out of a sand trap even when your opponent could not see what you were doing. And in tennis, you were expected to call a ball foul or fair honestly even when your opponent was not in a position to check your call. Chess was no better, since surreptitiously to alter the location of pieces on the board -- obviously an effective tactic -- was ruled out.
But since they could find nothing better to do to occupy their time, they continued to play these games, although -- as the diplomatic colony to its delight soon became aware -- with a difference. Whenever the rules could be broken without detection or retribution, they were broken. Although this approach was ultimately doomed to failure, it worked very well for a time, and a number of breathtaking refinements were added to most of the conventional games. Thus to golf was added, among other things, the use of self-propelling radar-controlled golf balls, and to chess the use of hallucinogenic drugs as an offensive weapon. On the tennis courts Abdul achieved a much admired coup by hiring two men to raise and lower the net at appropriate times, until this was countered by Ivan's introduction of the net-piercing tennis ball.
From Bernard Suits, The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia, p. 60-61. Cf. eripsa.