We are blessed with many things here in St Andrews: a beautiful historic home, fine lecturers, Jamie Rodney. However, where our ‘auld grey toon’ does undeniably fall short is in its climate. As a University with football pitches that the likes of Dundee United like to train on, it’s unusual that many of the games last Wednesday had to be called off. For academics, the frosty conditions pose no issue with the cold, simply offering another opportunity to whip out a Barbour jacket or some other warm item of clothing straight out of Fashion Week.
However, for us sportsmen and women, the weather undeniably creates a few issues. This writer had been hoping to write a match report on the Men’s 3rd XI Hockey Team, who are very deserving subjects as they have steamed into joint second in their league, a rather impressive feat. However, every single home hockey match was cancelled due to the “all-weather AstroTurf” being frozen and therefore the pitches unplayable.
Of course, none of us expect the hockey players to don their skates for the sake of 3 BUCS points but, nonetheless, there is certainly an over-eagerness at this University to let the weather get the better of us when it comes to sports rather than simply soldiering on. Football Varsity last year was played under conditions such that a ball kicked straight up would land 20 metres behind you and yet the teams soldiered on, presenting some fantastic performances for the Saints. However, this year, such determination has been lacking with multiple fixtures both home and away being called off on account of poor conditions. Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to remind our fine readership of some of the more extreme sports and weather conditions athletes have managed to endure over the years, which should hopefully shame us into braving putting on a brave face next time there is a dusting of frost on the ground.
In ancient Egypt, there was allegedly a sporting event which saw fishermen jousting each other with a team of oarsmen manoeuvring the boat while others wielded an enormous pole, trying to knock their opponents out of their respective boat. The Kinnessburn has clearly been crying out for such a spectacle, and we could even practice this sport at times when our pitches are too flooded to be usable. So, we strongly hope to see this sport represented at the Sports Fayre next year!
Next time the hockey pitch is frozen, a flaming ball would certainly help resolve that issue swiftly and the sport “Pelota purépecha” would provide the perfect means. This ancient Mexican sport, an estimated 3500 years old, is actually very similar to hockey. But hockey with a flaming ball would certainly look dynamic on the AstroTurf in the evenings, as well as resolve our ice issues. All in all, it’s a win-win. However, I do suspect the AU might not appreciate the safety risks of hitting a fireball around.
Yet, St Andrews has a bounty of ducks up and down the lengths of the Kinnessburn. Surely one or two wouldn’t be missed? The Argentine sport Pato is effectively a combination of polo (the players ride around on horses) and basketball (they are trying to score through a hoop). The slight nuance of the game, however, is that, rather than a ball, it was originally played with a duck being taken under possession into the endzones. Perhaps this is a new spinoff attraction for the St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament.
Of course, it is somewhat unlikely that the University will actually sanction a revival of any of these sports, though we would not rule it out. Nonetheless, the sheer boldness of the athletes and ducks who participated in them certainly puts us to shame when we refuse to play despite our padded shoes, warm gloves, cosy fleeces and an “all-weather” pitch. Perhaps next time malicious weather strikes we should just put on a brave face and take to the field anyway, and just be glad the ball is made of plastic not of burning tar.