Love of the Game

Tony Mason considers the history of sport.

In modern times there have always been individual sports and team games, but in the nineteenth century when organised sport was taking off in Britain team games, especially football and cricket, tended to be more highly regarded. Running and boxing were good for you but when it came to social benefits nothing could equal playing the team games. It was supposed to do all kinds of things for you, from improving physique to eliminating selfishness for the greater good of the side. The sportsmanship ethic was supposed to offer rules for life as well as the sports field. This was particularly true of cricket which by the middle of the nineteenth century had taken on much of its modern form and much of the mystique which has not entirely deserted it even in more recent materialist days. 'It's not cricket', was coined at least as long ago as the 1860s, by which time the game was run by a propertied, largely titled elite organised as a private club, the MCC.

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