This is the sports issue of the TLS and regular readers may be reasonably disquieted at the prospect of descent into running, jumping, kicking, throwing and other pursuits deemed in one way or another to be sporting.
Never fear. We begin with mountaineering and the “multiple modernities” which Peter H. Hansen sees in the acts of those claiming to see and climb mountains for the first time. The first man to “discover” Mont Blanc was an Englishman who visited Savoy’s glaciers in 1741 and published a pictorial pamphlet. Next we turn to cricket, a peak of human endeavour which the English can more easily claim to have discovered although, as Stephen Fay notes, the Indians like to see it first within the most ancient paths of their own Hindu culture. Indians certainly own the game now, he concludes, reviewing two books on high-speed matches, gambling, corruption and the only place where the passions of rich and poor ever meet.
Football will be back in Britain soon and the TV screens are already aflicker with the prices of Croatians and Brazilians trafficked between London, Paris and Rome. Toby Lichtig considers Red or Dead, a novel by the “unflinching” David Peace about how Liverpool Football Club rose from lowly “second division” origins to become “one of the greatest teams of the past half century”. Its central character is a manager who once said that football was “more important” than life or death. Lichtig finds little to be said in support of Peace’s “cut-and-paste prose” and much that is appropriately predictable.
Who was the first to have a Jockey Club? If Maryland had one in 1743, “why did it take at least another seven years before the founding of a British one?” Donald W. Nichol poses the sporting question and discovers the reassuring answer that the institution which set the rules for horse racing has an English history stretching further back than once was thought. In the 1720s, and maybe as early as 1709, “the Jockey Club” was already doing what it does best, providing a home for a man who has “gambled away his trousers”.