Next Wednesday, I will be playing… wait for it…. Rounders.
Yes, you read that correctly, Rounders.
You remember, the sport that everyone played at primary school in the 1980s, but then immediately forgot about the day they left? The one that’s a bit like baseball, only the shit English version where you have to bowl underarm and can only hold the bat with one hand?
Hang on, let me see if I can find some pictures online to jog your memory:
Got it now? Yes, that Rounders.
There is a very good reason all these pictures look dated, and that’s because they were taken more than thirty bloody years ago.
Look, if this were a charity event, or something organised for the kids at Ollie’s school, I could perhaps excuse such an abominable sporting resurgence from my youth, but the fact of the matter is this: I’m going to be playing it (semi) competitively, with grown men and women, and it’s not even in aid of anything.
I’m not entirely sure whose idea the event was, and therefore who to blame, but it seems the firm I work for have been ‘challenged’ by another business from the same village, and for some inexplicable reason, their sporting contest of choice is one that – until now – vanished shortly after Lord Lucan and Shergar.
Apparently, depending on the success of the match, this may well pave the way for future sporting competitions between our two firms (I can only assume that quoits, tig and kiss-chase are on the cards).
It may come as a surprise, but it’s safe to say my initial response to the e-mail ‘invitation’ (as if we had any choice in the matter) was not overly enthusiastic, as it was along the lines of:
“Yeah, ok, I think I can play. But it does mean missing ‘Neighbours’, and Mum wants me home by 7pm anyway, as I have school the next day and haven’t done my homework yet. Oh no, wait, it’s not 1987 anymore, is it?”
Unfortunately, my sarcastic reply was completely ignored beyond the first seven words, and the next I knew, I was signed up to play. “Go on,” my boss said “it’ll be fun.”
Fun? We’re a firm of solicitors, and they’re a firm of accountants – not two areas of business typically known for their ‘fun’ side. Also, I haven’t yet got around to creating my ‘fun things to do before I die’ bucket list, but I suspect ‘play Rounders again one last time’ will feature somewhere between ‘go on holiday to Burnley’ and ‘have colonic irrigation’.
Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… it did.
Firstly, it was decided that we should all wear matching t-shirts with our company logo on. Awesome. Just when I was starting to get worried that we might come across as complete and utter losers, for playing a sport generally associated with teenage girls, we get a uniform to make us look even more cool.
Secondly, we were told to come up with a team name, and whilst our eventual choice (‘The Panthers’) is embarrassing to say the least, I refuse to have it criticised because, well, it was my idea. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to get involved in the name-selecting process, and I am even less certain as to why I thought this name would be suitable for our team (panthers are sleek, agile and black – three things that myself and my colleagues are most certainly not), but involved I got, and my suggestion ended up being the preferred choice.
As I began to grow concerned about how seriously we were perhaps taking the event, we received communication from our opponents, via Twitter. It transpires they have chosen to call themselves ‘The Jedi’, and they had tweeted a picture of two of their staff, fighting with Rounders bats like they were lightsabers, accompanied by the caption “Are you ready to feel our force?”
I laughed so hard, I swear a little wee came out.
Smack talk? For a Rounders match between a firm of Solicitors and a firm of Accountants in Cheshire? Are you fucking kidding me? Ok, it was camp Star Wars-based smack talk (yeah, that’ll dispel the rumours that lawyers and accountants are all nerds, well played chaps), but it was still clearly provoking a response. Naturally, I felt that we should rise above it, ignore the tweet, and let our Rounders do the talking.
“We need to respond with something” my boss said.
Apparently, “What’s the matter with you people?” wasn’t entirely appropriate, and might upset the friendly nature of the contest, but by this point I felt all bets were off. If they wanted to start with the childish taunts, like we really were still in the playground, then it was fair game as far as I was concerned. My subsequent suggestions therefore included:
“You guys are going down faster than your sisters”
“The last time we got to third base, it was with your mums”
And, quite simply:
“We’re gonna fuck you right up”
None of which were approved. I have no idea why.
So, I will have to resort to Plan B: destroying them. I don’t care if we lose, but I’m going out there with the full intention of taking no prisoners. If I end up physically hurting someone, then so be it.
Prior to ‘kick off’ (or whatever the hell you call the start of a Rounders match), I will channel the spirit of Vinnie Jones – who, the last time I checked, isn’t actually dead yet, but all bets are off this year, aren’t they? – and the red mist will descend over me.
I won’t speak to any of my own team mates, let alone their players, in case I risk unbalancing my focus. I will simply step up to the plate – or the more British ‘overturned saucer with a hole in it’ – grip the bat so hard my knuckles turn white (and with both hands, screw the rules), and stare the bowler firmly in the eye. I will then maintain eye contact, without blinking, while beginning to emit a low, deep roar.
Unaware of my team mates, what ‘bases are loaded’ (look, I haven’t played this in nearly thirty years, so I’m not familiar with all the terms, ok?) or any sounds from the screaming fans around me, I will remain focused on just one thing: smashing the ball so hard, and so far, that whoever retrieves it will need to take a rest break half-way there.
Either that, or I’ll miss the ball entirely, cry, and run home to mum to complain about the big boys being nasty to me in the park. Then she’ll make me chicken dippers, potato waffles and spaghetti hoops, and we’ll sit down to watch Neighbours before I do my homework…
Wildly unrealistic photo, of some laughably over-enthusiastic women playing Rounders. This has never actually happened. Ever.