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SHADES OF GREY IN CONTINUING
DEBATE ON "CROQUET WHITES"


Following publication of our "Issues Forum #1" on croquet whites, the discussion has continued with some heat and occasional light in many quarters around the world. We take no credit for initiating the conversation, which, it seems, is very much in the air. Coincident with our publication, THE CROQUET GAZETTE went to press with some enlightening letters reproduced below in part by permission of editor Gail Curry.

At the same time, Dan Horodysky sent a sports page report of a tennis match at the French Open: "Wearing the little black tennis dress that has launched a thousand wolf whistles and raised more than a thousand eyebrows among the sport's fashion police, a quite contrary Mary Pierce....was whistled off Center Court yesterday in a hail of derisive jeers." Pierce and her sponsor Nike, it seems, had miscalculated in diverging so radically from accustomed tennis garb at the French Open.

Most surprising of all, the editor of BOWLS magazine writes to us that lawn bowlers, more progressive on this issue than croquet players, put aside the whites standard years ago. The debate continues....


LAWN BOWLERS GIVE UP ALL-WHITES STANDARD

Color versus whites on the green - whether the sport is croquet, bowls, tennis, cricket, et als - is not really a decision of taste as much as of sanctity. It's difficult to change what's been! If heart-and-soul croquet players are like heart-and-soul lawn bowlers, no one is going to change the religious conviction that whites are what the Lord devined for playing apparel.

Of course, the Big Croquet Player (really Lawn Bowler) in the Sky did not design the original competition outfits. Activities such as yours and ours were developed for the privileged, way back when (Bowls is known to be at least 400 years old), and white was symbolic of purity, and later, amateurism.

Without getting into that arena, be aware that lawn bowling (bowls) has been using color shirts for major events since at least 1992. At the 1992 World Bowls in Worthing, England, so-called "home" team players wore red shirts, while "visiting" players wore blue shirts - in every match. This color coding took place in England. That's right, England! And, it wasn't without comment or, better yet, tugging and pulling.

The use of color was prompted by TV coverage. The BBC said, "We want the players in color so audiences can follow the game better." And, they didn't stop there. The Beeb insisted every player's bowls be color-coded (with stickers) to the player's shirt. The World Bowls Association (WBB) did not have to comply - unless they wanted to be on television.

I don't know how the color-coding worked for TV audiences, because, as Manager of the Team USA, I was on the green all day. But I do know they proved to be a wonder for the crowds of four to five thousand paying spectators each day, because they now had a way to easily follow what was going on.

Four years later, you should have seen the colorful shirts employed at the 1996 World Bowls in New Zealand (the World event is held every four years). Bright blues and yellows with contemporary designs!

Various types of color-coding have been used in some international competitions for about 10 years. Here in the U.S., each Division of the American Lawn Bowls Association has its own regulations. Here in the Southwest Division (Southern California.), we now encourage bowlers to wear same-color team shirts. But, few do. Maybe it's because they are traditionalists; perhaps their investment in white tops requires more "wears" for better dividends.

While whites are symbolic of the traditions of our two sports, they are also our albatross - or at least the most visable. If we dress to make an impression, we impress the outside world as "old, older and oldest". We accept the title of #1 seed in this area, but how would anyone really know by looking? EVERYONE LOOKS OLD, OLDER & OLDEST in whites. Yes, we may look genteel, and traditional, and quaint, and challenging. But we also look like we don't fit in. Spare me all the retorts as to why that's a good thing! After all, "not fitting in" is one of the main reasons we play our games.

But considerations of the mere existance and continuation of the sport have to fit into the formula somewhere. Public bowling greens and croquet courts are receiving less maintenance or are disappearing all over the country. City governments' first budget cuts hit the park systems. And, two of the least understood activities - and usually least populated - activities in most parks are the bowling greens and the croquet lawns.

Tradition/shmadition! How may times can you cry "character of the park", when the Park people ask: "Why don't you have more people participating in your activity"?

Today's sports/activity marketplace is rampant with all sorts of choices. The four new members the Beverly Hills Croquet Club brings in each year, and the eight new members the BH Bowling Club brings in annually have so far kept our entities active. But, for how long?

If you croquet players and we bowlers are going to increase our chances for survival, we must attract more people to our sports. Too few newcomers are attracted by our whites. Colors on the court/green won't turn the place into a mass market. But, maybe it'll say: "The game is old, the people are contemporary." No bowler has ever claimed they made a shot or won a match because they wore color or their opponent did. Nothing about the changes - just the perceived attitude.

Some of us bowlers think it's worth upsetting tradition to change that perception.

--Joe Siegman, Editor, BOWLS Magazine

BOWLS is the the National Quarterly of the American Lawn Bowls Association. On the green, Joe Siegman was a winner of the 1989 National Open Pairs, Southwest rep in the 1994 U.S. Championships, and Manager of two USA international teams.


THE WHITES "TRADITION" IS A RECENT INVENTION, SAYS SOLOMON

...I rather think I was partly responsible for whites now being the norm, at least for tournaments. (Incidentally, there is no rule. It is merely a convention that most clubs like to see observed.)

I played in my first tournament in 1947. At that time whites were hardly ever worn. We have to distinguish between ladies (as they were always referred to in those days) and men. Ladies wore dresses, of any colour as I recall, with one excpetion, namely Kay Longman who wore a gray flannel divided skirt because she played centre style, and a very sensible gard it was for those days, since ladies rarely wore trousers.

Men certainly wore a motley selection of clothing, the most common I sujppose being gray flannels and a blazer (very few men played without a jacket of some kind)....

In 1959 I was a member of the English team which visited New Zealand fort he MacRobertson Trophy, and having spent three months there, Humphrey Hicks and I went on to Austrlia for another two months giving demonstrations at many clubs. When we returned home we jointly wrote the following letter which was published in the May 1951 GAZETTE:

"Dear Sir: It is no exaggeration to say that what has struck us most in our croquet tour of New Zealand and Australia was the excellent effect produced by all players wearing white on the courts.

"The weather, as was proved at the New Zealand Championships, when it was cold and often wet, makes but little diference on this score.

"We most strongly urge that English croqut players - one and all - shall adopt a uniform of white."

The following month the Editor, H.F. Crowther Smith, wrote a lengthy article saying that this letter had aroused considerable discord, mainly because we had suggested that some sartorial uniform be adopted. This word appeared to cause offence, although he conceded that there had been some improvement in male attire - braces were no longer visible....

-- John Solomon in THE CROQUET GAZETTE


COLOR THE PUBLIC IMAGE "WHITE"

I write as someone who spends a lot of time washing the 'whites.'

In Tunbridge Wells, we have battled with the local council for many years to convince them of the merits of croquet, and part of our strategy is to insist that members wear predominantly white at all time to show that croqut is a serious sport and not a halfhearted pastime. We now have a splendid clubhouse and three lawns in a prestigious park in the middle of Tunbridge Wells, courtesy of the council. As it is in full view of the public, it is even more important to continue that image.

-- Audrey Howell in THE CROQUET GAZETTE


MORAL FIBRE IN ALL SHADES OF WHITE

Just look what happened in tennis, and the only reason they allowed change was for MONEY. Shirt sponsors wanted distinctive shirts easily recognised on TV with a change every year to make you buy more to keep in fashion.

Players who cannot bother to wear white just lack moral fibre, or are sheer b***** idle. I guess it just reflects modern life - no personal pride - just throw on any old thing and to hell with conforming - "I'm an individual!' - You're a scruff! So you have to do a little more washing. Once you let things slide a little, someone will always go beyond it, like wearing warm, waterproof, flat soled ski boots! Let's keep it white - all white!

Modern materials give us an easier life, so my wife tells me.

-- Len Hawkins in THE CROQUET GAZETTE


THE PRO-CHOICE POSITION ON WHITES

If a club wants to have rules on clothing, great! If the USCA wants whites for tournament play, so be it.

I think whites give croquet a pro look. (Golf pros can't wear shorts in tournaments.)

I have never met a person who thinks croquet is for billionaires. (polo maybe). Most people remember the game as a kid.

-- Jeff Maxwell


 
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