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MORE NEW LETTERS, AND COMMENTARY
(8/23/96)


MACROBERTSON MANAGER HILDITCH PUTS SOME SPIN ON THE ANALYSIS

The latest stuff on post-Mac analysis is excellent. I think that Rodoni and Taves have both identified key problems with the US preparation, although I am not sure that you could have spotted them all in advance.

Lamb's comments about Britain's smallness are correct but do not explain the problems in New Zealand, which is a similar size to Britain and has more clubs but does not have an equivalent circuit of open tournaments. It is thus not breeding new players.

In terms of statistics, your table does not take into account the strengths of the opponents, Taves and Rodoni played lower than they should, and so their victories were easier to gain than those of Stark's. I think Jerry showed a tremendous determination and played some excellent turns, particularly in the doubles matches. He truly led by example.

Rodoni's comments on the slowness of play is interesting, indeed many of the British players are used to going to a two-day tournament and playing about 8 games. In two-day knock-out events the finalists will typically play 2 single games, a best of 3 and a best of 5. We do all this without silly time limits, we typically use between 3 and 3.5 hours and rely on the player's abilities to finish the games much quicker than that. If Rodoni had this problem, then his team should have organised some competitive practice (if necessary they could have come back in the evening after lawns became free). Some friendlies between the US team would have been a good way of keeping sharp. Several of the referees were also available for friendly games, and some were of a standard to match the US players.

Taves' idea of an American Presidents cup is excellent. It is interesting to look at the history of how the tournament circuit developed here. About 15 years ago, before we had open events every weekend, David Openshaw (GB captain) invited several top players to play at our club (Harrow in London) once a year. The format was typically 2-day, 8-player all play all. Although barely known about, this event was one of the key factors in transitioning to our current scene.

Taves' idea of a squad is of course very good. All other sports try and put in place centres of excellence to do this. The GB coach (Keith Aiton) did assemble a squad of about 8 'possibles' to fill the 3 slots in the team below Fulford, Clarke and Maugham. These players attended several weekends during 1995 with the coach and were encouraged to play in certain events and get scalps from the big 5 (the 3 mentioned plus Mulliner and Bamford). This gave the selectors (Keith being chairman) even more information upon which to make the selection and gave more motivation and practice to the players.

I know that Mehas was good enough to play, but I would defend the USCA's position in his serving a punishment (that was what I was told). Hopefully he will be eligible next time. Discipline must be imposed at times (indeed we have disciplined John Walters in the past) in an amateur event where we cannot impose fines, etc. In fact, all of the teams were missing strong players through political selection or unavailability:

  • Great Britain - Mulliner (not available).
  • New Zealand - Jackson (politics), Westerby (not available)
  • Australia - Taylor is only one of many top players not on the Australia team, and I do not know if they were all simply not available. Australia has certainly had a lot of political problems in the past.

Brian Storey is wrong when he says that almost all of the US team was putting their foot on the ball before playing the croquet shot. I believe that only Taves and Rodoni were doing it. It was Rodoni who was criticised by George Latham (Australian Coach) after he had equalised a match at 1-1. Note that the Australian opponent Bury did not complain and was very embarrassed by the whole incident, indeed he may have been more put off than Rodoni was.

--Richard Hilditch, Manager, 1996 MacRobertson Shield

A look at the playing statistics for the American team suggests that, in fact, the ranking made little if any difference in result. When ranked at #5, Rodoni lost both games; at #3, he made his mark. Ranked at #6, Taves went 1-1 against New Zealand; at #2 (against Great Britain), he again went 1-1; but ranked at #1 against Australia, he excelled, winning both games.
--editor


A MISSING GAME NAILS DOWN THE POINT

You missed a doubles game for me and Wayne [in CROQUET WORLD'S statistical analysis]. Wayne was 7 match wins (4 doubles, and 3 singles) and 8 losses. I was 8 match wins (4 doubles, and 4 singles) and 7 losses.

--John Taves, 1996 U.S. MacRobertson Team

You're right. Taves, as it turns out, was the only US team member with a winning record. We have properly rebuked our statistician/researcher. This correction only confirms our contention that Rodoni and Taves were the top performers stratistically in the 1997 MacRob. We do grant the point made by numerous correspondents, however, that trying to rank Stark, Rodoni, and Taves in order of excellence would be a pointless exercise.
--editor


PATRONIZING TO WOMEN? WHO, ME?

I congratulate you on an excellent Web site, but....

PLEASE, PLEASE lose the "Courtside Chats with MacRobertson Players." The tone is worthy of a supermarket tabloid or daytime TV. The piece with Debbie Cornelius was particularly bad. "Women are competitive in hearth-keeping...."? I ask you: How patronizing can you be?

Cordially,

--Dave MacLaughlin, Scotland

Believe it or not, we have received a wealth of positive comment on "Courtside Chats" - including a request we granted for re-publication in an independent croquet pulbication in England - and yours is the first and only disapproving letter so far. I welcome the opportunity to let everyone know that I have the highest respect for Debbie Cornelius and her achievements in this sport. She is one of a very few heros in our sport, a unique role model. She knows her worth, and she has proven it many, many times on the playing field. She's a great competitor, AND she's a woman. I admit that the "gonzo" style of these interviews is a bit jarring to the stereotypically staid croquet sensibility, and I'm not ashamed of that at all. (Before publication, I asked my co-editor "Did I cross the line here, Mike?" He told me, "No, but you went right up to it, and you must not go any further, ever.")

I and my co-editor refuse to violate the facts or conclusions of history in order to be "politically correct." That kind of speaking and writing is the ULTIMATE in patronizing twaddle, and we see quite enough of it, in my opinion, on political platforms and in slick corporate newsletters. Finally, let me set the record straight. In my admittedly cheeky remark, I only intended to indicate that women traditionally have not been able to compete with men in sports on an equal basis, and still do not today. (The ability of women and men to play on equal terms was one of the unique distinctions of croquet in England 125 years ago, as I'm sure you know.) The mystery of why more women don't compete at top level in croquet is something that we should keep exploring until we find some answers and some solutions.

And one more thing: I have spent a number of unhappy years writing dull copy for my corporate masters. If I had been doing this interview for one of them, I admit to you that I would not have included the words you questioned, for exactly the reason you questioned them: for fear that someone - not you or me, but some possible someone - might read it out of context and be offended, and I could get myself fired. I can't be fired in this job, because I don't have a boss. Nobody can cut off my salary, because I don't get one. I can afford to do this job with some measure of journalistic and intellectual integrity. That is my payment. I can even afford, on occasion, to laugh at myself, and to poke fun at others when it's appropriate. Please don't take offense. None is intended, I promise.
--Bob Alman, editor

[Here is Dave's reply.]
Thanks for your response. I wrote my message in the heat of the moment, when I had just read the interview.

I despise the trend towards Political Correctness, which leads to absurdities like the banning of the verb "welch" because it might offend Welsh people, or the description of Nelson Mandela as "African American". I do not want sanitized, Disney-approved pap, but I think large numbers of people are likely to be offended by your remarks. Were I a USCA member, I would be embarrassed by their presence on "my" Web site. I would not allow them on my Scottish Croquet Association site (please feel free to lambast me on the content, but bear in mind it's only three months old).

I accept that the "courtside chats" have attracted lots of visitors. They attracted me! That is not, however, an indication of their merit. Whether people like them or not can only be judged by comments you receive. You have mine, and I hope you receive many others (good or bad). How else can we improve our Web sites?

More cordially than before,

--Dave MacLaughlin


DENVER CROQUET CLUB RELAXES WHITE CLOTHING STANDARD

The Denver Croquet Club's newsletter for August headlines the Board's decision to change the rules requiring "all-white clothing" during non-tournament play. According to the newsletter, "Some members feel that whites cause too many changes on evenings or weekends or that they feel they might be mistaken for a medical technician..."

The article goes on to advise that "Golf-type attire and other appropriate apparel is just fine. Please avoid cut-offs, grubby jeans, offensive T-shirts, etc. - you get the point, there is a line there somewhere....However, the Board asks that members wear whites for all tgournaments except match play. Of course, white clothing on the lawn will never go out of style, so, if you love tradition and have the panache, by all means grace the rest of us."

The Denver Club, long one of the most active and successful U.S. clubs on public turf, boasts many working and professional people who, during the 6-month playing season, regularly play in the evening, under lights, at the croquet court in Washington Park, not far from downtown Denver. The new rule will help them bridge the gap more easily between their worktime and their croquet playtime.

The Denver decision is the first such move that has come to our attention since we began publishing a broad-ranging debate on the issue last April, in the course of which we learned, among other shockers, that the lawn bowling world gave up the all-whites rule years ago. If you're experimenting with such changes also, let us know what you're doing and how it's working.

--Editor


LOOKING FOR A TEACHER IN TENNESSEE

I have a very recent interest in croquet. But I would like to be able to take some lessons from a teacher, so I can progress out of the "awkward" beginner's phase. I have read CROQUET IN AMERICA on the Web and could not find any reference to croquet teachers, except going to the USCA headquarters. It would be nice if the magazine would reference some croquet teachers outside of the USCA headquarters in Florida.

--Nan Paden, Nasville, Tennessee

The nearest teaching pro would be Mack Penwell at Pinehurst, which is almost as far from Nashville as Palm Beach. But there are often "schools" preceding major tournaments. Before the start of the International Rules National Championship in Mayfield, Kentucky, on September 24, USCA pro Nate Weimerskirch will be conducting a school at the South Highland Country Club that might be perfect for you. Listed in the CROQUET IN AMERICA directory are a number of USCA clubs in Tennessee and Kentucky with good players. Call them and look for opportunities to travel to weekend events where you can see advanced croquet played and maybe even get some hands-on instruction from an advanced player. If you make the right approach, you will find the players at most croquet clubs will go out of their way to be helpful.
--editor


HOW TO USE CROQUET TO PUNISH YOUR CHILDREN

Here's a story I heard from an individual I want to get interested in helping us with big-time sponsorship. I started to tell him about croquet and he thought he should relate to me a childhood experience - his one lasting memory of croquet - where he had done something very, very bad and his father dragged him up the attic stairs and beat the stuffing out of him with a CROQUET STAKE! Nice memory. Bert [Myer, editor of the USCA CROQUET BULLETIN] thinks he should have pinned his father down with wickets and closed his mouth with clips, etc. etc. I think this would make a great cartoon in the CALENDAR (the BULLETIN being a little too tasteful for such fun). What think you?

--Diana Atwood, Chairperson, USCA Marketing Committee

I think it would be a sassy letter for CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE. It would give me a chance to pass along what I always say to novices enrolling in my Saturday introductory course when they ask, "Can I bring my five-year-old?" Of course I tell them they may bring the child and have the little tyke sit on the sidelines and watch. But then I say, truthfully, "It would be especially appropriate if the child has been bad. Making a small child watch three hours of croquet is just about the most severe punishment you could administer."
--Bob Alman, editor


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