On Thursday evening the staff play football (well I say play...) It's a rag taggle mob of slightly unfit lecturers and support staff who turn up, stomachs protruding impressively through the replica shirts of the mighty (Chelsea, Spurs, Man Utd, Brazil and Argentina all on display) and run headlessly around the five a side pitch, doing their bit to support Activate St Mary's - the anti-obesity programme that the workplace health department at the University run - I have to say it's a losing battle.
The teams normally line up along Facilities v Finance lines - with the fistful of academics making up the numbers on each side. Facilities normally play in yellow bibs and as I turned up in my Oxford United circa 1986 Milk Cup final winning shirt I was immediately placed in their team. There followed two hours of neat build up work by both teams followed by the inevitable blaze over the bar from six yards out as the red mist descended and we lost control in the momentary belief that we'd stopped being our fairly mediocre selves and had in fact genuinely become our cult heroes: Frank Lampard, Glenn Hoddle, George Best, Pele, Maradona ... and ...ummm!... Gary Briggs (google him!)
In the end it was great fun, despite some moments of competitiveness and a couple of hospital tackles. After a couple of hours and with the sun setting came the ultimate amateur moment of 'next goal wins' which pissed the finance lads off a bit as they were 27 -11 up. Fortunately no sulking was necessary as Mario Kempes knocked over a speculative ball for Jimmy Greaves to bundle in at the far post... not for the first time the Oxford defence... knackered... were caught flat footed.
In another part of Twickenham the 'bloodgate' scandal at Harlequins have brought sport and theatre together in a different way. Tim Williams, a rough, tough Rugby Union player, forced a substitution by using a fake blood capsule, hidden in his sock, retrieved and bitten at the crucial moment in a match against Leinster last Easter. The injury allowed Quins to put on Nick Evans a player more likely to sneak a win through a drop goal. The dastardly plot didn't work out, and Leinster won, but the affair takes melodrama to a new level. Dean Richards, the ex-England legend and caddish coach who instrumented the whole scheme with cunning disregard for sportsmanship, received a three year ban today, with Sky sports taking lots of plaudits for catching the whole thing in high definition, from several hundred different angles.
I quite like theatrical solutions, though. They seems much more innovative than steroids. My favourite cheats story is of a cyclist from the 1930's, when the Tour de France used to race some legs overnight. This magnificent idler, tired of pedalling, held a champagne cork in his mouth, attached by piano wire to the lead car, completely invisible in the dark of the night. Simple stay awake and upright! He would have got away with it as well had it not been for the fact that cars weren't so fast back then and when an over enthusiastic team mate tried to bravely overtake he almost got his head sliced off.