Edition number 15; dateline 14 March 2008

Warning: university sport in the steel city
Nowhere on the British University Sports Association website does it say whether Sheffield’s denizens have been warned but it might have been fair to have issued some kind of health warning given that this weekend will see student teams from twenty different sports descend on the city. Organised by Fast Track –  the people who banned Dwain Chambers – and billed as “20 sports; first time; one city”, the British Universities Championships is the culmination of a year’s worth of endeavour for sports people from badminton to water polo via fencing, orienteering and volleyball. Anyone lucky enough to have represented their alma mater at a BUSA finals event will no doubt remember fondly the bits they remember at all; but putting twenty of them in the same place at the same time? Suffice it to say that the work experience lad has applied for press accreditation, some petty cash for ‘expenses’ and Monday off.

Lifting the Lords: a health debate on the ground floor
The growing problem of what we are constrained to call ‘obesity’ has led to a growing problem in the world of lift regulation thanks to a furore involving violent weather, a beverage receptacle and the House of Lords Bridge team. It seems that “some silly old buffers with beggar all else to do but play cards, chat and drink port paid for with our taxes have got stuck in a lift because they’re all too fat”. This is a direct quotation from the old gaffer that does the Row Z garden, who added: “They should be MADE to take the stairs.” Quite why the old boy was reading Hansard is not revealed but apparently Lord Mackenzie of Luton, on hearing that some card-playing peers had been stuck in the elaborately named Lord Speaker’s Lift, said: “The concept is that the lift can just accommodate the number of people of standard size that it is designed for”, adding, “It should only be possible for it to be used by fewer people of larger stature.” There followed a discussion at some length about average body mass, Ukrainian weight lifters and the national diet and nutrition survey published in 2004. And some people want to abolish the second chamber.

Full of it behind the scrum
It would be churlish for this column to ignore ‘the rugby’ just because the Lilywhites are performing slightly under par this time out. England supporters – and let’s face it, everyone in the UK is one of them when we’re winning world cups – do not even have the solace that what is happening on the field is taking us any closer to our third world cup final in a row. Unlike the French – Sideliner’s tip to win this weekend, by the way – Les Rosbifs are revisiting old failures rather than trialling new faces. Even the blessed Jonny is slightly off form while the latest pretender to his throne has been disciplined for being in a night club and NOT drinking. However, not being Celts we see no reason to be gloomy, knowing that world cup cycles last four years not four months and that we can while away Super Saturday (sic) by practising the spelling of ‘hubris’. Evidence that those perennial foot-shooters, the Welsh, are riding for a fall comes from Kiwi mercenary and coaching non-pareil Warren Gatland. He illuminates rugby in the Principality by detailing a recent conversation with his second-best scrum half, Mike Phillips: “I told Mike a few weeks ago that he could become the most imposing scrum half in world rugby. He told me he already was.”

Putting racketball in a box
A story emanating from the National Squash Centre caused ears in the Row Z office to prick this week. It seems that England Squash chief executive and recent TLR interviewee, Nick Rider, has had to curtail his personal crusade to pioneer the development of racketball thanks to a racketball-related fetlock injury. It seems that Mr R’s trail-blazing efforts fell foul of an inelastic calf muscle after only a handful of rallies in his very first venture on court with anyone over the age of ten. Whether this curtails the governing body’s attempts to persuade the nation that bigger bats and bouncier balls make forty minutes in a white box with someone sweaty whom you dislike more palatable remains to be seen. 

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