This is the chapter that didn’t make it to the final draft of ‘anoraknophobia’. An abridged version was also jettisoned from ‘Is That The 12″ Mix’ too. But here it is (slightly reduced in length)…all about people with ‘alternative’ hobbies
PEOPLE DO THE STRANGEST THINGS
We all know somebody who likes to do something that is maybe a little different from the norm.
There are those who find it particularly hard to comprehend why I would enjoy taking part in a 62 mile trek called the ‘Fellsman Hike’ across the Yorkshire Dales, taking in not only some of the region’s highest peaks, but also some of the roughest, most uncompromising terrain outside of the Lake District. The weather can be so bad that your anorak becomes you best friend.
There are of course much longer ultra-running events around the globe, but this type of event is not the only one to severally test ones resolve, and indeed there are others that one could claim could only be competed for by either the utterly insane or the really geeky. There is an annual race in downtown Boston, USA where up to 500 participants climb up the 82 flights of stairs in the Mellon Financial Center to help raise money for the American Lung Association. At least is about saving lives rather than taking them. The New York Road Runners club organise a similar event, not on the road but up the city’s Empire State Building. Competitors race up the 1575 stairs of the building, from the lobby to the 86th floor, and even if the famous skyscraper has now relinquished its title as ‘tallest building in the world’, the event remains a gruelling trial. A gentleman by the name of Paul Crake holds the current men’s record of nine minutes and 33 seconds! Ones friends and colleagues really would be labelling you as certifiable should you save your spare cash in order to book a flight out there to take part.
This is not the place to discuss the merits of Extreme Ironing, Volcano Bagging or Elevator Surfing – even if, as many claim, they should be classed as sporting events. There has been a range of publications produced over the past few years dedicated to these pastimes of the utterly obsessive so I will leave them here. There are just one or two that maybe should be introduced to you though, and here I leave you in the hands of another long-time friend of mine.
When one is searching for a definitive record of the silliest, most dementedly eccentric hobbies and leisure pursuits it is often prudent to seek out the local historian. Jim Pressley is a local historian. He is known to most of us who seek ancient documentation from the annals of Keighley’s past, and has been found seated alongside me on more than one occasion in our local reference library, searching those ancient records for hours on end. Now he has met some people in his time, others he has just heard about.
‘ I once saw a thing on the television about a man who collected road cones’ he muses ‘the red ones. Apparently there are different sorts. He had hundreds of them and was missing one specific cone which he appealed for people to donate. I wanted him to be charged with theft and crimes against humanity. I did try to die during the programme as it seemed to be the only solution to the futility of life.’
Start digging a little deeper and you will find that Pressley isn’t wrong. According to the Guinness World Records website that very gentleman enjoys a collection of 137 said items, roughly one third of all types of roadside cone ever made. That’s three less than the average student has stashed away under his bed.
There is no stopping my former classmate once he has started;
‘I also once saw a display in Lancaster museum from someone who collected compliments slips. Life at the cutting edge.
I also came across a sport called Mole Mooting but never quite worked out what it was. I think it involved sitting over a mole hill till the mole appeared and then bashing it with a stick. Seemed very dull as I have been around for 37 years and never seen a mole coming out of mole hill. Seems a long wait for a short reward.
Bat Fowling sounds like a daft sport but it is not as silly as the name suggests. There is even the Bat fowlers jig. There are lots of stupid hunting sports such as animal tossing- you put an animal in a net and throw it in the air till it dies. I think weasels were common, rather than lions and rhinos’.
I would agree with Jim when he says that historically, if it involves the inflicting of pain on an animal in a stupid but safe way, then you can bet it has been labelled as sport. Surely you have to be at least a bit of an anorak to partake in any of these ‘activities’.
There are other eccentric sports around, but the assumption that only an anorak would take part in them is probably not a correct one to make. Non-anoraks do them too. ‘Haggis Hurling’, ‘Wellie Wangling’ and ‘Cheese Rolling’ are comical events, a fair amount of alcohol passing the lips of more than a few of those participating, and quite often take place on bank holidays or other festivals. They are festivals for the common man, and particularly the beer-swiller. The antipodeans are similarly inclined towards these ‘fun’ rather than ‘geeky’ sports – Nude Olympics (for obvious reasons this could never be ‘huge’ in Britain), Giant Plastic Platypus Throwing, and Cane Toad Racing among them.
Back in the world of the genuine anorak, there are ‘Drain Spotters’. No manhole cover is safe. Each and every one of these has a unique serial number and from this it is possible to trace back its year and origin of manufacture. Others prefer to take images of their designs, there are some pretty extravagantly designed ones around the world, and ‘drain-oraks’ will happily engage in conversation on the array of functional and ornamental designs that one could come across. I suppose drain spotting serves a similar purpose to that of ‘groundhopping’.
While researching a few of the more inane sports and pastimes on offer, I stumbled across the art of the computer generated sports game. Professional computer generated sports games, just for the guy who really is happy to spend all day in front of the screen playing with himself. The ‘Cyberathlete Professional League’ (CPL) was formed in 1997 and is the official association of preofessional video game players. There are tournaments held in most continents, prize money is measured in millions of dollars and there are multi-national corporations queuing up to sponsor the events. The CPL’s primary aim is to make the art of computer gaming a viable competitive and spectator event. Hold on, did I read spectator event? There are people who pay to watch these events too?
The CPL is no half-baked invention. Its terms and conditions have just been revised in order to cater for the necessary and appropriate need for drug testing in the sport. Cybercheats! Whatever next?
2001 saw the introduction of a spinoff, the ‘Cyberathlete Amateur League’, a free online gaming tournament which boasts 25 different games in 60 divisions, and more than half a million registered players. It too has devised an anti-cheat system and in addition to a regular season can offer pre-season competitions and end-of-season play offs. As yet I have been unable to locate any competition anywhere on the planet that has been designed solely for the average British statto like myself, but watch this space.
Without having actually met any of the competitors in the aforementioned competitions, I cannot say too much about the individuals who take part in them, but we have all met those whom we find a little more irritating that the average geek.
Even in the world of soccer there are occasions when you wonder whether the local statto is merely a geek or is really demented. Any groundhopper or statto would be happy to tell you he is visiting the home of Arsenal FC, or even Stevenage Borough or New Mills football clubs, but would he be as willing to announce that tomorrow morning he is making the journey to Scotland, to the home of Glenbuck Cherrypickers. The great Bill Shankly may have started his rise to the top there, but you have to be pretty clued up to know that this team ever existed, and maybe a little insane to follow them week-in week-out. In my part of the world, there have been the oddly named Norristhorpe Nibs, Deanhousemuir and Patrington Stanley football clubs over the years, although I have never met anyone who would freely admit to having followed their fortunes week after week.
Similarly, the Australian town of Vincentia, south of Sydney has a rugby team called the ‘Vincentia Van Gogh’s’, and have as their logo a severed ear! The same nation also has the Bomaderry Dromedaries football team, and the Mongolian Basketball league is reputed to have a team called ‘11+1’. Evidently this represents Jesus and eleven of his disciples, excluding Judas.
My favourite team name is that of are the hilariously titled Old Fallopians, a moniker used originally by a ladies football team before the Women’s’ Football Association lost their sense of humour and forced them to rename themselves Camberwell WFC. A London cricket team also uses this same title. I wonder if you have to use the tubes to get there. How many international groundhoppers would just love to announce to their wives that they were just off to ‘Wankdorf’, the home of Switzerland’s Young Boys FC.
There are many strange people out there, but there are very few, if any, impostors. Now the advantage of living in the world of the obsessive is that this is not the type of thing where certain individuals would want to jump on the bandwagon. There are very few fake anoraks.
Nobody pretends to be a train spotter and to my knowledge there have been no false claims of having collected an inordinate collection of barf bags. Who after all would want to make these claims unless they really had done this type of strange thing. If you are wanting young virgins to throw their underwear in your direction then you are in the wrong place. Claiming to have an irregularly large member might do the trick, but your collection of traffic cones is most definitely out of the question.
If there was to be a strangely god forsaken person who wanted to ‘get in on the act’ in the world of the groundhopper or football statistician they would be ‘outed’ almost at once. He would be completely unaware of the ‘lingo’, and plainly unable to make a reasonable input into the vast array of specialised information on offer to the initiated on the day. You have to remember that an anorak will more than happily jump on even the slightest of inaccuracies, and will not let it go until his point has been well and truly exhausted.
There may be incompetent anoraks out there, as well as arrogant ones, as there is in any profession and pastime, but I have never in all my years of watching minor league football suffered the experience of being sought out by an unruly individual hell bent on proving himself to all and sundry in the world of tremendously interesting fact finding. I have met up with several of those who I know to be equally as obsessive as I am, but thankfully never anyone hoping to improve his street credibility by sharing in such engaging conversation.
A genuine anorak will spot the fake. We should be recognised for more often for this gift. But the world of the imposter and the anorak are closely related.
Graham Souness should have consulted his local anoraks down on the South coast when he was in charge at Southampton FC in November 1996. It would have given himself and his club an awful lot less reason to endure their red faces. The club took a telephone call purportedly from Liberian international and World Footballer of the Year George Weah, who recommended that they gave his good friend Ali Diah a trial. Little did they know that the gentleman on the other end of the line was in fact not Weah himself but Diah’s agent, and that this supposedly fine sportsman was in reality a particularly poor football player. It was all a con. Somehow Diah managed to get on the bench for a league match against Leeds United – came on as substitute, was promptly withdrawn – not before making an ass of himself and Southampton Football Club – and little was ever heard of him again. Rumour has it that this Senegalese gentleman returned to the slightly lower surroundings of the non-league game in the north-east of England. Before returning to obscurity, he was purported as saying;
“I’ve been made to look a con man. It’s just not true. I do know George Weah, but I’m certainly not his best mate. I employed an agent when I came to England and he is the con man. He must have been calling all these clubs pretending to be George.”
Now any football statistician would have been able to see right through this right from the start. Had Souness et al at Southampton announced Diah’s imminent appearance beforehand someone would have pointed out that things were not quite as they seemed. How he managed to get himself on the substitutes list for that game is equally as startling – had they not taken a look at him first? Mind you, those of us who witnessed Bradford City’s two glorious Premiership seasons would possibly argue that Bruno Rodriguez and Jorge Cadete were just as poor, if not downright worse, than Diah. But at least they had pedigree and had proved themselves in the years prior to their brief stints at Valley Parade, even if they only lasted just a little longer at the club than the guy from Senegal did on the South coast.
There are the obvious name-droppers, who pretend to be friends with famous people. Geeks are not known for being gullible either. In the first place, they could probably make a far more convincing attempt at doing this than the name-dropper ever could.
The fake is not just confined to the imposter or the name-dropper however. There is a plethora of fake sporting goods on ebay and practically every other on-line auction site. Whether it be tickets, shirts, memorabilia or autographs there are people out there selling not so honest items to an unsuspecting public. But the anorak knows best. For example, very few of us with unhealthy obsessions for seeking the truth about practically everything related to sport will be fooled by the fake Italian football shirts we could all so easily get hold of.
For a start, only a real idiot would be taken in by the low prices they are offered at – you just need a little bit of common sense for that, but there are also full prices fakes out there too. With any AS Roma shirt you should always check that they are 92% polyester and 8% elastine or 88% polyester and 12% elastine. Never be fooled by the 100% polyester shirt, especially if it is ‘super fine quality polyester’. Polyester is polyester, it is all the same. Every anorak should know that.