Boat Race, The
There are many colourful, thrilling and spectacular events in the British sporting calendar. Sadly, the Boat Race is not one of them. It has been going since the mid-fourteenth century. Chaucer records in his diary for 1383 that 'todaye the talke was all of Boate Rayce; and, by heaven, 'twas all as Int'resting as a Pigge's Farte.'
As a sporting spectacle, the Boat Race fails on two counts. First, it's a race between boats, and all races between boats are dull, because it's either yachting, which you can only do if you're a multi-millionaire with nothing better to do (See crap pop star hobbies; Simon le Bon), or it's powerboating, which you can only do if you're very, very rich but too much of a Lad to put up with going as slowly as a yacht does. The Boating Lad does not like to rely on wind-power, but instead on two Evinrude 200-hp outboards. A powerboat is, psychologically speaking, an Escort XR3i with a rudder. A powerboat driver thinks yachts are for poofs and owning a dinghy is tantamount to holding a coming-out party. Unfortunately, powerboats are crap really since you can't go anywhere in them except marinas and harbours, and also they go wrong the whole time. Whenever they show powerboat racing on TV, all the boats always break down.
The only other way you can race boats is by rowing. And that is what the Boat Race is — rowing. Rowing for speed purposes is, of course, utterly pointless in this day and age, but there is one even more crap way of propelling a boat and that is with your feet. This brings us to the pedallo (See utterly, utterly rubbish things you do on holiday). Pedallos are only ever found bobbing about three feet offshore on Mediterranean beaches, while a group of shifty-looking criminals skulk around trying to persuade you that, rather than lie comfortably in the sun with a cold drink, you would much rather pay 400 pesetas to cycle manically around in circles and get sunburnt.
Anyway, the Boat Race. The other reason the Boat Race fails as a sporting spectacle is that it is between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and the majority of the population are not going to spend a Saturday afternoon glued to the TV desperate to know which of the two great medieval centres of learning has rowed from one western suburb of London to another the fastest.
One would also think, given that Oxbridge students are supposed to be so bloody clever, they'd have worked out that if you want to get from Putney to Mortlake, you get the number 9 bus.
Of course, in the old days, the Boat Race was more of a draw than it is now. In the 1920s lots of undergraduates came down to London to cheer on Varsity, and by tradition, the night before, you were supposed to try and steal a policeman's helmet. It would be interesting to see this tradition revived now since the sort of Oxbridge undergraduate who is going to bother 'going to town' to watch the Boat Race is inevitably going to be a wanker. If you tried to steal a policeman's helmet in the 1920s, the cheery bobby would turn round and say, 'Caught you, you whippersnapper! I don't know, these youthful high spirits... be off with you, sir, and God bless.' Nowadays, the constable will squirt tear gas in your eyes before truncheoning you to the ground, and quite honestly, good thing too.