Croquet, political struggle and smashing of the spectacle.

1 Jul

When Guy Debord devised the game of war, he spoke of a board game that he created in order to demonstrate the power struggles and where players learn about the critical decisions made between two competing factions. There is no dice, there is no luck, just the pieces upon the board. The learning process, being able to understand construction of the spectacle, happened whilst the game was being played.

All games are political. All competition is ruthless. It is about expressing your desire to be better than somebody else, wiping out your component. But to play a game, the process, not the end point, is a learning experience. There are no games more political than the game of croquet. Designed as a past-time for those who had the luxury and the space to potter around with mallets and balls, a symbol of power through leisure. The rules, deliberately complicating the act of hitting a ball through a hoop, designed to encourage tactical game play on the premise that the player can actually hit the ball. Croquet is not for you. It is for them.

It is important to consider why a university might want to revive such a tradition, using it a calculated device to encourage better usage of their oldest grounds – a nod to the political struggle, where it was those of a deliberate quality who were allowed to, encourage to tread upon the hallowed grounds in the name of sportsmanship. Is this the opening up of the sport? An act that allows us to participate in the process- a chance to claim leisure as equals? Or is croquet 2.0 yet another spectacle? A space, that’s ironic, that’s a ‘bit of fun’- so when you lose – to remind you of your real position within their hierarchy.

The easiest option, of course, would be not to play. Not playing would mean that you could remove yourself from the competition before it had even begun. What that doesn’t allow is the ability to acknowledge that croquet is happening and will happen if you are there or not. Discontent will not be represented on the lawn. On the other hand, they’ll be those who decide to play for fun, to enjoy the spectacle – and encourage that we do not ruin it for those who have chosen to participate. They will feel privileged to be allowed access, to the tools of the trade – and to the place of reckoning. They will participate for the joy of taking part, not for winning – and they will not matter if they are knocked out in the first round. It’s unsportsmanlike to show emotion about the frivolities of croquet.

Then there are the teams with a story, a coherent (but concise) narrative – a lovely tale of overcoming adversity in the name of croquet. This is what croquet 2.0 is all about. These would the desirable groups as they serve two purposes. The first shows that perhaps croquet is not the elite sport it once was, but a genuinely heartwarming and life-changing experience for those involved. The second, and the most important, is the content that those groups could provide in other contexts of the university. With the right look, the right twist, you have an alumni centrespread.

And then there is us. What are we? Why did the third university decide to take up croquet?

Because we wanted to learn something.


One Response to “Croquet, political struggle and smashing of the spectacle.”


  1. The @thirduniversity on the @thirduniversity « The Third University - December 16, 2011

    […] We won croquet! We beat the high chancellors of lols and took victory on the pitch. We saw the politics in croquet. […]

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