The cunning man in the disintegrating shorts

`The spirit of the game of rugby is to evade capture by any means possible'
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The Independent Culture
A MOST extraordinary case is going on in the High Court at the moment, in which a rugby player is being prosecuted for misrepresentation, unlawful trading, and 20 other similar charges - and all because he invented a new kind of rugby shirt. But perhaps a brief extract from the trial will enlighten you.

Counsel: Now, Mr Pratt, you are a professional rugby player, are you not?

Pratt: I am.

Counsel: I believe you have invented a new kind of rugby shirt?

Pratt: I believe that too.

Counsel: Could you give the court a brief description of your revolutionary new rugby shirt?

Pratt: Certainly. You are probably well aware that rugby is the only game in which a player can be legally held on to by his clothing. In cricket or football, to grasp a player by his shirt and hold him would be viciously against the rules. In tennis it is unheard of. I believe the only other contact games in which you are encouraged to hold on to the enemy are derivatives of rugby like American football.

But in rugby it is quite common to tackle a man by holding his clothing rather than getting him cleanly round the legs. Well, it occurred to me that if you invented a shirt which was just several panels of cloth held together by Velcro, then whenever you were tackled by the shirt, the piece of shirt your opponent was holding would come away in his hands and you would just run on down the field.

Counsel: And you have produced such a shirt?

Pratt: I have. It has made me much more difficult to hold on to. Indeed, I have scored many tries since I first used this shirt.

Counsel: And lost many items of clothing as well, no doubt?

Pratt: After a while, the pitch certainly does become strewn with bits of your shirt. And of course the opposition doesn't particularly like coming away with empty hands after trying to tackle you, so they tend not to return the bit of shirt. In fact, they tend to drop it on the ground and jump up and down on it in rage.

Counsel: Does the same apply to your shorts?

Pratt: Do people jump up and down on my shorts in rage?

Counsel: No. I mean, have you also devised a pair of shorts made of detachable pieces held on by Velcro?

Pratt: I have. I haven't tried them in public as I am not sure whether a man with pieces of his shorts torn away might not be prosecuted for offending public decency.

Counsel: But a man wearing no shirt is quite decent?

Pratt: Oh, yes. In some sports it is even against the law to wear a shirt, and you are forced to go shirtless.

Counsel: Name one.

Pratt: Swimming.

Counsel: Hmm... Name another.

Pratt: Boxing .

Judge: I think he's got you there, old boy. I'd switch the line of attack, if I were you.

Counsel: Very good, my Lord. Now, Mr Pratt, you are aware that this new shirt of yours is considered unsporting by other players?

Pratt: Unsporting? In what sense?

Counsel: In the sense that it is against the spirit of the game.

Pratt: That is absolutely not so. The spirit of the game of rugby is to evade capture by any means possible. That is why you are allowed to push your hand in the enemy's face to fend him off. That is why you struggle as hard as possible to loosen his grip, or indeed run along with high- kicking knees to make tackling more difficult. My shirt is entirely in the spirit of the game. Judge: I think he's got you again, old boy. Try another tack. Go up the blind side.

Counsel:Yes, my Lord... How do you mean, up the blind side?

Judge: Well, ask him a question he's not expecting.

Counsel: Yes, my Lord... Like what, my Lord?

Judge: Oh, for heaven's sake! Well, ask him if it had occurred to him that martial arts like ju-jitsu depend entirely on clothes being grasped?

Counsel: I like it! Tell me, Mr Pratt, has it occurred to you that in some sports, like ju-jitsu, the grasping of garments is the very essence of the sport?

Pratt: Yes.

Counsel: Can you imagine what it would be like if sumo wrestlers had loin cloths attached only by Velcro and lost their clothing bit by bit during a bout? Would the sight not be revolting?

Pratt: The sight of sumo wrestlers is revolting enough already, even when they have their loins clothed.

Judge: I think he's got you there again, George!

Pratt: Yes, my Lord. Any other questions you suggest I might ask him?

Judge: Can't think of any. Let's adjourn and think about it.

The case continues.