Q & A Man's discovery of sport . . . and of animals on the run

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What is the most popular combination of football team colours?

In the four English divisions the most popular choice appears to be red shirts, white shorts and red socks, this being the home strip of eight clubs. Many teams favour blue and white, 37 playing in some combination of these colours, although perhaps including other colours. - Nick Williamson, York.

Why do Scottish football teams have numerous players whose names begin with 'Mc' or 'Mac', whereas the prefix is a rarity in Scottish rugby teams?

The nomenclature of the present Scottish football side is certainly puzzling; not only a preponderance of 'Macs' and 'Mcs', but 'Macs' and 'Mcs' which are rare and strange. You could spend a long time in Scotland without coming across a McKimmie or a McCoist or a McClair.

Compare the team which took the field in Sweden with (arguably) the best Scottish side since the war which beat England 2-0 at Hampden Park in 1962: Brown, Hamilton, Caldow, Crerand, McNeil, Baxter, Scott, White, St John, Law and Wilson. With the exception of the centre-half and Celtic captain, all good Lowland Scottish names with an input from Ireland and England.

So the more intriguing contrast may be historical rather than with the present Scottish rugby side - which has had its average share of McHargs and McGeechans over the years. Highlanders have been migrating to the Lowlands since long before the invention of professional football - but it could be that their descendants for some reason (perhaps the combination of Calvinism and, a common migrant phenomenon, self-improvement) had stayed away from the professional game when it was still dominated by 'unimproved' boys from mining villages and city tenements.

Or maybe these rare and strange 'Macs' are simply inventing names when they become footballers, as Pele did (which is where the comparison ends). - Tom Gillespie, London SE1.

The prefix 'Mc' or 'Mac' was imported to Scotland many centuries ago by Irish settlers, and means 'son of'. As the bulk of the Gaelic-speaking people settled in the north of Scotland and not the south (where most rugby is played) few border Scots have this prefix.

The 'Mcs' and 'Macs' of the highlands, especially in the 19th century, were to migrate to the towns and cities of the central lowlands. Thus the ubiquitous findings of such names in places such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. - F Branagan, Salford.

What is the difference between an umpire and a referee?

Umpire and referee have basically the same meaning, but the former is a much older word, deriving from the old French 'nomper', meaning not equal. It is thus found in connection with long- standing games like cricket and tennis. 'Referee' is the living word, applied to any new sport. In cricket and tennis, the umpire is the person who makes the decisions on the spot, whereas the referee is in the background to be referred to if problems arise. - Frank Loxley, Bristol.

You are allowed to swear at a referee, but not at an umpire. - Jon Treharne, Ivybridge, Devon.

Why do we have to have the Olympic Games?

The main reasons for having the Olympics are, of course, nothing to do with sport. They include a) the validation of nationalism and its associated tensions, b) the provision of a competitive context in which multinational drug companies can try to produce undetectable performance-enhancing substances, c) the provision of respectability for leading former Fascists, d) the reduction of unemployment (by keeping xenophobic commentators off the dole). - Paul Howard, London E7.

Because if we didn't, there would be even more wars. - Hugh Jacques, Uppingham, Leicestershire.

Why do groundsmen continue to mark the bowling crease, even though it has no part in the game of cricket under today's laws?

David Brewster (Q & A, 2 August) is incorrect in claiming the bowling crease as the most distant point from which a bowler may bowl. What is at question is the balance of rule 3 (10), 'The Umpires shall stand where they can best see any act upon which their decision may be required' and rule 24 (3), 'The Umpire at the Bowler's wicket shall call and signal 'no ball' if he is not satisfied that in the delivery stride - a) the Bowler's back foot has landed within and not touching the return crease or its forward extension.' In these circumstances an umpire may have cause to no-ball a bowler who delivers the ball from so far back that the umpire cannot reasonably see the landing of the back foot and be in a position to make such other decisions as are his responsibility. The bowling crease has no function in this, and its retention is just one of the whimsies of the game. - Andrew Woolmer, Robertsbridge, East Sussex.

A team called London took part in football's Fairs Cup in the 1950s. Who played in it? Who chose it?

The final between London and Barcelona in 1958 was the culmination of a tournament that began in 1955. The idea was that cities would field representative sides composed of players from various teams within the boundaries of a given city. Thus the London side that drew 2-2 with Barcelona in the first leg at Stamford Bridge on 5 March 1958, was: Kelsey (Arsenal), P Sillett (Chelsea), Langley (Fulham), Blanchflower (Spurs), Norman (Spurs), Coote (Brentford), Groves (Arsenal), Greaves (Chelsea), Smith (Spurs), Haynes (Fulham) and Robb (Spurs). The scorers for London were Greaves and Langley from a penalty. The Barcelona team did not quite get into the spirit of the competition. Ten of their team played for Barcelona FC.

In the second leg in Barcelona on 1 May 1958, the London team was: Kelsey (Arsenal), Wright (West Ham), Cantwell (West Ham), Blanchflower (Spurs), Brown (West Ham), Bowen (Arsenal), Medwin (Spurs), Groves (Arsenal), Smith (Spurs), Bloomfield (Arsenal) and Lewis (Chelsea). Barcelona fielded an entire team of Barcelona FC players and scraped home 6-0. (Six lucky breakaways, no doubt]). They successfully defended the trophy two years later when they defeated Birmingham City 4-1 in Barcelona after a goalless first leg. By this time qualification for the tournament went to the team from each city/region which finished higher in the league than its neighbours. It is more accurate to call the tournament the Fairs Cities Cup. - Gerry Coogan, Isle of Skye.

When did man first play sport?

As C E M Joad would have said - it all depends on what you mean by sport. At school in the Thirties I foolishly referred to the day of the school's annual athletics contest as 'School Sports Day'. I was put right by my Classics master, a fastidious stickler for the correct use of words. 'There are,' he said, 'only three sports - hunting, shooting and fishing. The rest are games and pastimes.' So much for a darts championship on Sportsnight.

The Greeks, of course, got it right. We still have Olympic Games and not Olympic Sports, and have done, they say, since 1222 BC. We must however assume that hunting, shooting (with bow and arrow) and fishing began when prehistoric man felt hungry.

As an afterthought my teacher went on to say, 'Some people would include amorous dalliance among the sports, but I regard it merely as a subdivision of hunting.' That clinches it. Sport must have been among the very earliest of man's activities. - Charles Bowden, Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Are any animals raced other than horses, dogs, and camels?

Horse, dog and camel racing are common, but a number of other animal species are raced in different countries throughout the world. For example, ostrich racing is popular throughout eastern and southern Africa. In Peru, the short-haired llama is bred specifically for flat racing, and for those who may be interested has been known to achieve speeds of up to 45mph carrying an 8st load. Giant tortoise racing was once a popular sport in the Galapagos, but was banned in 1975 when the animal was first officially listed as an endangered species.

Closer to home there is pigeon racing in the north of England, whilst maggot racing was once common at pubs throughout the West country. One pub - the Sawyers Arms at Nailsea near Bristol - used to hold maggot races to coincide with major horse races such as the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup. The last year the events were held was 1982 when Michael Ignatieff Maggot, a 50-1 outsider, won the National, and evens-favourite Jean Baudrillard Maggot won the Gold Cup. - Gerard Strange, Nottingham.

Goat-racing was popular in Guyana in the 1950s (and I hope it still is). Each goat runs on a leash held by its jockey, who runs alongside. I do not recall whether the limiting speed was that of the goat or the jockey. - Peter Jupp, St Andrews, Fife.


What fuel is used, and how much does it cost, to keep the Olympic flame burning for two weeks? - Luther Walker, King's Lynn.

Who were the first British-born players to play professional American football, baseball and basketball in the US? - Christopher Toms, Shrewsbury.

Why are Stockport County FC so called when there is no county of Stockport? - Barry Revels, St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

What is the history of the chequered flag? - Charles Miles, London NW1.

When did cricketers start wearing helmets when batting? - Keith Postlethwaite, Giggleswick.

What is the oldest sports stadium in the world that is still in use? - David Brown, Norwich.

What criteria must a links golf course fulfil? And where does the term 'links' come from? - John Hinton, Derby.

What makes a cricket ball swing? - Jonathan Cramer, Aldershot.

Why are so many team games 11-a-side rather than the seemingly more natural 10- or 12-a-side? - Michael Dwyer, Brighton.

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