When you’ve been on vacation, sometimes it takes a little while to get back into the rhythm of the job, which is perhaps why when I returned to work this week and began reading the emails, I was half a beat slow.
Lots of listeners write to encourage “Only A Game” to feature sports they feel we’ve neglected, and this particular email seemed to fall into that category. “Here’s an offbeat sport for you,” it began. “Combined diving.”
All right, I thought. Combined diving. Maybe. But it was paragraph four of the email that cinched the deal. It read as follows: “Men and women compete as equals…divers compete with a single horse, two horses, and four horses…a four in hand.”
I was surprised that this potentially cruel endeavor appeared to be sanctioned by the American Diving Society. How could any society – no matter how debauched and decadent – endorse diving on horseback? Wasn’t that bound to be dangerous, no matter how deep the pool? Where was the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when it was most needed?
I didn’t dismiss the correspondence as a prank because, hey, it began with the emailer’s praise for the program’s coverage of “off-beat sports.” Perhaps he or she had heard our story about belt-sander racing, or the one about rutabaga curling, or maybe the tale of fearsome competitions between humans and zombies on college campuses across the land.
“So, yeah,” I thought. “Combined diving. Men and women, both no doubt in flattering bathing suits, competing as equals, presumably on stallions, mares, and the odd gelding, also competing as equals. We’ll look into this. Absolutely.”
Then the phone rang. I talked to somebody about something. When I turned back to the extremely promising email, I noted with dismay that I’d misread it. The subject was combined DRIVING. Driving. Men and women competing as equals guiding horses around a course in Italy. On dry land. Happens every year, apparently.
Sure, it might be fun. But it was no “combined diving,” was it? No horses with men or women on them hurtling from tiny platforms into inadequate pools far below.
If you hear about a sport like that, let us know. But don’t wait until after we’ve taken a week off.
This program aired on August 5, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.