Ask any sportsman what he misses about the game after he retires, and a huge percentage will answer “the craic” or “the dressing room” or “the lads”.
It was ever thus. The lifeblood of any sporting team is its spirit, and this spirit is engendered in the dressing room. (And maintained by the absolutely necessary lads’ nights out / bonding exercises / team curries etc)
The dressing room. An area of sanctity for the team. A space which is the domain of only the selected few, with an overriding mission to make it smell as unpleasant as possible over the course of a day.
An area of hugely varying size and quality, from the club dressing room that would require three shifts for 11 people to change, to the old-school comfy-chair filled variety that the pros are used to.
From those with gleaming new power showers that exfoliate you with the power of the spray, to those which have floorboards that may give way at any minute, a solitary sink in the corner (cold water only) and a toilet that last flushed 15 years ago. The latter is still preferable to the clubs that provide open-air facilities “out the back” of the dressing rooms. Invariably overgrown, it is impossible to convey the joy of urinating whilst being nibbled at by insects of such great variety that David Attenborough is planning a 6 part series. Smells lovely too, especially at the height of summer…
It is the company of your team mates that provides the greatest joy. Nowhere in my experience provides a clearer demonstration of Darwinian theory, though in this case “fittest” refers to the ability to deliver the most withering put-down, or funniest micky-take. Nothing is sacred. Dressing rooms appear not to have an “edit” button when it comes to taste or decency.
I have toyed with some examples from my own club career, but have decided against it, save to say that if you bear some passing resemblance to anyone in the news for ANY reason, it may well be likely to become your nickname for the foreseeable future.
The creation of nicknames is a rich seam that can be plundered at will almost inexhaustibly (see reason number 27) for both your team-mates and the opposition, examples from personal recollection including
1) The very thin player – Herschelle Ribs
2) The single-toothed umpire – Juanita
3) The dark haired, bushy bearded opponent – Sutcliffe (the one that got past my “edit” button – references to serial killers are surprisingly common)
4) The opposition bowler with the Grouch Marx-like glasses and moustache – False Face
5) The red faced opening bowler – Jerry the Berry
6) The unkempt player – Shipwreck
7) The spectator who stammered a lot at the start of sentences – Porky Pig.
8) The player who grew his hair long despite receding alarmingly on top – Terry Nutkins
9) The player whose Dad looks like Popeye – Sweet Pea.
And so on, there are hundreds. We once counted around 20 different nicknames that were used for Jerry the Berry at one time or another.
But the dressing room is also an area where you should consider your remarks before issuing them into the public domain. An ill-considered utterance may condemn you to months (or more) of humiliation, and provide the material for many a “beer-tale” for years to come.
Perhaps again best illustrated by examples from personal experience
a) To the player who has been recently injured
“How’s it looking for next week”?
“Getting there, I’m 90/20”
b) Having overtaken a horse & rider on the way to a game
“Do you need a licence to drive a horse on the road?”
(Of course I PROMISED not to tell the rest of the team about that one…)
c) When a player was ill in the dressing room
“What’s up with him”
“Sunstroke I think”
“How do you get that?”
Tales of the lad who boiled the kettle before going to bed to save time the next morning, the constant criticism of the size & shape of everyone’s genitalia, the Deep Heat in the underwear, the cigarette ends in the batting gloves, the stench of the gear that hasn’t been washed for weeks, the ability to evict the debutant who has innocently taken up “my spot”, the 20 year-old Wrigley’s chewing gum that just shatters when you try & chew it, surreptitiously pouring extra shampoo onto the head of neighbour in the shower until he realises, trying to get in and out of the shower before “the big lads” come in, having to untie the knots in your clothing, people telling lies about their sex life.
All things I miss now I’ve finished playing. Because the craic was great in the dressing room.