Tottenham Hotspur had a... weird match against Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday. The statistics say Spurs should’ve beaten the Canaries handily, dominating xG and possession, but two big defensive errors led to two goals for Norwich and while Spurs came back twice to draw, they weren’t able to get the winner.
We are a football blog but England is not just a football country. There are myriads of other, ostensibly popular sports in the UK that don’t quite get the share of attention that football does. We intend to shine a light on a few of them.
Important note: there are a number of sports in England — tennis, auto-racing, NFL, golf, etc. — that are also rather popular in the USA. Sorry, tennis fans, your sport is great but we’re eliminating all of them to focus on the weirdo sports that are more unique to the British isles.
Here are my player ratings for Tottenham’s draw at Norwich to the theme of weirdo sports in England.
5 stars: Darts
Oh my lands I love me the darts. I also love it as a televised sport. It has colorful characters, gravelly-voiced announcers, and a surprising amount of both skill and drama, even if the game itself is somewhat flawed (you’re basically aiming for triple 20 and triple 19 the entire time). The crowds are huge and range from mildly disinterested and falling-down drunk. It’s so good. How can we get more Americans interested in this sport?
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as good as the darts. The darts are so good.
4.5 stars: Rugby
American football developed from the sport of rugby, which is somewhat obvious, but the more I watch the rugger the more I’m attracted to it over its American cousin. It’s much (MUCH) faster, less violent, and super fun to watch if you can get a grasp of the basic rules. It’s scaleable to play with fewer players, and the same players play offense and defense. No pads, scrums, wild kicks from weird angles. It’s great! Rugby matches also traditionally end with the home team hosting a post-match meal with the away team. Imagine the Patriots doing that.
Tanguy Ndombele (Community — 7.0): It was so nice to see a player in Tottenham’s midfield who was constantly looking to drive the ball forward and link defense and attack. Getting an undue amount of blame for Norwich’s first goal. A little tentative in the first half but was the best player on the pitch in the second. It was almost like watching Mousa Dembele out there again. And that rabona cross was sexy as hell.
4 stars: Atherstone Ball Game
I had to Google this because I couldn’t quite believe it was real. Apparently this “medieval ball game” is played annually on Shrove Tuesday in Atherstone, Warwickshire. According to its Wikipedia entry, “The game itself has few rules, two being that play is restricted to Long Street and participants are not allowed to kill anyone.” The winner is whoever is holding the ball at 5:00 p.m. That is some Calvinball shit right there, and unlike the Eton Wall Game (see below) it doesn’t involve rich privileged brats.
Christian Eriksen (Community — 7.0): That’s more like it. Eriksen looked more like his old game-dominating creative self than we’ve seen from him all season. Thumping free kick goal, too.
Harry Kane (Community — 6.6): Wasn’t getting the service he needed for much of the first half but imposed himself much more in the second. Won and scored the equalizing penalty.
3 stars: Cricket
Ah, cricket. A ball ostensibly like baseball but also emphatically not, where test matches can take days and there are periodic breaks for tea. I have watched matches, tried to study the game, and still find the rules and lingo bewildering, though I suspect there isn’t a rule in cricket that makes less sense than the infield fly rule or more difficult to fully understand than the offside rule.
Ryan Sessegnon (Community — 5.3): Was it an excellent performance? No. But while Sess didn’t dominate as a left-sided attacker, he looked pretty good when moved to left back in the second half. I’d like to see more of him in that more withdrawn position.
Giovani Lo Celso (Community — 5.7): The starting lineup got us super excited and Gio didn’t quite live up to the billing, but his performance looked less like he doesn’t have the skills to compete at this level and more like he simply hasn’t adjusted to Premier League football and hasn’t played much with his teammates. It’ll come. He was fine.
Dele (Community — 5.7): Looked frustrated for a good portion of the match as his work never seemed to quite come off. But he worked hard and thought he had a lovely goal.
Paulo Gazzaniga (Community — 5.2): Not much he could do about either goal.
Davinson Sanchez (Community — 6.0): Came in as the defensive savior for Spurs at halftime, a weird position to be in. And he was pretty good, though had a couple of shaky moments.
Jose Mourinho (Community — 5.5): He tried something new in this match by switching to a back three and it didn’t work. But credit to him for making the double-substitution at halftime and salvaging at least a point. Gotta say, it’s a nice change to have a manager who is willing to make adjustments early like that.
2.5 stars: Snooker
When I was in London a couple of years ago, I was jet-lagged and awake late at night in my hotel room and randomly flipped to a snooker match, which I watched, fascinated and bleary-eyed, for the better part of an hour. Was it GOOD? Can’t say that. Was it weirdly captivating? Absolutely.
Jan Vertonghen (Community — 4.4): I don’t think he was quite as bad as what people are making him out to be in this match, but he did let Pukki past him a couple of times, including on the VAR’d goal. Hooked at halftime.
Toby Alderweireld (Community — 5.1): A weirdly loose defensive performance against the bottom team in the league.
Lucas Moura (Community — 5.4): Strangely, considering I thought Lucas was terrible against Brighton, I wasn’t as viscerally negative about Lucas’ match against Norwich as many in the comments. He was trying stuff, though he was incredibly wasteful with the ball and had a number of poor give-aways.
2 stars: Badminton
Take tennis, shrink the court, and instead whack around a whiffleball with feathers stuck on the back. Why bother when you can just watch tennis?
Juan Foyth (Community — 3.1): It kinda pains me to do this and I may have more to say about Foyth later, but he had an undeniably poor half against Norwich and the team was punished by it. He needs time, and a match where he isn’t covering for Serge Aurier. I don’t know if he’ll get it under Jose Mourinho.
Serge Aurier (Community — 3.0): UGH. WHY IS HE A THING. His defensive ineptitude left Foyth on an island. I don’t blame him for the own goal, but I blame him for every other awful thing he did in that match. Let’s buy Max Aarons.
1 star: Eton wall game
The Eton Wall Game, as near as I can tell exists only as a means by which rich kids can murder each other and call it sport. It includes words like “calx,” “shy,” and “furk, which is extremely British and also nonsensical. England managed to take schoolyard bullying and codify it as a team sport. Congratulations?
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as the Eton wall game.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating