Check out this year's official Leicestershire County Cricket Club team photograph, in which spin-bowler Matthew Brimson has his fly undone and is using both hands to display (as The Times of London put it) "his middle stump"—and (as The Sun put it) his "pair of googlies."
The portrait was hung inconspicuously—not unlike Brim-son himself—in Lord's cricket ground, the sport's London cathedral, and appears on page 657 of the new edition of the Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, a bestseller in Britain. Asked how he could have failed to notice Brimson's indecent prank, Wisden editor Matthew Engel said, "I've seen larger things crawl out of a piece of cheese."
The episode calls to mind the excellent cricket anecdote about West Indies bowler Michael Holding and English batsman Peter Willey and the BBC announcer who said, "The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey."
But that's beside the point. While it's also true that in Brimson's action and Engel's reaction are found every notable aspect of modern British life—schoolboy naughtiness, bad food, mordant humor and echoes of the Monty Python cheese sketch—that, too, is largely beside the point. No, the point is this: Every day, all over the earth, particular nations are captivated by sports stories of which the rest of the world is oblivious.
On the day that Brimson's exposure was exposed in the English press, for instance, another Briton's astonishing tale was told throughout the United Kingdom: Welsh factory worker Tony Smart had collapsed at a Manchester United soccer match. Ten days before the game, it turned out, Smart, 38, was at work when a power tool fell from a great height onto his head. For a week and a half this had no effect on the happy-go-lucky Smart—until he blacked out while supporting his beloved Red Devils.
As it happens, the power tool that had conked him on the coconut was a nail gun, and it had fired a three-inch nail into his brain. "I do not remember anything about the match," said the delightfully named Smart, on his way to a full recovery after surgeons removed the nail from his noggin, presumably with a claw hammer. Smart's breathtaking X-ray has become an icon of sorts in British newspapers and medical journals.
Remarkably, Brimson and Smart were exiled to the inside pages of English newspapers that day. Here's why: In County Kerry, Ireland—off a footpath near Tralee—a man had stumbled on a cloth sack containing the severed skull of what had apparently been a horse. Moreover, there were two clean bullet holes through its forehead. The horseless head was thus presumed to be the remains of Shergar, winner of the 1981 British and Irish Derbies. The $15 million thoroughbred, owned by the Aga Khan, was kidnapped in 1983 by the IRA and, according to an informant, shot and buried five days later following a bungled ransom attempt.
But—and here's the rub—experts last week declared that this was not the skull of Shergar; it belonged either to a cow or a horse half the age of the champion. What's more, according to The Times, the discovery of this "mystery beast" was but one of "many false alarms" over the years.
So? So the Irish countryside is evidently littered with burlap-sacked animal skulls, the bullet-riddled bovine and equine victims of gangland-style executions. Just what the Irish are up to is perhaps better left uncontemplated in this space, except to assume that it violates every PETA and RICO statute that we hold dear.