February 11, 2011

Boys versus Men; Or, the School Match Debacle

The boy had kept score the previous year when the fifth formers had taken on the teachers at cricket. It seemed to him a privilege accorded to those about to be ushered into adult life. In the final summer of school, two teams met on a level playing field and played for the honour. The teachers would win, of course, for they outgunned their rivals in strength, experience, and skill. But there was pride in every wicket taken, and valiantness in every run scored. The boy looked forward to his final year, when he might take his chance.

The following spring the young man for that is the status he felt he had attained raised the issue with the teachers. He should like to play them at cricket, as had his forebears, and he should like to raise a team for the purpose. Were they willing? Answers were received in the affirmative. The young man set about organising his eleven.

On the day in question the eleven, feeling a certain pride in representing the budding manliness of their peers, took to the field. And then something untoward happened. Half a dozen or more fourth formers appeared in kit, ready to play. Who were they? What did they think they were doing? And then the teachers arrived: eighteen of them. The young man made enquiries. Apparently the Young Turks had protested at being left out, and the teachers had invited them to play, without informing the fifth-form eleven. It had been decided, unilaterally, that it was to be eighteen-a-side, and that the fifth form were to share their moment with these boys. There was indignation in the ranks. The privilege had been besmirched. The teachers’ equation of one group of boys with another group of young men had emasculated them before a ball had been bowled. It was dispiriting, and guaranteed the worst of defeats.

To make matters worse, the teachers condescended to bowl with a plastic ball that robbed the young men even of the satisfaction of feeling leather on willow. At the change of innings, tea was taken in the school library. The young man did not go. He could not, in his rage, break bread with these men. He sulked, cried foul, and malingered in the field.

As we grow, we learn

At a certain age a boy wants to be treated like a man. If, under such circumstances, he fails as a man, he must face his responsibilities, and take his punishment like a man would. If, however, you treat him who would be a man like a boy, then you must not be surprised when he behaves like one.


  1. Boy's Own was a great favorite of mine as a, well, boy, as my mother had it mailed to me and my brother from England for a number of our boyish years, in the 1960s. I looked forward to its arrival feverishly, and I would devour every page if it, re-reading it again and again. This post delightfully brought back happy memories of it, and also of my time in England at a boy's public school where one was enrolled in forms and not grades. Very nice, Manly! Reggie

  2. Thank you Reggie. It's more difficult than I first imagined to write in that style. But my wife has a cache of Boy's Own papers digitally scanned, so I have plenty of material for inspiration. I wonder if boys would still lap up that kind of thing.


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