This column was going to be about the world’s most pointless sport – cyclo-cross.
Inspired by a desperate troll through SKY Sports’ pop-up channels for subject matter, Tuesday Morning QB was going to ponder the value of a sport that – at its highest level – appears to involve a waffle of Belgians (possibly not the correct collective noun) attempting to ride street bicycles across low-lying muddy hills, while being chased by a smattering of Germans and a couple of Dutchmen.
It was going to ponder why – given the competitors spent most of their time giving up on the impossible task and instead running through the mud while carrying their thin-wheeled, tread-less 1980s 10-speeds – why they didn’t just invest in mountain bikes?
It was going to point out that the only practical application for cyclo-cross appears to be honing the skill set required to steal a road bike from a farm house during a severe weather event. And that, while we sit here in New Zealand comfortable in the knowledge that America’s Cup yachting is the white-ist sport on the plant, we’ve actually been horribly wrong all this time.
It probably would have wrapped things up with a quip that there was more diversity on display at your average KKK meeting than at a cyclo-cross meet, and labelling the bizarre carry on ‘the sport that time forgot’ or the ‘Amish village’ of professional sports.
It would have been an okay column; the kind of thing you’d expect when the All Blacks have just wrapped up their season, the Black Caps haven’t yet begun theirs, and the Kiwis don’t bear speaking or thinking about, possibly ever again.
As fortune has it, we can forget about cyclo-cross – and its courses featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount (thanks Wikipedia) – and instead glory in the latest Ashes cricket scandal.
Soon to be labelled Butt-Gate, or perhaps Water-Butt, this latest ballyhoo involves a strange ginger British man, Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft, a curious greeting and a press pack imbued with the spirit of Jack Tame.
In a nutshell, Bancroft claims Johny Bairstow greeted him with a headbutt in a bar when their paths crossed in early November.
The Ashes press pack weren’t about to leave the incident in a nutshell.
The transcript tells the story:
Reporter: “Please describe what happened?”
Bancroft: “I got into a very amicable conversation with Johny. And he, yeah, just greeted me with a headbutt kind of thing. I was expecting a handshake. It wasn’t the choice of greeting I was expecting. That was the way that I took it. There was certainly no malice in his action. We continued on having a very good conversation into the rest of the evening.”
Reporter: Did he apologise to you at the time, or subsequently?
Bancroft: “At the time he said sorry. For me personally it was just really weird. It was so random and I certainly didn’t expect it coming. A handshake or a hug would have been something that I would have expected more than a headbutt. But, as I said, there was certainly nothing malicious about his action.”
Reporter: “I realise this probably sounds a bit ridiculous, but did he headbutt you like that – straight forward? We are obviously trying to work out what happened.”
Bancroft: “Just, I don’t know, whatever your imagination pictures it as is what it could be.”
Reporter: “Did he knock you over?”
Bancroft: “No, he didn’t knock me over. I’ve actually got the heaviest head in the West Australian squad. It has been measured. There’s an actual measurement for it. I took the blow quite well and moved on from it. It was a good hit. Play on.”
Reporter: “Trevor Bayliss said that it was a long way from being a headbutt. He said: ‘There is a headbutt and then there is what happened to you’. The headbutt is totally different. Could you perhaps define, maybe on a 1-10 basis, the difference between what happened to you and a headbutt?”
Bancroft: “He connected with my head with a force that would make me sort of think ‘wow, that is a bit weird’. That was it.”
Reporter: “Did the top of his head hit you in the nose? What happened?”
Bancroft (now slightly exasperated): “Headbutts clash with heads. When he made the decision to do that it meant our heads collided.”
CA staffer: “I think we’ve clarified it now”.
Reporter (possibly Jack Tame): “Not really, no. A headbutt can break your nose. It can put you in hospital.”
Bancroft: “Yeah, he hit my head, yeah.”
Reporter (almost certainly Jack Tame): “But where? Nose? Forehead?”
Bancroft: “Here (points to forehead). Forehead. There you go.”
Jack Tame: “Thanks.”