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Checking the facts
for Vanity Fair

by James Hawkins and Bob Alman
Posted May 22, 2015

Vanity Fair croquet article by Pippa Middleton, June 2015
Branding the Sport in Print Advertising, by James Hawkins
Croquet on Celluoid, a 2005 update, by James Hawkins
Croquet on Television: It's spotty history and uncertain future, by James Hawkins

Croquet articles frequently appear in the mainstream press, and the authors often approach Croquet World Online Magazine for fact-checking. Doing the article right means fitting in with the publication's editorial policy and satisfying both the readers and the advertisers. But the editorial staff must also be aware of the need for accuracy, especially if the story originates as a bare-bones piece of writing from, for example, a celebrity.

Thus it was that Vanity Fair's fact-checker emailed our editor to check the facts in an article written by an undisclosed Brit, who turned out to be Pippa Middleton, the nation's favourite princess-in-law and sister to England's much-beloved royal womb. Croquet World's remit is to help draw people into the sport, so it's useful to try to see the sport well and accurately represented in the mainstream press. The checking process is not an unusual occurrence, but this is the first time the editors have decided to share the email correspondence with our readers.

Here's our slightly manicured account of what ensued. We intend to ask that same fact-checker to check our own facts after publication, to make sure we got it right. We can correct after publication, and often do. Vanity Fair can't.

Unsolicited correspondence with CWOM comes in various guises--nuisance phone calls about business directories, junk mail catalogues for office stationery, suggested articles on topics which may be less engaging than the author believes, and hurried emails from journalists.

The emails reproduced here are an accurate, though not complete, reflection of the correspondence between Bob Alman and Mike Sacks at Vanity Fair. Some of the 'facts' submitted for checking proved to be mundanely correct. Some show the author to be well-informed on some front, but some give a startling impression of croquet's misconceptions among the public. For the fact-checker, there's a balancing act of allowing a general sense of what promotes the sport honestly, without veering into pedantic nit-picking.

Here, with Bob's use of emphatic capitalisation and the typical effusiveness of a croquet-evangelist, is the discussion. My editorial "voice-over" in this lightly larger and italic typeface is interjected throughout.

In a message dated 4/6/2015 11:07:03 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Bob, I'm fact-checking an article on croquet in Vanity Fair magazine, and I was wondering if there was someone with your association to whom I could send a list of questions? Thanks so much.


Mike Sacks
Vanity Fair

Sent: Monday, April 6, 2015 11:38 AM
To: Sacks, Mike
Subject: Re: Fact-checking for Vanity Fair

I'm the right person, Mike, and I can refer you to others later, once I know the focus of your article.

It's the business of CROQUET WORLD to know everything about the culture, the sport, the lifestyle, the trends, and the newest developments in the sport. Fact-checking is REALLY important, because most of the mainstream articles on the sport are published with wrong assumptions intact--the "what everybody knows" that isn't actually factual. (For example, reference to "wire wickets" or "sending" the ball....)

For example: GOLF CROQUET is the newest and most significant thing to happen in the sport in this century, so far. It's a relatively simple game that came out of Egypt, where after the expulsion of the British and French in the Fifties and the revolution and the nationalization of Suez, the Egyptians were relatively isolated from the Western world and developed and perfected Golf Croquet on the same courts and with the same kind of equipment the British left behind in their colonial compounds, along with cricket, polo, and tennis.

GOLF CROQUET can be understood and "learned" within a half hour at the novice level--I mean the rules, not necessarily the best way to make the strokes, and not necessarily the best tactics. It shares much more in common with sport than does the sport of croquet or even the conventional backyard game. Some people NEVER really understand it after years of play!

Although croquet is mostly played by older players, it's the younger ones who attain championship status. I think that's because although a lot of 70-year-olds can win the odd game, the endurance required to play the major tournaments constitutes, in effect, an obstacle course that only a healthy and fit man or woman is likely to get through in good shape.

I trust I've answered a few of your questions and maybe dissolved some of the hidden false assumptions....! I'm here a lot today (Monday) and Tuesday and Wednesday morning....

Bob Alman, Editor

In a message dated 4/6/2015 11:50:35 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Thank you, Bob. The article is about croquet for the US audience, most of whom might not know a lot about it. It's written by a Brit. It's a very positive piece, if somewhat general, but I want to make sure that everything is correct. The questions are below. Thank you:

From: ""
Date: Monday, April 6, 2015 4:04 PM
To: Mike Sacks
Subject: Re: Fact-Checking for Vanity Fair

Dear Mike,

I'm inserting asterisked answers to your fifty-odd questions in your email below. First I just want to say, for the record, that from what I've seen, the exercise you have embarked upon is highly unlikely to produce an accurate and balanced article on the SPORT of croquet--by which I mean fair, balanced, objective, complete, and made interesting by consequential facts instead of one-off pranks and stunts and bizarre and misleading but press-worthy "hooks" like Extreme Croquet and Bicycle Croquet...

I imagine the article from which these question emerge as the enterprise of a hungry writer trying to sell an article. "Fixing it" is of course your job as a fact-checker, but from my point of view as your croquet expert, it is so full of trivialities and false assumptions perhaps calculated to make it "interesting" that I expect it to be a disaster from the standpoint of accuracy and balance from anyone's point of view--except, of course the "most people" who are your readers! So maybe that's okay. If you have to "fix" it for accuracy and balance, I don't envy you the task!

I have had this conversation many times with writers who were told in Journalism or Communications school, as I was, "Never show your draft to a source." There is some merit in that argument as a generalization. And I think only once or twice has a writer/editor or major publication been brave enough to show me the entire article. Which really worked for them as well as the sport. But I understand that "rules are rules" and "orders are order." Truly. Writers and editors have to do what their "assignment editors" or department editors ask them to do. Those people already envision the kind of story they want, and they might not necessarily want that "vision" to be altered by mere facts. It's an especially acute problem when a not-very-serious or consequential subject like croquet is concerned. Nobody is likely to sue for slander, and the Extreme Croquet players and maybe even the official associations will be happy for the press notices, however inaccurate, and however focused on the casual backyard game that is always getting confused with our highly developed sport.

You and your editor may actually believe the article is "complimentary," but from your questions, I'd guess it's written by someone who doesn't know much more about it than you know yourself. It's unlikely to please anyone but Extreme croquet players and the half-dozen fans of Bicycle Croquet.

If by any chance a Vanity Fair editor wants to take the trouble, I am willing to review the article in question, even though that would be against the rules of journalism and may be more trouble than it's worth, even for a respectable publication like Vanity Fair.

So.....good luck to you, Mike.

I advise you not to take too much "credit" for the way this article turns out, because credit can quickly turn into blame...!


P.S. In case anyone at all wants to know "the real truth" about various aspects of this article, I insert below specific references to CROQUETWORLD.COM articles related to the subject....

In a message dated 4/6/2015 11:50:35 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

#1. Has croquet been popular in the UK since the 17th century?

No, it was unknown in the UK until the 1850's, when John Jaques "packaged" and sold the game and codified the first set of rules. The best historical research suggests that it originated in Ireland, in rude form.

(See "Origins of Croquet Reconsidered," by David Drazin.)

#2. Did croquet migrate from France in the 1300s?

No. Pall Mall is probably NOT the ancestor to croquet, although it may very well be the progenitor of golf. The Victorians had a habit of giving French-sounding names to things: thus "croquet.

#3. Was croquet initially called "Pall Mall" in the UK?

No. See above. I never heard of Pall Mall ever being played in the UK, although it's possible.

#4. Was "Pall Mall" the street on which it was originally played in the UK?


These are the standard opening questions which set our teeth grinding. My response often has a more patronising tone than Bob's, and leads into a lecture on the invention of the lawnmower in 1830. Before then, there was no grass to play on. Simple as that.

These novice interrogators often present the most awkward of questions. Question 4 leads to an interesting answer, in which Bob is right but for the wrong reasons. Only the true expert would know that the game of pall mall wasn't played in the street "Pall Mall". It was played, but in The Mall, to which it runs parallel.

Nevertheless, the answer's NO. Move on.

#5. Has the game been played in places as far reaching as the South Pole and the White House lawn?

***The toy game has been played there--similar to the nine-wicket, two-stake game played casually by millions in this country and others. A firm distinction needs to made between the toy game and the sport. The toy game is lightweight, with nine wire wickets in a double-diamond configuration, with a stake at each end. From that game and that equipment the SPORT developed, incorporating the six-hoop Willis setting, adopted universally in the sport in 1926. Mallets in the sport weight about three pounds, hitting a one-pound ball, which is the basis of the ergonomics of the pendulum-based gravity stroke that distinguishes the way a croquet ball needs to be hit, from the way, for example, a golf ball or a tennis ball or a baseball is usually struck. The croquet ball is STROKED with extreme accuracy, guided by the invariability of gravity in the pendulum from the shoulders in a center stance. (The center stance putter in golf was introduced some decades ago by Sam Snead, and after only one season, outlawed because "that's not golf," the PGA pronounced. It was entirely too accurate!)

US President Rutherford B. Hayes and his family played croquet in the 1880's, but there is no record of presidential croquet at the White House. Although the Hayes Presidential Library in Fremont Ohio does have a croquet collection and croquet WAS played on the grounds of that family estate. I co-directed with Mike Orgill some events there in an attempted revival several years ago which ultimately failed because the state of Ohio mandates "no change" in the grounds that would have occurred past 1880. In the post-Civil War period, nine-wicket "backyard" croquet achieved a great peak of popularity in the U.S. (See "Who really won the election of 1868?")

#6. Is the game steeped in the histories of both Oxford and Cambridge?

***They both have "serious" croquet--the sport--and from their croquet competition has come many British champions of the sport, especially the generation now in their 40's.

#7. Did both Oxford and Cambridge name an entire college after the sport?

***Not that I'm aware of. (Where in the world are these questions coming from....?)

This is just crazy.

#8. Is the game often referred to as "chess on grass"?

***Yes, an apt description. As opposed to "checkers on grass." It's a way of letting people know that the backyard game is NOT the sport. It would be comparable to describing putt-putt golf as the SPORT of golf.

#9. Is the pro version of the game known as "Association Croquet"?

*** In croquet, the only people who are "pros" making a living from the sport are about a half-dozen individuals who TEACH (mostly wealthy people) how to play. (The top players teach themselves, for the most part, by watching and imitating!) Others, like me and James Hawkins, make a few bucks, are supported by grants, or get token payment that doesn't begin to cover the actual extent of the work we invest in the sport.

***In Great Britain THE SPORT is called "Association Croquet" because that's where the official rules of the sport were first published and perfected over time by the "English Croquet Association." However, the sport which was organized in Palm Beach and in New York in the mid 1970s is a different game which, however, looks exactly the same as the British game but spectacularly is not at all the same game. Americans often refer to the "Association Game" commonly as "International Rules Croquet" to distinguish it from "Association Croquet," so our American novices won't think that "Association Croquet" is the version developed and promoted by the U.S. Croquet Association. Our best players now compete against the other three top countries (England, New Zealand, Australia) in the #3 or #4 position, in both International Rules and Golf Croquet. American Rules is played predominantly by at least 80 percent of American players; the other 20 percent play the British (international) game either to compete internationally or to conform somehow to the global standard of the sport, rather than the American standard. The uniquely American Rules were codified by Jack Osborn, founder of the USCA, in the late 1970's. The popular consensus among "croquet experts" in America is that the International version is superior for very highly ranked players as well as beginning players, while the American game is best at the mid-level.

#10. Are the balls usually red, blue, black or yellow?

*** The balls in the sport are ALWAYS blue/red/black/yellow, with blue/black as partners against red/yellow. Strict rotation is required in American Rules, but in International (or "Association Rules") a partnership can play Either partner ball in its turn. This is only one of the huge differences in the two games.

#11. Are the hoops known as "wickets" in the US?

*** Yes. But now "hoops" are also understood as the same thing in America.

#12. Do you score a point for each hoop made in the correct order and direction?

***Yes. In Association Croquet or American Rules, all four balls can score all the wickets; in Golf Croquet, the two partnerships compete to score each wicket in the order of the course, with only one shot per turn, without exception--which makes Golf Croquet a lot faster, a lot more interactive, and a lot "sportier" than the other forms of the game...

#13. Does an official size croquet pitch span the equivalent of three tennis courts?

***No. (I'm appalled by these questions. I'm beginning to wonder whether the writer knows anything at all...????) The correct dimensions of a regulation COURT (not pitch!) in the sport is 84' by 105--all divisible by the 21-foot measure upon which the court is designed. In backyard croquet, the regulation court size is 100 x 50--but it's often played without boundaries. According to Wikipedia, the correct dimensions of a single tennis court in the doubles configuration are 60 feet wide x 120 long, including the out-of-bounds areas where balls may played in volleys.

#14. Is this 32 feet wide by 40 feet long?

*** ? ? ?

#15. Does the player with the blue ball go first?

***Yes, always.

#16. Followed by the players with the black ball, and then yellow?

***Explained above. In American rules, the rotation is blue/red/black/yellow, invariably. In ALL versions of the sport (AC, AM, GC) blue is the first ball to play.

While this answer isn't true for Association Croquet, Bob's main expertise, and the likely interest of the Vanity Fair reader, is in American Rules and Golf Croquet. Experience tells us to avoid the temptation of answering, "Yes, but..."

Association Croquet dropped the sequence law long ago, and the four balls are played into the game in any order. That rule change failed to make it into the US game, or to Golf Croquet, or into most domestic settings, where the oral tradition of obsolete rules still holds some sway.

I bite my tongue with these questions. I could say, "No, you're wrong. You're all wrong. We've changed the rules and you're all supposed to have moved with the times." I don't. I'll be drummed out of Referees Club for saying it, but folk can play what they like at home. Learn the game, enjoy it, join a club, and then we'll teach you that the honest answer is "No, not necessarily".

#17. If you knock your ball into someone else's, can you put yours next to his and whack it?

*** In the toy or backyard or garden game, yes. In the sport, no. That would quickly destroy any "regulation" court, which ideally is flat and level and without holes or depressions such as caused by pressing a ball with one's foot into the surface. ("Whack" is not in the dictionary of the sport, incidentally.)

#18. If a ball is hit out of bounds, is it then placed one mallet length into the court from where it cross the boundary?

***In International Rules (Association Croquet) the distance is three feet inside the boundary line; in American Rules, it is only nine inches--again, a HUGE difference.

#19. To win, must a player strike his/her ball at a stake in the center of the pitch?

***If the game/match/event is organized to go all the way to the peg or stake, the peg or stake point is the 26th and last point to be scored (maximum of 13 for each ball on the winning side); However, in most games in the US and many if not most games in other countries, the games are usually timed and will probably end with much lower scores. I have seen American Rules games end with the score of 2-1. A more typical "winning score" in a timed game of either code is 16-13.

#20. Does the game continue until all players have reached the final stake?

***No, only the winner. That's how you determine who won, in timeless games. As explained above, most games in the sport don't get to the single stake. In the SPORT, there's only ONE stake, in the center of the six-hoop court; in the BACKYARD or GARDEN game, there are two stakes, one at each end of the nine-wicket court.

#21. Is this the case, unless a player has hit an opponent's ball into the stake during the game, in which case he or she is disqualified?

***Now I think you're talking about "poison" in the backyard or toy game. Completely irrelevant in the sport as played by any of the three versions of the game sanctioned by the official croquet sports associations of the world.

Oh, Pippa. What are you saying? It's wrong. It's not in the rules and never has been. It's the unsanctioned invention of some long-forgotten manufacturer. It shouldn't be there, so don't include it.

All we can do is check the facts and recommend which are genuine and suitable for publication, and which aren't. This is the one that slipped through the net and made it into print. A generation of Vanity Fair readers will doubtlessly now believe that we all do this.

#22. Did Winston Churchill, in an early draft of his will, express the wish to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered beside the croquet lawn at Chartwell, his house in Kent?

***That's possible, but not necessarily because he loved croquet. If he left this direction, I would guess it was just to let them know the spot he wanted to be used for that purpose--not because croquet was dear to his heart.

This question would have been better answered by a Brit. Churchill was a big fan of croquet, and played to relive the stresses of wartime leadership. So it's perfectly possible that his ashes were to have been scattered over the lawn at Chartwell. His other great stress-reliever was bricklaying, and his wall around the vegetable garden at Chartwell still stands. Here's a photo of Lady Clementine Churchill playing on that lawn.

#23. Was Harpo Marx inducted into the US Croquet Hall of Fame in 1990?

***Actually, it's the CROQUET FOUNDATION OF AMERICA's Hall of Fame. That's the non-profit that raises money for the sport, mostly for the USCA and currently for the National Croquet Center, which the CFA owns. The USCA's headquarters office is at the NCC, rented from the CFA. Harpo Marx was in the first crop of inductions in the late 70's.

#24. Are other members Darryl Zanuck and Sam Goldwyn?

***Yes, also in the late 70's, and lots of other Hollywood people. But none were members of the USCA, which hadn't been formed when they played a sophisticated version of Backyard Croquet or a primitive version of Association Croquet.

#25. Is Jaques of London the premiere croquet brand in the UK?


#26. Did John Jaques II introduce croquet to mainstream England in 1851 at the Grand Exhibition in London's Hyde Park?


#27. Does the company now offer 27 distinct sets?

***Jaques? Yes. But "serious" croquet players buy mallets only. The clubs affiliated with national croquet associations buy wickets and balls and all the other equipment, and players buy only their mallet. Only backyard players buy complete sets. Happily, though, the most expensive of the four-player sets are designed/weighted to actually WORK like the sport, with respect to the weight of the mallets and balls, if not the weight of the wickets.

Sadly, though, the Jaques company has lagged far behind in the production of sports-standard mallets, balls, and hoops. Their mallets are beautiful and well-crafted, but they aren't made to the ergonomic standard of the most highly praised and effective mallets for the SPORT, which require, for example, "peripheral weighting" to put as much weight on the opposite ends of the head of the mallet in order to extend the "moment of momentum" and thus tend to straighten out the swing to produce the most accurate stroke.

There are other refinements, also, that Jaques has not made. The company relies on its tradition and name and the fine craftsmanship of the mallets to sell to people who want "the best" for casual play. In a way those people get "the best" in the way of beauty and craft, but not with respect to accuracy. Not a single player in the top 100 of the rankings in the sport uses a Jaques mallet, although some years ago I knew an Irish player who used a round-headed and brass-bound Jaques. (Most contemporary mallets are square-headed.)

Jaques has not made and sold an "approved" ball since around 2000. There are three World Croquet Federation "approved" balls in the sport now, the most popular and expensive one made in Australia (the Dawson). Each ball costs at least $75 dollars, perfectly balanced and weighted at one pound, made of space-age plastics with the WCF-required rebound qualities. You can read more here on the decline of Jaques and Jaques equipment.

#28. Do the majority of tournament croquet players hail from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Ireland, Canada and South Africa?

***Difficult to answer, partly because of the overlapping entities and game types. The US, Australia, New Zealand, and England have the largest player populations in "Association Croquet" and they compete quadrennially in world teams. That's the version the US is usually third or fourth in. But Egypt has a huge and expert population of Golf Croquet players, and usually dominate the field in that version of the game, which is gaining HUGELY in popularity in every country presently, largely because you can understand it easily and quickly by looking at it, it's very interactive, and incorporates many of the values one expects to find in a sport.

So I guess the answer to the question is Australia, New Zealand, England, the United States, and Egypt, in that ranked order starting with the biggest player population in their national associations. (See our History of Golf Croquet.)

#29. Are these the two top players in the world: Chris Clarke and Robert Fulford, both English?

***Chris Clarke now lives in New Zealand and plays for that country. His wife is the top female player in the world. They are largely responsible for New Zealand's now being the TOP country in the world in the "Association" game. They have won many championships in the past and are still highly ranked. However...

The first "double" champion (in both AC and GC) is Reg Bamford, perhaps the greatest ever croquet champion. He is a South African currently living and working in England, and fiercely patriotic about his nationality. He ALWAYS plays for South Africa. And the new world champion of Association Croquet is a very young Australian, Robert Fletcher. Actually FOUR of the top ten players are English, and only FIVE of the top ten live in England, as far as I am aware. And currently, New Zealand claims the top spot and one other in the top ten, while New Zealand has three.

#30. Is England the home to 6 of the world's top 10 players?

***Actually FOUR of the top ten players are English, and only FIVE of the top ten live in England, as far as I am aware, and currently, Australia claims the top spot and two others in the top ten, while New Zealand has three (And as mentioned, "home to" includes Reg Bamford, who always plays for South Africa.) But the truth is, these ranking are very volatile, and there's not a huge difference between #1 and #15 in playing ability, which is one reason major championships are so long, in "best-of" formats rather than single-game matches. The TEAM can make more difference than the individual players in the big quadrennial team contests that determine the top country. New Zealand is current tops in the world in the quadrennial games, and has many young players who don't play often enough to appear in the rankings, perhaps because they're busy working or raising a family. And many of those just haven't played long enough to achieve top-ten rankings, but they're good enough. England does very well in the INDIVIDUAL world championship of AC, held every two or three years, but so do New Zealand and Australia. (See "Egypt puts Croquet on the Middle Eastern Map," by Reg Bamford.)

Technically, a black mark for Bob, and a win for his questioner. The current ranking list shows four English players in the top ten, but two of the others--Australian Paddy Chapman and South African Reg Bamford--are resident in the UK.

#31. Is Roque a variant of croquet?

*** Yes, a miniaturized variant usually played on hard clay with rebound-boards instead of boundaries, played in the St. Louis Olympics of 1904, and now very rare.

Oh, dear. Alarm bells start ringing now. This usually marks the point where the discussion of serious croquet is over, and we move into the area of crackpot variants.

#32. Did Roque originate in America in 1899?

*** Earlier than that. Not worth really talking about Roque except as a museum piece. (See ESPN story, "Roque on the verge of Extinction.")

#33. Is Roque named after the term for when a shot hits another ball?

***Probably it is short for "roquet," which is the term used for the hit of one ball on another.

#34. Was Roque an event at the 1904 Summer Olympics?

***Yes, as explained above.

#35. Did the US win all three gold medals in croquet at the 1904 Summer Olympics?

***No, they won all the medals for ROQUE in the St. Louis Summer Olympics that year...Not surprising, because nobody else in the world played that game!

***FYI, the French won all the medals in the 1900 Summer Olympic in Paris, which they made sure of by extending the playing schedule (unnecessarily) over six or seven weeks. That effectively discouraged the British players who would have been expected to win. It's one reason, perhaps, why croquet never took hold in the Olympics. (See "Croquet in the Paris Olympics, 1900.")

The VF article claims that the reason croquet was canceled was "Something about croquet not being a spectator sport". That's not strictly the correct reason, as many other Olympic sports would struggle to defend themselves against this charge. The truth is more likely a mix of shambolic organisation and a nationalist urge to win all the medals. I suspect Vanity Fair didn't want to offend their French edition readers!

#36. Is "Extreme Croquet" played on a field with no designated boundaries and on ungroomed terrain?

***EXTREME CROQUET gets a lot of press because of that, and because it's best accompanied by beer or some other intoxicant. Otherwise, it quickly becomes very tedious. That why, if you must play it, it's best to be stoned.

#37. Does "Extreme Croquet" follow the usual croquet rules but with adjustments to suit the landscape?

***"Extreme Croquet" can't even be compared to the sport, or even the conventional backyard game. It's a spectacle usually designed as a party for and by youngish people, and very appealing to the press.

#38. Are mallets for "Extreme Croquet" much more durable than traditional ones?

*** I have nothing against the EXTREME players, but since they're all over the place, a generality like this dosen't apply. So the answer is, sometimes, someplace, maybe/probably, but not necessarily. Some EXTREME players play with toy equipment and one-pound mallets and "club" the ball as you would in golf. The truth is that there is VERY little regularity in the Extreme world. The activity is concentrated around occasional events in "interesting" or challenging terrain.

#39. Is golf croquet one of the most popular variations of the game, particularly in Egypt?

***Yes, now worldwide and very important in the current and future development of the sport. (See "Croquet by the Nile.")

...and we're safely back on topic.

#40. Was golf croquet developed in Egypt by British soldiers near Cairo at the end of the 19th century?

***No. The British did bring croquet to Egypt, but Golf Croquet as played today was developed by explained above.

#41. Is golf croquet faster and more aggressive than Association Croquet?

***That's one way of putting it, I guess. More interactive.

#42. Do players take turns to have just one go?

***Yes, One shot per turn.

#43. Do players pass through the hoops twice in as few shots as possible in golf croquet?

***I can't figure out this question, frankly.

#44. In "Bicycle Croquet," are players allowed just 10 seconds to complete a shot while riding a bicycle?

***I never heard of this. This is completely looney. I could say the same about "Bicycle Golf" or even "Bicycle Basketball." I'm beginning to think somebody is pulling your leg.

#45. Is "Gateball" a five-a-side version of croquet?

***Yes. In the same way that Big Mac's WHOPPER is a franchise version of a sirloin steak you would get in a five-star restaurant. (See the story "Playing Gateball in Japan".)

#46. Did this version originate in Japan?

*** China, I believe. The Japanese have had a weekly weekly TV program watched by millions, I am told....

#47. Is the pitch less than half the size of a standard croquet lawn, with three hoops and a center pole?

***That sounds about right.

#48. Is this version played in just 30 minutes?

***I believe it usually is, in competitions, which are timed.

#49. Can one of the earliest depictions of croquet be seen on part of the Bayeaux Tapestry, on a section of which a croquet is portrayed in re-creating the Battle of Hastings?

*** It's very unlikely, as the Battle of Hastings was fought about 800 years before John Jaques published the first rules along with the first manufactured croquet sets. (Unless, of course, the Tapestry is a forgery, provable by that anachronism.)

#50. Was Lewis Carroll one of the founding members of croquet at Oxford?

*** I have no idea. On the strength of the previous questions, I can now say, "Almost certainly not." !

#51. Did Carroll create his own modified form of croquet in 1866 called "Castle"?

*** Yes.

#52. In this version, does each player control two balls rather than one?

*** I have no idea, don't remember what I've read about it, and virtually nobody plays it.

#53. Was croquet held as an Olympic event only once, at the Paris games in 1900?

***Yes, explained above. (See "Croquet at the 1900 Paris Olympics.")

#54. Was it canceled thereafter because it wasn't considered a spectator sport?

***Also explained above. Sports attain the Olympics and the other international games in the 21st Century by achieving a set of conditions that includes have a national organization in a certain number of countries. Croquet is on the way to satisfying those conditions, but not nearly there.

#55. Was London's All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club founded in 1868 as simply "All England Croquet Club"?

***Yes, organized exclusively for croquet. The lawns hugely enabled the development of lawn tennis, which quickly had outpaced croquet in popularity as a social/egalitarian sport that enabled/encouraged/facilitated flirting. However, croquet's leading historian has claimed that what really killed Wimbledon is the increasing complexity of the game itself in the equipment setting and the lawns. By the late 1870's according to David Drazin, the sport was fit only for a relatively few aficionado elite. But the great masses continued to play the garden game, which perhaps you are celebrating in your June issue. (See "How we lost Wimbledon," by David Drazin.)

#56. Was croquet the first outdoor sport to embrace gender equality, allowing both sexes to compete on an equal footing?

#57. Did a group of American scientists complete a full game of croquet on the South Pole outside the observatory in 2005?

*** I have no idea. But why didn't they do Bicycle Croquet instead....???


And just as a reminder:

If VANITY FAIR ever wants to do a REAL STORY on the sport, that would be about the sudden and significant emergence of GOLF CROQUET as a major factor in the expanded popularity of the game, and the cause of this development coming out of Egypt in the 50's. (As explained in my first email.)

- Bob Alman on Wednesday

In a message dated 4/8/2015 11:22:46 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Mike_Sacks@####.con writes:

Okay, understood. Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. I do appreciate it. I'll relay to editor.



And that's a day's work for the editors of Croquet World. This exercise seldom stems from such a wide range of questions, which veer in this case from the well-informed to the bizarre. In a world of misconceptions about our sport, they usually need hammering into a form that's recognisably croquet-shaped. Journalists of repute will usually Google their way towards a trusty source of information. That may be us, or it may be a representative of one of croquet's governing bodies. The final article in print isn't bad, after going through another level of screening from "International Player Chris Williams", who gives his pro tips on how to line up a shot, and--I strongly suspect--a fleeting reference to the croquet party in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

It's a group effort, and despite the continuing misperceptions of the sport, we like to hope we make a gradual difference.

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