PRIDE AND COWARDICE AN UPPER-CLASS TWIT EXPLAINS BRITISH TRACK'S BANNING OF U.S. SPRINTER MICHAEL JOHNSON

June 23, 1996

Last week the British Athletic Federation banned world sprint
champion Michael Johnson of the U.S. from a 400-meter race in
London on July 12. The BAF said it would be "demoralizing" for
British runners to face Johnson in the event. To hear the full
story, please welcome Lord Stilton Worplory, duke of
Puttendown-upon-Marple and president of the Honourable Company
of Gentlemanly Though Somewhat Pasty British Sportsmen.

Lord Worplory, thank you for coming.

An honor, to be sure.

We assume you banned Michael Johnson from competing against your
runners to get them used to the feeling of winning. Then, when
the Olympics come, their confidence will be soaring, right?

Egad, man! No! We're just fed up to our ascots with losing.
We're positively knackered. So we've decided to show the white
feather completely.

But there are fine international runners other than Johnson. And
the British haven't had a decent quarter-miler since Eric
Liddell, the 1920s runner whose career inspired the film
Chariots of Fire. You can't duck everybody.

Poppycock! We forbid any halfway decent runner to compete.

Who is going to run against your sprinters in this event, then?

Well, in Lane 1 we have Eddie the Eagle. In Lane 2, Andrew Lloyd
Webber. In Lane 4, the remains of Winston Churchill, and in Lane
6, in a yellow singlet and a tiara, the Queen Mother.

Lord, you can't be serious.

You bet your colonies we are! We are expanding the ban too. We
call it our Cower of London program, and we're taking it to
Wimbledon, for instance. No British male has won the
Championships since Fred Perry in 1936. Therefore and forthwith,
I take great pleasure in announcing that we have posted
telegrams to this tasteless Andre Agassi fellow and his overly
hairy compatriot, what's the chap's name?

Pete Sampras?

Exactly! We have informed them that the thought of facing them
on Centre Court would make our players feel severely
downtrodden, and in fact our boys might actually approach
despair if required to play them. Thus their presence is no
longer welcomed here. Much more civilized without them, I think.
Don't you?

Well....

Indeed, the committee has decided to issue disinvitations to the
Misses Graf and Seles as well. All that frightful grunting and
whatnot. Some of the members in the Pimm's tent said it was
making it impossible for them to enjoy their Cups.

I don't believe this.

And none of us in the Royal & Barnacled will ever get over what
happened last summer at St. Andrews with that American beast who
won our golf championship.

You mean John Daly?

Ghastly fellow! Not to be impertinent, but that boorish,
slack-jawed dirigible ate doughnuts all the way around our most
historic course; took heaving, undignified lurches at the ball;
and wore his hair as though he were a member of a
car-lubrication gang. So we have said "bollocks!" to him. He is
no longer welcome.

I don't suppose he's the only one. Am I right?

Capital, old boy! Since the British Open is on English soil this
year, at Royal Lytham, we've chosen to be somewhat aggressive
with our expulsions. We've asked this Shark fellow to stay away
too. Much too squeamish with him around. In fact, we've asked
the immigration department to forbid disembarkation in England
by anybody who cannot name the ingredients in figgy pudding.

So who's left?

Nick Faldo and three chaps from Gloucester's monthly medal.

Brilliant.

I should say! We've also passed a no-Cigar rule for Royal Ascot,
eliminated from the Royal Henley Regatta the international teams
we felt put an excessive emphasis on winning, and changed next
year's cricket Test matches against the West Indies. They will
now be known as the Jest matches and feature our lads against
your Detroit Tigers. We hear the Tigers are not at all obsessive
about winning. Lovely fellows.

But don't you think the world will see how weenie this all is? I
mean, how can you be so chicken? What's the point of sport if
you're going to compete only against people you can beat?

Balderdash, boy! We are still willing to take on any and all
comers in the three-day snooker match at Hickstead!

Congratulations.

Think nothing of it.

Well, uh, thanks for coming, Lord Worplory.

Might you do me a favor, dear boy? Received a call from the
Princess of Wales recently. I believe you commoners call her
Lady Di. She asked if you would be good enough to see that this
hooligan Dennis Rodman is kept out of public view.

Why?

It seems the princess has grown weary of competing with him. He
looks better in pearls than she does.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of athletes in slingshot made from British flag]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)