Good on ye, Sport.


If sport is still seen as the holy grail of youth growing into wholesome adults, I wonder if we ought to consider the opposite. A kind of movement, like which followed that of cigarettes, which we now know are secreted behind closed doors and wearing beige uniforms. People look guilty lighting up in public with a quick avoidance of looking into the eyes of the triumphant non-smoker.

Years ago, smoking was seen as sport is now, a kind of combination of robust health and the coming of age into responsible adulthood.  Remember those advertisements of a brave pilot seated in his war-plane’s cockpit, ready to teach the folks in Bremen, Hiroshima or Hamburg a good lesson? He wore goggles but in his mouth which seemed to hold a sardonic smile, there was also a Camel, all lit up, ready for anything but never ever a hint of looming cancer gnawing away at his youthful lungs. The opposite, it soothed nerves and gave patriotic confidence and made you fight and conquer enemies.

Nerves of steel, the advertisement waxed on and millions of young people took up the smoking health habit, all wanting to grow up and have the Pilot’s nerves of steel for the future. Movies were full of smoke and ash. There was nothing more seductive than Clark Gable brushing off some cigarette ash from Rita Hayworth’s blouse with fingers agonizingly trailing over her heaving but sturdy bra enveloped breasts. Unforgettable scenes of bravery when in ‘High-Noon’ and music’s ‘do not forsake me, oh my darling’ the cigarette dangled so lovely and enticingly from cowboy Carry Cooper’s lips. Many young girls fainted in the cinema in tandem with Grace Kelly’s swooning subserviently in cowboy’s arms.  Yes, smoking was robust health with a Mae West gun in your pocket. A sure sign of having grown up.


This morning on my walk past those gigantic oak trees in the park, I noticed the acorns being shed by the hundreds. It brought back the days when as a very young ten year old I was already influenced by the adults, including my father and my aunty heartily smoking away. With my friends and the help of a first pocket knife we hollowed out acorns and with a small straw inserted, managed to make a workable but primitive sort of pipe. We clandestinely managed to get a packet of tobacco and lit up, gloriously grown up after school, but hidden from adults which added to the taste of the foul nicotine. Smoking before discovery of the pubescent rose buds of girls’ breasts, that was the order of things then, I remember it so well. The sheer joy and  wild enthusiasm of entering the world of adventure and discovery of so much with being wickedly alive which doubled when a couple of years later girls entered the world of forbidden delights as well. It just never stopped then.


How things have changed now. A cold shower on all that smoking, perhaps not so much on girls but…while things have calmed down on budding breasts, at least they are not a health hazard as cigarettes proved to be. What a disappointment smoking turned out to be. I gave up reluctantly years ago but still enjoy someone else striking up with the smell of a fresh cigarette still having an overpowering sense with recurring memories of those forbidden delights so many years ago.

How disappointing sport turned out to be and with all those cases in Court, it is starting to resemble the turn around with cigarettes some years ago. All of a sudden, sport seems to have the stench of smoking. Corruption, drugs are rampant, insider criminal betting rings, girl friends getting glassed or worse, murdered, one wonders if the pilot lighting up in his warplane’s cockpit with a Camel wasn’t a better option after all?  Who still wants to be associated with a bicycle or a ball, let alone a cricket bat or fibre blade runners. It’s all getting to be a bit dodgy. Soon too, sportsmen will be locked up as well as cigarettes.

Perhaps outdoor chess might bring out the robust man or healthy woman? Who knows and what is the world coming?

When will it all end?

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3 Responses to “Good on ye, Sport.”

  1. Patti Kuche Says:

    Thank you for memories of the suave, sophisticated seduction that was the art and pleasure of smoking! Sport seems so . . . sweaty and hysterical in comparison.

    My father-in-law, a doctor, had an ash tray on his desk and a Senior Service in his mouth at all times!


  2. gerard oosterman Says:

    Thank you Patti. I was of the Peter Stuyvesant generation. We would have social evenings with our friends fond of fondue, not chocolate but more of the strips of lean beef and dipped into soya sauce brigade.
    Giving up my habit was hard and included cheating with picking up good long butts in front of Woolworth and (cheerfully) lighting up again. Still, I never played Rugby or Gridiron.


  3. Patti Kuche Says:

    Such sophistication! I remember when Peter Stuyvesant was the “international passport to smoking pleasure.”


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