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The Americans are all “sports.” But to their credit, they are one and all “dead games.” They have a sporting tradition which extends back to the time when their great-grandfathers gambled for negresses and went trailing for Indians in pretty much the same way that an Englishman goes shooting wild duck.

It is said, with what truth I know not, that the Americans hunt the fox in red coats and top-hats, and that they are yachtsmen and fishermen and big game killers. I have met a considerable number of Americans—well-to-do and otherwise—but I never yet came across one whom I could conscientiously figure in any of the latter connections. Of course, there is the America Cup Race to confound me, and there are the redoubtable doings of President Roosevelt on the rolling prairie and in the Rockies, and there is young Mr. Jay Gould’s defeat of our Mr. Eustace Miles at Rackets or Ping Pong or some such game. All the same, I will never believe that the modern American is leisurely[92] enough or uncommercial enough to know much about real sport.

That they play games in America even as we play games in England appears to be fairly evident. The game of white man’s games, namely, cricket, is, however, a game they do not understand. Baseball and football on the other hand are exercises which they are alleged to have cultivated out of all recognition. Baseball I know nothing about. And when I come to consider it closely, I could wish that I knew nothing about American football.

Pugilism without the gloves having been forbidden by law in America, the free and equal inhabitants thereof must e’en look round for a form of sport which would allow of their “lamming the hides off one another” without being pulled up short by the police; and they settled on football. The essence of American football is not to kick or punch the ball, but to kick, punch, break up, deface and destroy the next man. On all American football fields a squad of surgeons, bonesetters, and nurses have to be in continual attendance. The crushing of a player’s ribs, the gouging out of his eye, or the splitting open of his head are regarded as trifling matters among American sportsmen, and when the football player goes forth to the[93] fray, he makes a point of taking a fond farewell of his relations and friends in case of even more serious accident. Here, again, you have a distinct instance of the American tendency to outrage and excess. They have overdone football to such an extent that they themselves consider it in the light of something which approximates closely to a murderous affray. So much for games.

As Indians are no longer shootable, and negroes can no longer be hunted with dogs, and the buffalo is extinct, and the grizzly a “rare proposition” and difficult of access, the modern American sport has to be content with smaller deer, such as possum and bobolink and wild turkey. And when he goes gunning for these trophies he is a sight to see. Nobody can rival him in the magnificence of his outfit. He insists upon donning cow-boy attire and proceeding to the field of action on a fiery mustang, with a magazine of guns slung all over him, and enough ammunition to take Port Arthur. The whole of this equipment has been purchased at store prices, and he acquires it not because it is likely to be useful to him but because he thinks that it makes him look smart. When it comes to yachting or fishing or racing you can depend upon him to display an equal gaiety of demeanour and to[94] “dress” and “swank” the part to perfection.

For the fox-hunting I shall say nothing. The indigenous American fox does not run straight, the imported fox has lost some of the best qualities of his English forbears, and the American variety of foxhound is a romping, ill-mannered, and indiscreet quadruped.

The national sport of America is horse racing, qualified with a considerable dash of trotting. And here, of course, the American temperament in all its aspects is made to shine. The head quarters of American horse racing—the Epsom, Ascot and Sandown of the United States—is a place called Saratoga, where the trunks come from. Here you find the American horse, the American racing man, and the American sport in their highest and lowest and most perfect expression. It is said that a Saratoga horse is poison-proof; being so accustomed to profound potations of laudanum, bromide, and other sedatives that he can quaff any quantity of them without turning a hair. The people who live at Saratoga are all horsey and dishonest. They speak the most degraded form of Anglo-Saxon—a sort of Americo-Negroid flash talk—and what they do not know in the way of knavery and[95] brutality has yet to be invented. It goes without saying that all American racing men do not necessarily dwell in this sublime spot. But a quite considerable contingent of them have learnt lessons out of the Saratoga book, and are consequently as dangerous to deal with as it is possible to conceive that white men could be.

The American sportsmen we are privileged to see in England have, with some notable exceptions, failed sign............
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