Who are the loveliest of them all? My wife has no doubt whatsoever. She came into my room today, before I had a chance to switch off the cricket, because of course I hate cricket, not interested, game for nancies and poshos. I'd only been watching it for two hours, perhaps three - OK, the best part of the day, just because I couldn't find any footer.
"Oooh," she said, or sounds to that effect. "I do think cricketers are the world's best-dressed sportsmen."
Don't drool over me, pet. Get back in that kitchen and clean those pots.
First of all, she loves their long white trousers, so attractive, and their sleeveless cable-knit white pullies. Then when they put on their visors she imagines them as knights in armour, oooh, Ivy.
Racing drivers: she also likes their outfits, especially their white boiler suits, zipped up to the neck, like something out of Casualty. Skiers, in their jackets and skin-tight trousers, they look good, and of course jockeys have always worn pretty clothes, but overall, cricketers are the most beautifully dressed. That's her considered opinion.
I was rather insulted, especially because she said footballers are about the worst looking. "No sportsman should wear shorts."
I happen to have been in shorts since May, and intend to carry on
until October, when we return to London, even if it does snow.
The only shorts-wearing sportsmen she had a good word for were the New Zealand All Blacks. Wearing all black is in itself attractive, fashion-wise, but they also do fill their shirts and shorts so well, having, ahem, such excellent physiques.
That is sooo lookist, which we in football never worry about, otherwise Lee Bowyer, Paul Scholes and Shaun Wright-Phillips would never get in the dressing room, never mind on the pitch. Not exactly hunks, are they? It's one of the many reasons football is a world game. Anybody can play it.
When I look at footballers, dressed for football, I don't look at their bodies. I am looking at history, thinking of the long, proud traditions of the club colours they are carrying, of fans who have been shouting "Come on you Reds", or similar, for more than a hundred years now. As a schoolboy, I could tell you the strip of all 92 League clubs, plus Scotland. On the whole, the colours and designs have stayed roughly the same, despite all the nasty commercial logos.
OK, apart from Arsenal. I quite like their new redcurrant shirt, from an aesthetic point of view, but if I were an Arsenal fan, would be upset by the loss of their traditional strip. Though in fact it dates back only to the 1930s, when their manager Herbert Chapman introduced the white sleeves to make them more distinctive. Their shirts had been all red before that, a design they pinched from Nottingham Forest.
In England, you don't get green shirts, one exception being Plymouth Argyle. In England, the founding fathers considered green unlucky. Why was this? Theories, please. In Scotland, it didn't bother Celtic or Hibs.
The luckiest colour is red, according to my latest copy of Durham First, the university's alumni mag. Two academics in the department of anthropology examined athletes in the 2004 Olympics who were competing in one-on-one disciplines, such as boxing and wrestling, where competitors were randomly assigned red or blue clothing. Those wearing red, so they discovered, were more likely to win. Fascinating, huh?
In the very early days, before it all settled down, clubs did mess around with their strips. I have an 1876 photo of Hearts, now doing so well in Scotland, looking very ducky in white shirts with a heart on their left breast. In 1884, Bolton Wanderers were wearing white shirts with red spots, which were said to make them look bigger. That same year, they appeared in a cup match wearing salmon pink - playing Notts County, who were in chocolate and blue. Good enough to eat.
Cricketers, eh? Their play might be exciting at present, but I think they look boring in all white. Shows no imagination.