According to a recent report in the Scotsman, a man from Berkeley, California, has become the first non–U.K. resident to earn an official coaching certificate in the sport of shinty.
“That’s great news,” you say, “and would be even better if I had any idea what the hell you’re talking about.” In short: shinty is like field hockey but with rules that allow body checking and dangerous stick swinging—in other words, hockey more as we know it here, and closer to what God intended.
It’s played mostly in the Scottish Highlands, and as a cousin of the Irish game of hurling, it’s as old as Cuchulainn. The folks there who love the game seem to love it a lot, despite its relative obscurity.
Which brings me, as a fan of shinty’s direct descendent, ice hockey, to issue the following warning to the people of the Highlands: do not get excited about this Californian development. It may seem like a fun fact now, but if Californians get interested in shinty for even a few minutes they will use money to steal your game’s greatest player, its Wayne Gretzky (which would be thousand-goal-scorer Ronald Ross, if my Wikipedia skills are as sharp as ever).
Next thing you know, shinty will be saddled with a weaselly lawyer as its commissioner, a man whose lifelong lack of interest in the game itself will be matched by his delusions of turning it into the NBA or NFL. He will also have a talent for creating labour disputes and lost seasons.
Our advice: avoid sun-belt markets in the United States, shinty. They’re nothing but trouble.