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The Game And The Rules
by [?]

These questions of procedure, however, are after all small matters. It is the real hardships of the game that most need to be tackled. Why should one player be born into the sport with a prescriptive right to fill some easy place in the field, while another has to fag on from morning to night in the most uninteresting and fatiguing position? Why should pate de foie gras and champagne-cup in the tent be so unequally distributed? Why should those who have made fewest runs and done no fielding be admitted to partake of these luxuries, free of charge, while those who have borne the brunt of the fight, those who have suffered from the heat of the day, those who have contributed most to the honour of the victory, are turned loose, unfed, to do as they can for themselves by hook or by crook somehow? These are the questions some of us players are now beginning to ask ourselves; and we don’t find them efficiently answered by the bald statement that we “want to play the game without the rules,” and that we ought to be precious glad the legislators of the club haven’t made them a hundred times harder against us.

No, no; the rules themselves must be altered. Time was, indeed, when people used to think they were made and ordained by divine authority. “Cum privilegio” was the motto of the captains. But we know very well now that every club settles its own standing orders, and that it can alter and modify them as fundamentally as it pleases. Lots of funny old saws are still uttered upon this subject–“There must always be rich and poor;” “You can’t interfere with economical laws;” “If you were to divide up everything to-morrow, at the end of a fortnight you’d find the same differences and inequalities as ever.” The last-named argument (I believe it considers itself by courtesy an argument) is one which no self-respecting Radical should so much as deign to answer. Nobody that I ever heard of for one moment proposed to “divide up everything,” or, for that matter, anything: and the imputation that somebody did or does is a proof either of intentional malevolence or of crass stupidity. Neither should be encouraged; and you encourage them by pretending to take them seriously. It is the initial injustices of the game that we Radicals object to–the injustices which prevent us from all starting fair and having our even chance of picking up a livelihood. We don’t want to “divide up everything”–a most futile proceeding; but we do want to untie the legs and release the arms of the handicapped players. To drop metaphor at last, it is the conditions we complain about. Alter the conditions, and there would be no need for division, summary or gradual. The game would work itself out spontaneously without your intervention.

The injustice of the existing set of rules simply appals the Radical. Yet oddly enough, this injustice itself appeals rather to the comparative looker-on than to the heavily-handicapped players in person. They, poor creatures, dragging their log in patience, have grown so accustomed to regarding the world as another man’s oyster, that they put up uncomplainingly for the most part with the most patent inequalities. Perhaps ’tis their want of imagination that makes them unable to conceive any other state of things as even possible–like the dog who accepts kicking as the natural fate of doghood. At any rate, you will find, if you look about you, that the chief reformers are not, as a rule, the ill-used classes themselves, but the sensitive and thinking souls who hate and loathe the injustice with which others are treated. Most of the best Radicals I have known were men of gentle birth and breeding. Not all: others, just as earnest, just as eager, just as chivalrous, sprang from the masses. Yet the gently-reared preponderate. It is a common Tory taunt to say that the battle is one between the Haves and the Have-nots. That is by no means true. It is between the selfish Haves, on one side, and the unselfish Haves, who wish to see something done for the Have-nots, on the other. As for the poor Have-nots themselves, they are mostly inarticulate. Indeed, the Tory almost admits as much when he alters his tone and describes the sympathising and active few as “paid agitators.”

For myself, however, I am a born Conservative. I hate to see any old custom or practice changed; unless, indeed, it is either foolish or wicked–like most existing ones.