Hiding on the Edge

Professional sport is a dog eat dog world (dog eating itself may be a professional sport by now; who knows?). Sportsmen are constantly searching for new tactics to give themselves an edge over their opponents. Some are specific to certain sports; others are more widely applicable.

Take, for example, England’s victory from this morning over Australia. Man of the match Paul Collingwood (120 not out, two run outs and a great catch) clearly had “the edge”. What was “the edge”? I can tell you: he was hiding. Here he is:

Paul Collingwood hidingYou may say that this isn’t great hiding, and you’d have a point. We can see most of him – you probably spotted him almost right away. But there are two things to take in to account. Firstly, in the middle of the cricket pitch there aren’t many things to hide behind; you’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got. Opposition players have a tendency to move around, and even the portliest of umpires have an alarming tendency to shift at inopportune moments. That leaves just two things, and given a choice between hiding behind the stumps (width: ~1 1/2”) and a bat (width: ~4 1/4”), you’d go for the bat every time. Admit it.

Secondly, it’s a question of attitude. Look at his face. That’s a hiding face if ever I saw one. That sort of face would most certainly say “boo” to a goose, because the face would have spent half an hour positioning itself for precisely that purpose. The only thing that could make it more of a hiding face would be if I couldn’t see it, and then I wouldn’t know what it looked like. I would venture so far as to say that no-one on that cricket pitch was more committed to not being seen than Paul Collingwood.

Steven Gerrard hidingCommitment matters. Take this lamentable example of hiding from England’s Steven Gerrard. Okay, we can see what he’s going for, but his heart’s not in it. It’s not obvious from this picture (the Spanish team are hiding much too successfully), but at this point the game is actually over, and England have lost. It’s far too late for Stevie’s hiding to affect the match. He is, you might say, on a hiding to nothing.

Gunnar, not existing.There are other methods of hiding, of course. See if you can spot Swedish cross-country skier Gunnar Olafsson-Olafsson in the picture to the left. You can’t, can you? Admittedly I made him up, but that’s just one more indication of how effective hiding in plain sight can be. If your opponents aren’t even sure that you exist, you know you’ve done your hiding thoroughly, and to good effect. It’s hard to ski when existentially confused. Gunnar is ahead of the game without even needing to be born, let alone don skis. Never underestimate the benefits of practical nihilism when it comes to hiding. If you already exist, however, I don’t recommend killing yourself or anything stupid like that. That’s excessive, plus you lose mobility and tend to get a honking great marker stuck on top of you. Hiding while dead is remarkably difficult, at least for the first couple of hundred years.

Active hidingYou wouldn’t expect it from a rugby player, but innovation in hiding is everywhere you look (although obviously difficult to spot). On the right, an Italian player attempts “active hiding”, by which method he is able to effect the concealment of his entire team from one French back. He’s got one eye covered, and you can see he’s going for the double. The downside here, of course, is that the victim can be pretty sure where at least one person is, and the traditional method of confusion in this situation (affecting an effeminate voice and saying, “guess who?”) tends to lead to mockery in contexts as macho as professional rugby.

Tiger Woods, hidingI leave you with a truly execrable bit of hiding from allegedly the best golfer ever to wield a club. Tiger Woods is even believed by many to be the greatest sportsman of modern times, but if this woeful bit of concealment is in any way indicative of his talents there must be hordes of golfers playing far more exquisite shots, but so dedicatedly hidden from view that they never even reveal themselves to claim their prizes. What’s he going for here? He can’t be hiding from the camera; even the sort of fool who believes you can hide behind your hands knows that you have to place them between yourself and the observer to have any chance of success. Is he trying to hide his eyes from the sun? If so, spot the rookie mistake. Tiger can’t see it; the sun’s in his eyes.

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