Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Get set

Am I the only one to get a little moist-eyed at the announcement today that the referee's scrum routine for the upcoming provincial rugby championship is being changed to 'Crouch, touch, set'? This appears to signify that the immortal phrase 'Crouch, touch, pause, engage'—first used, I believe, in a Tennyson ode, and later popularized by Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra—is on the way out? A whole generation has grown up with these incantatory words ringing in its ears. I am not sure, in fact, that New Zealand would have won the Rugby World Cup without them. Right up to the final the ABs probably had little recording devices under their pillows, like the ones for the children in the nurseries of Brave New World, whispering this lyrical litany into their sleeping brains, imprinting it on the hard drive, ensuring that when the day came and the scrum went down they would crouch, touch, pause and engage. In that order. Unquestioningly. Tell me I have a dirty mind (please) but I always had the feeling there was something sexual, well, sensual anyway, about these intensely physical instructions; and maybe that's why they have sunk so deep in the nation's psyche. Touching and engaging, after all, is what keeps the human race going, with or without the pausing. As was memorably said by E M Forster, who played first-five for Cambridge University, 'Only connect.' Farewell, then, familiar words; at the going down of the scrum, we will remember them. 'Crouch, touch, set' doesn't have quite the same ring but no doubt we'll get used to it in time.


Anonymous said...

If we accept Forster was prescient with regard to rugby which machine can we expect to stop, the money- making machine that was provincial rugby; and we can but wonder who Yeats was referring to when talking about the ABs ball skills commented "The Centre Cannot Hold"

Old Geezer said...

"Set" as a verb? I know setting a scene, and setting a table. At a pinch, setting a jelly.

But the likeliest meaning is that of the Scottish country dancing meaning of "set" - a dainty sideways jig.

That should liven up our scrums no end.

Denis Welch said...

The wily Yeats, yes: very good under the high ball, I understand, but not always willing to commit to the tackle. Thank you for reminding us all of Forster's incredibly prescient story 'The Machine Stops': it should be required reading for all of us in the internet age.