Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/467

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445
CRICKET AND THE VICTORIAN ERA.

must be very real. I am afraid large bodies of spectators are not always quite so well behaved as on this occasion. But that they behave as well as they usually do is surprising enough till the reason is recognised.

The mention of foreign criticism of English games reminds me of an article I saw in the 'New Review' last summer. The writer of it tried to show that the games and pastimes upon which the English pride themselves as having contributed largely towards the national greatness do not produce, even physically, finer men than the Continental military training; that they certainly produce far less valuable citizens, and waste also much valuable time. His point was, as far as I remember, that the three years' military training which every Frenchman and German has to undergo produce a physical result at least as good as do our games, and with great economy of time. Further, whereas skill in games is of no practical use, a knowledge of military service and its requirements is useful for an extremely important end, the defence of one's country.

With regard to physical development pure and simple, I am not in a position to dispute these statements. For I have not seen enough men trained under the military system to afford a fair comparison. But those Frenchmen and Germans whom I have seen certainly fall below the physical standard attained by the average Englishman. As far as I can see, the man who is the result of football and cricket is, in the matter of thew and sinew and general bodily ability, about as good a specimen as can be produced by any means whatever. However, for the sake of argument, let us regard the two physical results as equal, or, if need be, that of games as slightly inferior to that of military service. In every other respect, there can be no possible doubt, games are far better training for a man than military service, In the first place, they fit in much more conveniently with the pursuit of an employment, whether trade or profession. Nowadays a young man can get plenty of exercise at football or cricket without in any way spending upon them time which he ought to be devoting to work. Perhaps he may not be able to play enough to become a first-rate performer, or to win any fame as an athlete, but he can play enough to cultivate his physique quite as highly as desirable. Military training, on the other hand, cuts a man's life in two. In order to meet its requirements he has to leave his trade or profession for several years, which must handicap him immensely, and is likely to render him far less efficient in his particular line than he would otherwise be.