Of the two great sporting events of the past week, though both ended in the way generally anticipated, one lived up to expectations and the other was a bitter disappointment. Arsenal won the Cup and Petersen retained his dual championship, of Britain and the Empire; but how different in each case is the story of the winning.
The Cup Final
Arsenal were just about one goal better than Sheffield United and, justly, by that goal, they won.
Relatively the two clubs are placed in about the same position in theft' respective leagues. The Arsenal is ranked among the cream of football's cream, the United is blue milk among the country's second best. On play there was nothing between them but a bit of luck and the run of the ball; which just goes to show that football these days is a matter of resources rather than skill.
In the final both teams were at full strength—the Arsenal for the first time since the semi-final and, at full strength, any game is anybody's game in English first-class football. Nearly every club in the first two divisions of the League, and some in the third, has a side that can hold its own with any other side in the country. Their troubles come when they have to reduplicate their players, and that is where wealth counts. The reserves in the poorer clubs are, too often, woefully weak.
A Fearsome Final
The final was not a good game; it very rarely is. This year it was exceptional in that it was played in an air-raid atmosphere with aeroplanes and autogiros swooping and hovering overhead in an awe-inspiring and fearsome manner, so that the public should have its motion-pictures of its most popular sporting event.
It is to be hoped that those interested will come to some satisfactory arrangement soon. Football in a thunderstorm without any rain is too disturbing.
The atmosphere was electric. You got into the ground with the same feeling as you get into the country when you have that secret little half-bottle and a couple of packets of "Caporals," or without them for that matter. The feeling is induced by the searching glances of keen eyes and, at Wembley, was enhanced by your every neighbour being tempted by a guinea bribe to turn "common informer"; ninety-three thousand spectators and everyone of them a potential "copper's nark"!
There was excitement both on the field and off it. The players were almost as excited as the onlookers and, strange to say, the seasoned men of the Arsenal seemed more affected than their opponents. Bastin missed a "sitter", and that is not like Bastin. Bowden too was off-colour, and James and Drake, though the lastnamed redeemed himself and a poor game by a brilliant goal, his one flash and Johnson's one lapse.
Hulme was the best of the Arsenal forwards and was brilliant; Dodds the best in the Sheffield line where he "wandered" Roberts bewilderingly.
It was, however, a game of defences, a spoiling game, as most games are these days. Its primary object was for each side to stop their opponents from winning and, that ensured, to snap up an opportunity for a tearaway goal and so win themselves.
It'spoils the game for players and for spectators too. There is no clever pattern-weaving in modern English football, no elaborate working-out of intricate schemes. Just when a man begins to look dangerous, get the ball out of play, the man too if necessary, but remembers always that it is safety, not football, first.
The public are content to pay for it so why should anybody worry? It is sad thought (or is it?) but about ninety of the ninety-three thousand at Wembley would not know a good game of football if they saw one. And, while we are on sad thoughts, here is atiother—in English League football, of the ninety minutes allotted to a game, for about forty the ball is out of play!
A Disappointing Fight
The opening night at the Empress Stadium, Earl's Court, was a disappointment.
Jackie Brown, ex-flyweight champion of the world, administered a dramatic knockout in half a minute, before half the spectators knew he had arrived. There was a little local altercation between Messrs. Hurst and Smith, of St. George's and Watford respectively, in which Mr. Smith was declared the winner on points. Then Maurice Holtzer, the French featherweight champion of Europe, had all he could do to make a draw of it over eight rounds with a redoubtable on-comer Benny Sharkey, of Newcastle. Alec Bell, a Scottish heavy, made a workmanlike job of his points victory over Hans Havlicek, the Austrian.
The big fight between Petersen and McAvoy that we had all, the whole ten thousand of us, come to see was, frankly, not worth the money. The fighters got, between them, about £9,000.
They were both clever, but they were clever avoiders rather than fighters. They were very polite to each other, they shook hands half a dozen times, and, if the crowd was not equally polite to them, well, you can stand for quite a bit of catcalling and derisive "Kentish fire" at four thousand a throw. It was the sort of fight you could have taken a lady to, if she had not taken you, and been disappointed at the spectacle.
Petersen seemed obsessed by the idea that he must not be beaten by McAvoy, and McAvoy determined to stay the course. There was hardly a serious blow the whole way through. McAvoy got in a left hook in the twelfth round that promised only to disappoint, and Petersen, aided by a stumble, floored the Rochdale man in the fifteenth.
Petersen deserved the verdict, if either of them deserved anything. He pushed McAvoy round the ring in much the same way as a tall, and not too expert dancer pushes his partner round. He tried to hit, and missed; but there was as much virtue, if fewer points, in McAvoy's making him miss as in his trying to hit.
Each was obviously afraid of the other fellow's punch and, as a result, instead of going into a fight, they went into a huddle. Braddock's crown is still safe, and so is Lewis's. Still, it is a nice Stadium.