Great Sporting Moments: The Treble by Simon Armitage

by R.C.

The rich! I love them. Trust them to suppose
the gift of tennis is deep in their bones.

Those chaps from the coast with all their own gear
from electric eyes to the umpire’s chair,

like him whose arse I whipped with five choice strokes
perfected on West Yorkshire’s threadbare courts:

a big first serve that strained his alloy frame,
a straight return that went back like a train,

a lob that left him gawping like a fish,
a backhand pass that kicked and drew a wisp

of chalk, a smash like a rubber bullet
and a bruise to go with it. Three straight sets.

Smarting in the locker rooms he offered
double or quits; he was a born golfer

and round the links he’d wipe the floor with me.
I played the ignoramus to a tee:

the pleb in the gag who asked the viscount
what those eggcup-like things were all about –

‘They’re to rest my balls on when I’m driving.’
‘Blimey, guv, Rolls-Royce think of everything’ –

but at the fifth when I hadn’t faltered
he lost his rag and threw down the gauntlet;

we’d settle this like men: with the gloves on.
I said, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. OK, come on then.

Simon Armitage, Kid (1992)