Modern sports have become vessels of corruption and objects of disdain. The British public’s increasing disillusion with these silly games is entirely understandable. Football has slowly been developing into a non-contact sport, so much so that its players have now become hypersensitive to pain, crumpling in agony at the merest brush of an opponent’s leg or torso. Of course, bodily contact has never been a part of cricket, and so all of the latent aggression is channelled into subtle misconduct and vile contumely. Rugby is the best of the bad bunch: it is physical and aggressive, but its edges are dulled by the rules of play, except in the scrums and rucks – teeming orgies of violence, full of punching and headbutting and ragged probing digits. All of these games are beset by variants of the same problem: rules. If rules are made to be broken, what sense is there in having them in the first place? They only get in the way, proving an impediment to competitive spirit and the violent essence of human nature.
A new game, in its incipiency, has arrived to herald the revolution – The Violence Game. It has no rules, only a vague objective: do violence unto others, without them doing it unto you. Because all of the typically rancorous urges that lie behind sporting pursuit are placed firmly in the foreground, and because there are no rules to speak of, it is played in a wonderfully good spirit with an abounding sense of community and fair play. In a league match in Shropshire last month, I saw a man slip on a strategically placed banana skin, sliding straight into an industrial incinerator. He shouted his last words with charred and sizzling lips: ‘Play up, play up, and play the game!’
The seed of this game can be traced to Devonshire, specifically to the Bull & Ox pub in the rural village of Clinkton. In this pub, on the 27th August, 1993, Gareth Trousby trod on his own shoelace and stumbled into Simon Munwering, knocking over his pint. These were the two founders of the game and they came together on that sticky summer night in a clash of minds, fists, and foul words. The fight spilled out into the field behind the pub, and a crowd of punters followed close behind. The publican quickly set out a stall in the field and kept the crowd well lubricated during the seven hour bout, as they cheered and roared at the two combatants. Trousby struck the final blow when he picked up what he thought was a rock, and drove it into Munwering’s face. In actual fact, it was a slumbering hedgehog. Munwering’s left eye was ruptured by the creature’s spines, and the creature itself was crushed by the impact and abandoned in the field like a deflated football.
That was the original Violence Game. The owner of the Bull & Ox did such good business that night that he set up a league and made it a regular Wednesday evening fixture. Initially, he trebled his business, as the spectators and participants drank their weight in booze each night. But, each time more and more decided to participate, rather than spectate. The league swelled with numbers, as more of the watching crowd were drawn on to the field of play. Eventually, there was nobody around to watch, because every man in the town was in the midst of the game, sweating, bleeding, and beating seven shades out of his neighbour. And then, people began to compete sober – to keep their reflexes sharp, their minds clear, and to give themselves an edge over the slurred and stumbling throng.
The Bull & Ox shut down their Wednesday night league because they simply weren’t selling any drinks anymore; the people had developed a much stronger thirst for violence. A hundred other leagues sprang up to fill the void left by the Bull & Ox, each with its own specific set of rules and regulations, but all came from the same mould and followed the same basic template set by Trousby and Munwering on that auspicious summer evening.
The Violence Game continued in this nebulous form for a few years, in pockets around the West Country, until Frederick Piston took charge. He had grown up on the muddy, blood-stained fields on which the game was played. He moved like a dancer in Wellington boots, and hit like a wrecking ball. He was a small man with a pinched, despotic face. He had black hair, slicked down and swept into a greasy side-parting and wore second-hand double-breasted suits. In 1998 he was elected as chairman of the South Devon bog-straddlers, a small regional group of practitioners of the sport. His first act as chairman was to call a meeting of the leaders of all the known leagues in existence. They met in a field outside Torquay on the 30th of September, 1999, and, after twelve hours of battering and bludgeoning, Piston emerged as the undisputed head of all branches of The Violence Game.
With all the disparate arms of the sport united under his leadership, Piston quickly and indelibly made his mark. The changes he implemented were drastic. He stripped the game down, removed almost all of the recognizable vestiges of traditional sporting pursuit. Subsequent to this edict, bouts could happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone, using anything.
The man was a genius. He had got to the heart of the game by pruning away its superfluous appendages, and it was utterly revitalized. The spontaneity of that first glorious match between Trousby and Clifton was alive in every blow struck from then on. You could be strolling down the road and have the milkman jump out of a privet hedge with a broken bottle in his hand and you would simply have no choice but to arm yourself with the nearest blunt object and launch yourself at him. The game suddenly had no limits; its potential became infinite. This was The Violence Game in its purest form, as it exists today.
As you can imagine, there is real scope for cunning and artistry when they are unimpeded by brittle laws and pernickety stipulations. The Game is a wonderfully expressionistic sport and it rewards resourcefulness and lateral thinking. I have witnessed a 7 year-old stab his father in the knee with a sharpened stick of pepperami, and laugh as the man hopped around in spicy agony. The boy was a very promising talent. Of course, then his father picked him up by the ankles and swung him at a lamppost like a batsman hitting to square leg. His little head exploded like a firework, sending bone and blood raining down over a ten metre radius.
This is the only real impediment to The Violence Game’s potential domination of Europe – the high turnover of players. The game has rather a fast metabolism. Indeed, its significant impact on the West Country is quite conspicuous in the most recent Census. However, this is simply a matter of attracting new faces – nothing a virulent and imaginative advertising campaign wouldn’t solve. The game is already advancing geographically at a prodigious rate. It is creeping up the West coast of Britain like ivy growing on an old country manor, gradually working its way into every crevice, and eventually pulling the whole crumbling edifice to the ground. For The Violence Game is a template for Piston’s greater vision: where the hedges of this country have grown wild and unkempt; the garden walls have crumbled into disrepair; the gates have swung right off their hinges and lie rusting in the long grass; and the people have overrun the land and filled their glorious island arena with clamorous screams of exhilaration and agitation. Violence is, of course, the great leveller, as Piston himself says: there’s no difference between a poor man’s fist and a rich man’s, so long as the rich man’s not wearing his rings. So, may The Violence Game continue its swift march, spreading unity through conflict, for there will be no room for such abrasive delineations as race, class, religion, or ideology, when it’s every man for himself, and, in that respect, everyone in the same boat.