This spring, we commemorate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. As the son and grandson of scientists, and as an agnostic myself, I suppose I have been shaped by the world that the Victorian scientists made and unmade. But — like so many of my readers, again — I owe a very great debt to the Victorian games-makers as well. The two may be connected — for, the beauty of such games as tennis and cricket is made possible only by the precision of its rules. The swerving aces of John McEnroe would have not been possible had the service box been somewhat smaller. Had the pitch in cricket been more than 22 yards long, the advantage would have rested even more securely with the batsman. The beauty of modern sport is a product in good measure of the symmetry of its rules. And so, while I shall concede that in the history of humankind Darwin is indisputably a more important figure than Pélé, I would still like to believe that it is in the realm of sport that we find the most appealing syntheses of Science and Art.
Take a look!