Is Halloween nothing more than an expensive trick on consumers…?

by Pseud O'Nym

Here’s a simple question.

Is rounders simply baseball for grownups?

Albeit with massive salaries, lucrative television and advertising revenues (estimated to be $1.5 billion in 2015!), a frankly obsessive love of statistics, (So nerdy, in fact, that Nate Silver, used his baseball statistic analysis algorithm as the basis for one that not correctly predicted the outcome in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, where he correctly identified the winners in 49 of the 50 states but also but also repeated this analytical prophesy in the 2012 election as well.) Nor do I have a problem with them calling a baseball competition where the only competitors are teams from the same nation ‘The World Series’.

No, the problem I have with baseball is that is classified as a sport. It is sport only if we consider French cricket to be a sport.

I ask this not to be controversialist but out of a simple curiosity born out of the fact that despite of the many obvious – obvious to me at any rate –almost identical similarities between the two, no-one else has asked, much less answered this glaringly simple question. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists, who see conspiracies seemingly everywhere, could harness their keen, forensic minds to exposing the truth! As for many years rounders was a game played by primary school children. It was designed specifically so that anyone, regardless of their sporting prowess – and those with none, the ones who looked like small barrels with arms and – could play it. The rules were very simple. If you imagine a clock face as the rounders pitch and the batsman stands at six o’clock and was thrown a ball to hit – usually a tennis ball – by someone standing in our imaginary clock face where the hands rotate from. The batters aim was to strike the ball such a distance that it would allow him to complete a full circuit of the pitch. However if she or he was unable to manage this, there were conveniently placed stops at what would be three, mid-day and nine o’clock. Thus one could complete a full circuit in one go or else one could do it in stages. If one did it in one go, one got a point. If one completed the circuit in stages one was free to bat again. You could be out if you hit a ball and if a fielder caught it or if as you were running towards – or returning, you could go either way -the next stop a fielder got the ball there first. That basically is the rules of rounders and if anyone reading this could enlighten me as to how baseball is different then this in any substantive way, I’d be glad to know.

Apart from an over arm throw of frankly vicious speed by the thrower – what is the difference between the two? Oh yes, there is one major difference between the two! One is a children’s game and one could have been created by advertisers. With so many naturally occurring breaks and it being watched by so many, it makes sense to advertise there. In fact, can anyone think of an American sport that couldn’t have been designed to meet the needs of advertisers?

Pondering this extraordinary similarity between rounders and baseball – of how something has been exported to America and then sold back to us, replete with commercial opportunities puts me in mind of Halloween, which has somehow overshadowed Guy Fawkes Night and in so doing, has become a lucrative retail opportunity, worth over £450 millions. It is now the U.K.’s second most lucrative retail celebration, behind New Years Eve. One wonders why retailers haven’t as yet fabricated another way for consumers to saddle themselves with increasing debt – I mean join together to celebrate the rich diversity of a shared experience – by coming up with a celebration in June and another in September. Spread ‘em throughout the year, that’d give the economy, if no one else, a cause for celebration!

When I was younger than I am now, Halloween was a kind of third-rate affair, only half-heartedly entered into. Bonfire night was the reason one got genuinely excited. I can remember buying hand held rockets – sadly unthinkable now – and launching them via a metal tube with a hole dilled in it for the fuse to protrude. It is so quaint, and rather endearing, to celebrate a failed terrorist bomb attempt. It is a quintessentially English celebration, and other than fireworks and …er..a fire, what else is there to buy? With Bonfire Night, not so much! Public safety concerns have resulted in large displays organized by councils. I despise organized council run displays because anyone pretty much all of the exciting fun – for me at any rate – is safely extinguished by luminous jacket wearing killjoys aided by a frankly ridiculously remote cordon one had to stand behind.

I went to one once. Never again. The sound of the fireworks, which is what I wanted to hear, was competing with some awful ‘music’ blaring out of speakers. Which were attached to numerous temporary lampposts, each surrounded by a wooden fence and a luminous jacket wearing funster.

One of my best ever firework experience’s was in America of all places. People were drawn by some weird firework osmosis to a sports ground in the middle of nowhere. And then using flat bed trucks as launch pads, merrily set off fireworks, proving that if you let people get on with what they are going to do, by and large they behave themselves with a sensible regard for their own safety. Unlike the bonfire party I had the misfortune to only ever hear about, at which some friends put all of the fireworks into one large metal container. You can guess what happened next. One of the first fireworks landed in the box with predictably magnificent results. There are few things worse than frugal firework detonation, much better to let them all off as quickly as possible. If people are mean with the fireworks then you feel tricked, which brings me neatly to trick or treat.

Or as it should be properly known ‘mugging for beginners’ albeit in inasmuch as the victim knows what fate is about to befall them and rather than take evasive action they actively collude in it. Some years ago when my other housemates were out, one Halloween I could hear groups of excited children coming up the path and ringing my doorbell. “Trick or treat!” they said when I opened the door. “Trick’” I said, as I watched the smiles disappear from their faces. “You mean you don’t have any tricks to play on me?” They exchanged bewildered looks with each other and looked for some explanation from their parents who were acting as chaperones, as otherwise trick or treat becomes a home delivery services for paedophiles. I remember numerous groups of parents berating me for not entering into the spirit of things, to which I answered “It was them who came to my door and offered me a choice, I just happened to choose the choice that didn’t suit them”.

Tomorrow night being Halloween we will of course be visited by sweet demanding botherers, but fortunately for them I won’t be anywhere near the door. Someone less misanthropic than me will have that treat!

On a related note, I must tell you about the best firework display in London, The Lord Mayor’s Show Firework Display which takes place this year on the Saturday 14th of November at 5:15pm, between Waterloo and Southwark bridges on the Thames. Whilst the crowds amass in great numbers on either bank of the Thames, the best vantage point is to be found in one of the terrace cafes over looking the Thames at the National Theatre. Until my accident, I never missed it, it was – and is – that good!