Usually, I watch sport on TV in the way a goldfish watches the world through a murky tank. No real sense of what it is about, forgetting what it is every three seconds, getting distracted by other things. (Ooh, look, a plastic castle! Ooh, look, algae! etc.)
An exception to this is tennis. For some reason I understand all the rules, and can make all the jubilant whoops and disappointed groans at the right moments. I also don’t mind a bit of gymnastics, because you know where you are with that. The points system is baffling, but generally it’s straightforward stuff – depressed Ukrainian girl in an enforced state of pre-pubescence does improbable physical feats, while you watch from the sofa eating spicy Doritos and telling anyone in the room about the BAGA award you got when you were seven.
Last week, while I was on holiday, I found a televised spectator sport that really grabbed my attention. It involves huge amounts of people climbing on each other’s shoulders and wobbling like a drunk person trying to find their front door key. Then – the pièce de resistance – a couple of six-year-olds come shimmying up the sides, lemur-like, and balance on top, while crowds of people cheer at the sight of babies that are 50 feet in the air, unaided, swaying around in flimsy crash helmets that look like they were bought at the Decathlon sale.
Appropriately for a sport-watching goldfish like me, they’re called Castells, and are a Catalan tradition, alongside drinking Estrella and absolutely refusing to speak Spanish. Children have been climbing to the tops of these human towers for centuries, incredibly without incident, and it was only when a death occurred a few years ago that they decided to introduce the token bike helmets.
Again and again they arranged themselves in ill-advised piles, with those little kids scampering up there like Victorian chimney sweeps
Nobody seems to think a massive game of human Jenga with children on top is a bad idea. In fact, the way that people arrange themselves, with a scrum at the bottom and star-shaped supports, is considered an incredible art, and each section of the tower embodies Catalonian virtues – strength, balance, courage and (apparently) common sense.
My God, though, if ever a sport made you sit up and shout ‘WTF?’ it’s this one. I was on the edge of my seat, about to phone the police. I screamed, I couldn’t look, I was lost for words. When one tower toppled it was the worst episode of You’ve Been Framed! ever, but when they were all okay, it was sweet relief. Again and again they arranged themselves in ill-advised piles, with those little kids scampering up there like Victorian chimney sweeps. Sky Sports should get a piece of this action. It Y.