Image: Toby Morris
Image: Toby Morris

SportsAugust 3, 2022

Hear me out: Commonwealth Games events should include a random PE teacher for scale

Image: Toby Morris
Image: Toby Morris

How impressive are the feats of athleticism we’re witnessing this week? The only way to truly understand is by including a human yardstick, argues Toby Morris.

Like a lot of armchair sports fans around the British-colonised world, I love the Commonwealth Games. Cycling, swimming, lawn bowls, judo: if it’s on, I’ll give it a watch. It’s one of life’s great pleasures to watch athletes excel at a sport you know absolutely nothing about and in some cases only found out existed a few moments earlier. Incredible feats of strength, speed and sportsmanship, commentated by someone who’s able to explain the scoring system – what more could you want?

There is one big thing that would make watching the Commonwealth Games (and Olympics, aka Commonwealth Games Max) even better: a human yardstick. You know when people put a coin next to a spider for scale? I’m talking about that, only with a regular person as the coin, and elite athletes as the spider.

Not pictured: a human yardstick, simply trying to not fall off (Photo: Getty Images)

Events like hammer throw look easy when you’re watching a pro hammer thrower toss it 80 metres. But how far would a regular person be able to throw it? Would I get 10 metres, or 20? Or more likely five? I wonder the same thing watching the running, the swimming, the weightlifting. A human yardstick would help us understand just how impressive these athletes really are.

Some might argue they should pick a random member of the crowd to compete in every event, but I don’t want anybody to be coerced to take part against their will. If selection was truly random there’s a risk we’d end up seeing little kids, the elderly or just generally drastically unfit people (this rules me out) getting humiliated on the world stage, and that could be upsetting to watch. Don’t forget this is supposed to be fun.

If only there was a group of people, found all around the world, who enjoy a wide range of sports, possess a decent level of fitness, have a generally positive attitude and already own multiple pairs of track pants. Yes, I’m talking about PE teachers.

What I’m proposing is that PE teachers from high schools all over the Commonwealth be put into a ballot to be selected as human yardsticks at the next Commonwealth Games. Add an extra lane to races, include a special bonus spot in the heats and let them give it a go as the designated “regular person”.

Imagine how fun it would be if your teacher was there. Imagine the support from the school, the home town, the country for these everyperson heroes. And imagine the pandemonium if one of the PE teachers actually did OK! Anything better than last place would be the ultimate underdog story – I can see the Hollywood adaptations and ESPN documentaries already.

The 2026 Commonwealth Games will be held in Victoria, Australia. If there’s any justice in the world, your local PE teacher will be there too.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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