Being a good sport

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The week has passed sportily.

Wimbledon, Tour de France, Test match, rugby. Strawberries, cream, energy drinks, Pimm’s. The thwack of woolly leather balls on the relentlessly pedalling thighs of burly bearded men, echoed by the primal shrieking of Victoria Azarenka (which, I realised this week, sounds disturbingly like the flight call of a buzzard).

The joy of being a freelance at times like this is counteracted by… by… nope, I can’t think of anything. It’s a quiet patch, music-wise – I have some preparation to do, but the engagements feel far enough in advance for this to be on the leisurely side. The book has recently been returned to the editorial side of the court (thirty all!). So with the weather set fair and all the screens in the house set to SPORT, it’s been eyes down for a full house.

So far so good.

But for all that I rejoice in total immersion in all things sporty, I’m well aware there are others for whom it’s a less than enticing prospect. Faced with the choice of watching Roger Federer eviscerate a hapless Kazakh teenager without displacement of a single perfectly-coiffed hair, and twelve hours reading ‘Crime and Punishment’, they would pick Raskolnikov and his axe every time.

I like Dostoyevsky, but really…

I became curious about this, wondered if there was any common thread running through people’s aversion or attraction (or even indifference) to sport.

Twitter is good for this kind of thing. I put a question out: what do people think about sport? And if they love it, what are their favourite memories?

Answers came there plenty. And discussions.

There were ins. There were outs. Ups and downs. The cut and thrust of polarised opinion.

Those in favour invoked things like action, tension, euphoria, dejection, the summit of human endeavour, common purpose, grace, intimacy, passion, human drama, sport as metaphor for life, delving into the depths of your wretched soul, bonkers scoring systems and the strangeness of rules and rituals (yes, that one was about cricket. Of course it was.)

Opponents talked of emptiness, boredom, money, pointless allegiances, the swallowing up of broadcast hours, the brainless “lads gave 100%” quotes, the cold pursuit of skill and success as an end solely in itself, the pointless tribalism, the sense of entitlement and triumphalism.

All of them fair points.

The conclusion?

Some people love sport. Others hate it.

You’ve read this far, perhaps hoping for something profound to round this off, but I’m afraid I have little to offer. Like most things, those who love sport will always love it, and those who don’t, won’t. Miraculous conversions can happen, but they’re the exception.

Also, I’ve spent the day at the Test match – coherent thought is elusive.

So here, for the sports fans, are some of the moments referred to by those who shared.
For the sports-haters… well, skip to the last video, where an expert will explain it all to you.

David Hemery wins the 400m hurdles in Mexico in 1968

Ivanisevic v Rafter, Wimbledon 2001 (read about it here)

Ray Houghton scores the winner for the Republic of Ireland (THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND) against Italy (ITALY) in the 1994 World Cup

The legendary Borg v Connors semi-final in 1981. Contains shorts.

Brazil v Italy in the 1982 World Cup. Features a legendary 40-year-old goalkeeper.

The West Indies in England in 1950.

Daley Thompson wins the Decathlon gold medal at the 1984 Olympics and then pisses off 52% of the nation (and endears himself even more to the other 48%) by whistling during the national anthem:

Allan Donald. Michael Atherton. Some other people. Sport as opera.

The 1971 Gillette Cup semi-final, concluded in near darkness at ten to nine in the evening.

Tom Watson. Jack Nicklaus. Golfery par excellence.

Steve Redgrave wins his 5th (FIFTH) Olympic gold medal:

Bobby Charlton. Take that, net!

Olga Korbut, 1972. Contains honky-tonk piano.

Nadia Comaneci-perfect-ten, as she was known:

Mary Peters wins gold in the pentathlon in the 1972 Olympics.

Marcus Trescothick scores a double ton against South Africa in 2003

Ian Botham plays T20. In a Test match. In 1985.

Maradona overcomes a massive spider in the middle of the field, Peter Shilton, and the rules of football.

Graham Gooch’s moustache scores 300 runs. The man himself chips in with the spare 33.

Davis vs Taylor. Those glasses. That black.

This one might have minority appeal.

And if you need any of it explaining, there’s only one man for the job.

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  1. Ah Lev, I live in Downunder…Sport is the national religion and the great god “Aussie Rules” reigns supreme in my state. The only game I know anything about is cricket – and I know almost nothing about that – but I have (seriously) bowled Don Bradman… if we ever meet I will explain the circumstances! 🙂

  2. What an absolute feast of wonderful moments. Can’t claim to have been around to witness West Indies in 1950, but with the other exception of the penultimate clip, this compilation takes me back to exactly where I was on each occasion.
    Just don’t understand people who don’t understand sport. If it’s exciting, I can get fired up about indoor bowls – how sad is that?!
    I remember Botham/Willis for being at work and abusing the jingle “Dial the score on 154”. Wickets were falling so rapidly, that I must have cliched up a huge bill.

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