It’s been a long time since I wrote a retirement blog about sport, something more important has always pushed it to one side. Which is pure hypocrisy really because there have been many times when sport has been the most important thing in my life both playing and watching. Now in retirement I admit there’s not much of the playing going on but maybe the watching / supporting side has assumed even more importance. So why haven’t I written about an aspect of my retirement that’s so important to me?
The first part of the answer is probably shame at being so influenced mood-wise by events beyond my control – eleven men or more kicking, throwing, hitting a ball around and this silliness I allow to manipulate my emotions both highs and more often lows. Me a grown man, get a life. So that’s one good reason why I don’t like to shout about this undoubted weakness.
Beyond the manipulation is the simple fact that the teams I choose (do we ever really choose our sporting affiliations) are so often unsuccessful. No Man Utd, / City / Chelsea etc for me but rather the lowly Notts Forest, 17th in the second division and little chance of being in the Premier league and guaranteed to do badly if they were. True we theoretically have a rich Greek owner now, although rich and Greek don’t sit easily together, but then, as he seems to be making his money in a dubious manner, code for probably illegal, it isn’t easy to feel good about my team’s prospects anywhere in the near future.
So an unhealthy dependence and a lack of success at local level, two good reasons not to write about sport. So why am I writing this blog now? Arguably one point in favour of writing now is that it is the football World Cup. Under normal circumstances, that’s normal as defined by the last 52 years, since England last won the World Cup in 1966, I wouldn’t be looking to our national team for comfort but in the spirit of grabbing any small amount of success before it inevitably evaporates, we won our opening game on Monday night, a feat we haven’t achieved for, so I’m told 16 years (that’s four World Cups). So carpes diem or seize the moment, as they say.
Incidentally our rugby team has turned to shit as part of the unwritten rule that England cannot have success in more than one sport at a time. Beaten twice by South Africa and not won a game in the last eight attempts. At least we beat Wales. Lewis Hamilton is there or there abouts in Formula One so that’s a possible source of pleasure but if beaten this year it will likely be by a German (which takes us back to the football, ’66 excepted our of course, but that was quite a long time ago).
But the big one, although not as big as it should be, is the cricket. If I could choose just one sport for England to be successful at, I would have to choose cricket (hence the 70 Wisdens as in photo above) and our opponents would be Australia. If you’ve watched cricket for as long as I have during the period I’ve been watching then you would have witnessed the on-going humiliation, no other word for it, of the English team. Odd moments of success like 2005 but generally the misery of watching my team being squashed by a team, meaner, fitter, more skilled, more aggressive, darn right nasty and simply better than us. Which is why watching this current one day series against OZ is turning out to be such a pleasure. Oh gosh yes.
We’re currently three nil up in a five game series and yesterday, pardon my hysteria, we thrashed them. We set the world record for runs scored, 481 off of 50 overs for those of you that understand these things, and then skittled them (a cricket term) out for about 200. Massive. The reason I say not as big as it should be is because they were missing five of their best players, three through injury and two because they were caught cheating. Altering the surface of the ball by rubbing it with sandpaper would you believe? If you’re a cricket fan you won’t need to have this explained, if you’re not then you won’t understand what all the fuss is about, just trust me, it’s cheating (not that we haven’t done it but that, as they say, is another story). Lovely bit in the papers about a local DIY firm, before the first game, selling pieces of sandpaper to the crowd. Now that’s witty. Nathan Lyons had a good come back when asked about what he had in his pocket but that’s not for this blog. Just suffice it to say that right now all is good in the cricket world.
This is the game I played most consistently, as in played regularly as opposed to played at high standard, more than thirty years in fact. I made some good friends, most of whom are still alive with the exception of one very good friend who died about 8 years ago of prostate cancer. He couldn’t wait to retire, he was a teacher who hated his job and he often talked about what he intended to do when he retired, which was watch Yorkshire play cricket. He used to say that watching county cricket with a few mates taking the piss out of anything and anybody, at which he was very good, would suit him just fine. But it was not to be. I sometimes think of him when I’m moaning about some aspect of retirement that doesn’t meet my high standards and think how happy he would be to have the same problems and be alive to complain about them.
Point taken, my retirement might not be perfect but at least I’m alive to appreciate how far short of perfection it is and of course to moan about it. This may be as good as it gets. Nuff said.