Friday, March 23, 2007

The Day the Music Died - Kokomo

There are places I remember. In 1986, I cried tears of outrage, as Maradona swatted us out of the world cup. In 1990, David Platt brought me unbridled joy. I was in turn enthralled, scared and relieved by Cameroon, before tears of anguish at the scenes in Turin. In 1996, there were tears again, this time in resignation that it would always be like this.

Throughout these times, sport has been touched by tragedy. Large scale deaths occurred in Glasgow, Brussels, Bradford and, most poignantly for me, 200 yards from where I now live in Sheffield. I was not there, but like all others connected with sport, I was numbed by that day. Within weeks though, football on the pitch and in the stands had sent me on a rollercoaster. The scenes at Celtic Park brought a tear to my eye, before they flowed when the FA Cup was won against Everton. Days later, and more waterworks as Michael Thomas ‘grabbed it now’.

2003 and 2005 brought dramatic and unexpected highs in Sydney, Istanbul and the little urn. I sweated, laughed and was overcome as Jamie Carragher whooped about the Attaturk, Mike Catt humped the ball into touch and Matthew Hoggard larruped it through the covers. In 2004 my son learned how England loses, I thought that this was a good thing, and that he would come to appreciate the beauty of the nearly men.

On the 22nd March 2007, Jamaican police confirmed that Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer had been murdered. This is not the first time acts of murder have taken place around the arena of sport; lest we forget Andres Escobar, Syed Modi and Sir Peter Blake, while an Italian Policeman was the latest in a too long line to perish at the hands of fans this year. We have also had to endure the Aryton Senna’s and the Michael Watson’s in more overtly dangerous sports. Yet this does not bear the hallmarks of the above deaths, which were caused by accidents, Pirates, crimes of passion and gangs of hooligans and hoodlums.

It seems likely that Bob Woolmer was strangled either in response to his team losing a game of cricket, or because he was about to tell us that the said game was fixed. I am not sure which prospect sickens me more, but it is clear that when men or women are murdered because of a game in which we invest our time, money and emotions, we have to ask ourselves: ‘What the fuck does it all matter?’

I have spent my life pouring over statistics, devouring all the column inches I could digest, and watching all the footage I could find in the name of sport. Yet increasingly I find that I couldn’t care less if Ronaldo winked at the bench, if Andrew Murray has a scab on his knee, or if Jon Lewis makes a tit of himself in Rumours. I can blame it on the fact that I can’t identify with the overpaid sports stars who represent us, yet ever since I was discarded by Sheffield United as a youngster they have seemed otherworldly to me. Maybe I am just getting older, but I look in the stands and see men twice my age, who are living through their team.

Johnny Cash reckoned that San Quentin left him a ‘weaker, wiser man.’ I have never been to prison (though neither had the late man in black), and my disillusionment should not even be considered next to the suffering of those close to all of the above, but I have felt a profound detachment this week. Has this Cricket World Cup left me weaker? maybe; wiser? hopefully, but sadder; definitely.

The show will go on, and sport is probably no more corrupt today than it has ever been, but it is fast becoming something different to me. A diversion, not a lifestyle. Enjoyment, but not the be all and end all.

I have hated, loved and admired many people from afar through the years, and have perhaps never been more inspired than by Mark Richardson willing himself over the line in 1992, or Steve Redgrave gasping over it in 2000, yet I will struggle to attach those emotions to men and women playing a game again.

Football, Cricket, Rugby, Tennis, Athletics, Racing and Boxing; we are moving into a new phase in our relationship. Yet of all these friends and lovers, Sport; I’ve loved you more.


reemgear said...

The greatest of the greatests' oeuvre. (the beatles I mean, not Kokomo!).

My opinion? You're just getting older mate, and yes maybe a little wiser. ;)

BlueinBetis said...

[nods head sagely]

I concur. With everything. Apart from the Jamie Carragher bit.

"A goal is scored when the whole of the ball crosses the line."

Not bitter at all.

We'd never have gone three nil down in the first place.

[mutters to self]

andrewm said...

KK, the next time Carra is lying in pain after busting a gut to make a last-ditch interception you'll be sobbing like a girl, and you know it.

Zephirine said...

Just wandered onto the GU Arts blog and read three appalling pieces of drivel for which presumably the writers were paid...pseuds on here write really well, for nothing... can't be right, can it? Lovely article with references to my favourite Beatles song - thank you!

It's the world we live in - globalised, corporatised, exploitative, and rendered ever more remote by the legions of media and marketing bods selling it all to us. The rich get richer and the poor get pissed off about it. It gets harder to care. But then something like Bob Woolmer's death makes us wake up and smell the rotting flowers.

Zeph said...

Blimey, Big Blogger is over at last.
Congrats, jonnyboy - the winner, as predicted on here.
And pseuds are well represented among the honourable mentions, so we can all feel smug.

PW75 said...

Disillusionment appears to be the common theme in the Pseuds bar.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was Irish themed? I wish someone'd told me, I'd have thrown this bloody Guiness hat away after the weekend...

MotM said...

KK - Enjoyed this and I know exactly how you feel.


Federer (maybe Murray too soon), Valentino, VVS Laxman, Tiger, Sangakarra, Flintoff (bowling), Symonds (fielding). And that's just the players plying their trade now.

ESPN Channel 442? Viv and Clive batting, Mikey and Andy bowling. Barry and Kenny on bikes, Jackie and Graham in cars.

I could go on - in my life, I've loved them all.

Do an thought experiment - they say if you go blind, you forget what things looked like, then what it means for things to look like anything. Apart from the faces of family etc, I am convinced that the last things I would forget would be Derek Mountfield's equaliser in the FA Cup vs Luton and Shane Warne's delivery to Gatting.

The standard reply to such emotional outbursts are to "get a life", but this ain't a bad one.

BlueinBetis said...


Get a Puppy,

and a laminated floor.

Hours of fun.

Zeph said...

May I suggest to our revered host Ebren that the ONLY thing banned from pseuds should be the phrase 'get a life'?

Anonymous said...

I would guess that this phase in Kokomo's relationship will be a short lived one, but it's good to recognise where we are in the scheme of things from time to time.

Sport is a social construct that our society has imposed on us. Who we support is often a matter of ancestry. It is rarely our choice, and would be deemed an unworthy choice if we supported them because they were any good.

That said, it's not such a bad way to spend your days. I despair over how business and celebrity over-shadow things like skill and potential, but I can't see a way back from that. Murder is still an anomaly in sport, which doesn't do much to comfort the victims, but, at least suggests we don't need to take our ball home just yet.

I like this article. An honest reaction, well expressed. Also like the Beatles (and the Beach Boys)

kokomo said...

Thanks for the comments guys - i actually agree with the last one (not sure who it is), this phase may be short, and sport is not an activity without wider merit.

Having said that, i do feel a little different. I guess the test will be when liverpool play manu in the big cup final this year...

pipita said...

Dear me Koko, after reading this Im definetly beginning to worry about you. Some existential crisis your going through at the moment...Having said that, I loved your piece with that beatles intro and finale. HOWEVER, Will think twice next time I have to decide whether to go or not to the ballet...

mimi said...

I once saw an actor die on stage (actually, really, no jokes guys) and it didn't stop me going to the theatre.
I've cried more than I can think over sporting things, some joy, loads of sorrow, this is different, sure, but I'll be watching, listening, reading about my sporting heroes til the day I simply can't anymore.

offside said...

Replacing "get a life" with "get a puppy" gets my vote.

But what do I know? I have a turtle and a mussel.

Nice one, kk.

hannibalbrooks said...

I've always found In My Life by a group of my fellow Liverpudlian musicians a bit morose. Yet the fate of the man who wrote it, John Lennon, also proved that tragedy is a part of life and nothing and nobody are immune from it. The only sense that it seems we can make from it is that nothing about it makes any sense.

On the other hand, it can help to make sense of the time that is allocated to us all in the meantime.

Bill Shankly famously said, and he is often misquoted here, but this is what he actually said;

'Some people believe that football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude, I can assure you it is much, much more important than that'.

How often have you ever heard these words quoted in full and correctly? ... I'd say probably never, but they are the actual words that Shankly used (in their unedited form) in a televised interview with Granada TV presenter Shelley Rhodey in the late 70s.

This is arguably the one of the most misunderstood quotes of all time. It was wrongly seized upon in ignorance, following at least two of the tragic events that Kokomo writes about, for obvious reasons. The fact that this happened is tragic in itself because Shankly wasn't refering to the relevence of the outcome of any mere football match when he said these words, as is often wrongfully assumed. He was talking about what football is 'a matter of' ... and you can substitute 'Sport' or 'Art' in the sentence and it still keeps its true meaning and all important resonance.

Football, Sport and Art are 'a matter of' love and passion. Which ARE more important than both 'life and death', for what is the value of life without love? or passion? Life without love or passion is a living death.

If tragedy teaches us anything, it is that it can touch absolutely anybody at any time. Sport and Art are expressions of what it REALLY means to be alive, to have the gift of life. Make the most of YOUR time and love life with a passion.

I got a bit hurried at the end their because I've got to go out again ... sorry ... but you get my drift :o)

Excellent piece by the way Kokomo.

mimi said...

offside: but you haven't got a limptet. Ref other strands - for those who need to "get a life".

MotM said...

HB - A fine sentiment. I try, and fail, to live up to it.

hannibalbrooks said...


We all try and we all fail sometimes, its part of being a mere human, but what is important is that we try, and that we belive that we should keep on trying because it is worth trying for.

Now I'm not sure if I should break out into the theme for The Flashing Blade or a certain ditty by Rogers & Hammerstein at this point but I think you might prefer this ... ;o)

andrewm said...

HB, you're in top form.

offside said...


I have a whole colony of limpets. Sticky buggers...

hannibalbrooks said...


Tragedy has touched my family in the last day or so. My uncle passed away yesterday just five months after his wife, my aunty. He would have been 66 next Thursday and he and my aunty had been together since they were 5 or 6 years old. He missed her and just gave up on life in the end, when he became ill, he was tired and just wanted to be with her and seems to know that he would be.

The tragedy is that his two daughters were still devastated by losing their mum, and now they've lost their dad too. I've just spent some time with them today and my heart really goes out to them, they were perhaps alot closer to both of their parents than I am.

Love and life were on my mind when I read KKs piece and it struck a chord, and so did what Mouth said.

I think I shall go and have a couple of brandies and a few frames of pool and come back later.

HB peace and love x

MotM said...

HB - Peace and Love to you and your cousins in return.

andrewm said...

HB, very sorry to hear that. If my comment seemed flippant it was not meant to be. I thought your posts were very impressive and really got to the heart of the matter.

offside said...




pipita said...

I also send my condolences hannibal

BlueinBetis said...


My thoughts are with you, thankyou for sharing yours at a difficult time.

hannibalbrooks said...

Everyone is so cool on here, and always were on GU, that is; at least after we all got to know each other.

Giving condolences to people that they have never met at the drop of a hat was something that I thought only the folk of Liverpool were suppose :oP (Joke)

I feel guilty for provoking this because I'm really not in any form of pain, confusion maybe, but not pain, but confusion is a natural state of being :o)

Nice things happened today too that I just haven't told you about and you wouldn't believe me if I did tell you, but I'm not going to tell you anyway, so you're just going to have to take my word for it ... so I'm really more than fine, but just feeling for other people.

Touching other people's pain though; puts things into perspective for you and Mouth's comment about trying and failing really did touch me too and I felt compelled to reply.

... and I thought that the Fashing Blade might be a memory that some folk on here of a certain age might appreciate.


I've had three large Brandies, which is nothing for me, but I would never think bad of you my friend because as far as I'm concerned, you are the soul of this community.

Peace & Love to all - HB x

offside said...

OK then, enough with the cliquey love-in.

Andrew is a tosser who keeps promising to write something but probably never will.

HB, you're an obsessive, overbearing, deluded Liverpool fan with no sense of humour.

Ebren suffers from delusions of grandeur with his so-called media empire and advertising-based fortune.

Kokomo is a big time charlie poser who'd have us believe he goes to ballet for entertainment.

miro is a sour old codger who couldn't spell "cryptic" to save his life.

greengrass is the worst poet and punster in the northern hemisphere.

MouthoftheMersey should get a life, a puppy or a new handle.

And bluedaddy, well, he's a Michael Jackson fan and that says it all.

And that's just the men. I'll lay into the women tomorrow.

Fight, anyone? Dog, you've no idea how bored I get in the afternoons when the blogs are dead and I have work to do.

hannibalbrooks said...


Outside, now! ;oP

offside said...

Well, it seems I can't get banned on GU, so I might as well try here.

andrewm said...

offside, if you only knew how many articles I've written.

Just a shame they were all rotten to the core.

I did write them though. I even sent one to Ebren. He was nice about it, but I could tell he wasn't impressed.

Ah well, always the bridesmaid ....

offside said...

Come on, man, don't give up. Walter Scott and Robert Burns are looking at you. You gonna let them down?

(just to ease the pressure)

andrewm said...

offside, I've never read either. Scottish writers are by and large hopeless.

MotM said...

andrewm - I imagine you sitting there, Blofeld-like, cat on lap, but gnawing wrists, in some underground complex beneath The Mount.

Let's have something!!!


tony ellis said...

This is beautifully written, kk, though hard for me to engage with as I'm not very good at 'emoting' in public. This means I can only watch 'To Sir with Love' when I'm completely alone.

Andrew: I think we should address your writer's block. Are you trying too hard? I mean to say that maybe you want to write 'an article', rather than having something particular you want to write about. On the other hand, you do seem to respond to every article, so how about this: write us a 'blog round up' once in a while. Take a week's crop (including gu's, if you like) and say what you think. I get the feeling you're too modest to criticise others' efforts, but force yourself: if you don't like it, say so. Many very famous writers have done little else. One day you may find yourself writing your own piece before you even know it...

andrewm said...

tony, I appreciate the advice, and I had thought about something similar to what you suggest, but the simple truth is I'm not a good writer. That doesn't bother me, but I'm not about to post sub-standard material on Pseuds.

MotM said...

anderwm - Don't get too focussed on that preamable to Big Blogger 4. I come to pseuds for the breadth of material, the depth of feeling, the anti-complacency. If I get good (and sometimes great) writing, it's (in the words of Leeds' Premiership winning side) a bonus. I don't know about others, but I suspect I'm not alone. And if I really want great writing, I've Wodehouse, Nabakov, Roth etc etc aplenty on the shelf.

Let's be 'aving it!

bluedaddy said...

TonyE: "I'm not very good at 'emoting' in public. This means I can only watch 'To Sir with Love' when I'm completely alone."

As Frank Carson so memorably says: That's a cracker!

reemgear said...

Apparently, the song referenced in this article (remember that?) was played at K.Cobain's funeral; Courtney Love stated that it was his favourite song...

I believed her - of course.

Then, one day, musing upon what an arsehole she is, I realized that the lyrics to the song are all about how much John loves his girl more than his family and friends...
How pathetic of her.

Then again, Lennon's mother abandonned him and so did Kurt's. Plus it is a great song. So maybe he really would want it played? Oh yeah...
Well I'm not deleting the comment on the basis that I've just sussed myself out: pseud or not.

Fascinating stuff, I think you'd agree.

Carry on.

marcela said...

kokomo - i don't know if you will read this as it's so late in the day.

i really like the way you've played with the lyrics of 'there are places i remember' and identify with a lot of what you say.

football, rather than sport, has signified many different emotions to me over the years - some have changed
Some forever, not for better.

but some for better... :)

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