Monday, March 5, 2007

How sport reflects our lives - mimitig

When I was a child, sport was afternoons watching my Dad and his cronies playing a gentle game of club cricket. We played with other children and learned when to clap and cheer. Always in fun, no-one cared who won.

At school the idea of competition crept in: would you be the last one picked for a play-ground game of touch-tag? Then growing older, teams began to matter. Were you good enough to be in the under-11s, 12s? Could you punch above your weight and represent the age group higher than your own?

Sport was no longer just fun - it had a bearing on your status in life. Then, there was a moment watching the grown-ups play, when you realised that there was something more at stake. Tactics, even cheating came into the picture. For me there was a defining moment watching the rugby at Iffley Road in Oxford when a supporter yelled out, at a scrum: "Watch Mr Laidlaw put the ball in, Ref." I turned to my Dad and asked what this meant. He explained. Suddenly I understood.

Sport was not just playing the game. It was more, so very much more. What mattered was winning, and scruples were placed aside as a representation of life was battled out in a sporting arena.

Years passed and I grew up but still there was the belief that sport was mostly entertainment although results were always crucial. However money had not yet come to dominate the sports I followed and the idea of serious injury was a world away.

Then, as for many of my generation, everything changed over the course of one desperate and dark weekend in Italy. The date Saturday April 30, 1994. The venue The San Marina Formula 1 Motor Racing Circuit at Imola. Out of sight of the cameras Roland Ratzenburger (forever to be known as "the other one") crashed and subsequently died as a result of his injuries. Nonetheless, the very next day the race itself started as scheduled. There was another crash at the start: our hearts were in our mouths, but all was well. They took the restart. A few minutes later, Ayrton Senna's Williams F1 car speared off the track at Tamburello, and the world watched as a god of motor-racing died before our eyes.

Time to grow-up. Sport was no longer simply an entertainment for spectators and fans, or a fun thing to do for participants. It had become, in the most real and vivid way, a matter of life and death.

Since that day, I find I have to constantly re-evaluate my motives for watching and following not only motor-sport, but so many other disciplines in which participants, some major stars, some lesser-known lights, risk injury and even death to entertain us, the fans.

This is the same process we go through every day in our own lives learning that every little decision we make may change everything for us or another human being.


bluedaddy said...

Another nice piece Mimitig, though a lot to try to cover in 500 words.
I had that horrible, 'what am I doing here' sick feeling when, for a few moments, there was a real panic around John Terry last week. It was a horrible blow, and after the Cech incident, you could easily recall that these things are a matter of millimetres.
But I suppose on the other hand you suspect that Senna would have raced cars no matter who watched, and for no prize but exhilaration and personal victory. Just as Terry couldn't resist going for that header, no matter how foolhardy. Sport is a perfect conduit for such singlemindedness.

andrewm said...

Lovely writing mimitig.

I was probably around 12/13 when I stopped playing football at school because it had become far too serious, even among friends.

On a far more serious note, I haven't looked at boxing the same way since reading "War, Baby" by Kevin Mitchell, which could reduce even the hardest-hearted person to tears.

guitougoal said...

I really enjoyed mimi's life and sports story.'How sport reflects our lives".In my case the evidences are everywhere. I still remember when I was 10 years old I used to go to bed each saturday night preceding the sunday game with my uniform on.

MotM said...

mimi - I really enjoyed that journey with you.

I remember starting to play cricket with grown-ups at 14 and loving the whole "grown-up" shandies for me, a jug for the others and standing at first slip "to save my legs" whilst the GP at 'keeper and barrister at second slip swapped stories of their working weeks. An education in cricket and life.

At 15 or so, I was good enough to play with the serious players. I loved it when we won, for we played to win, but when we lost, I'd forgotten the defeat by the time I'd walked to the boundary. But they still moped in the dressing room like we'd lost the Ashes.

I knew two things: one, I never wanted to play so seriously that I would be half as upset if I lost; and two, I was never going to make it as I was the epitome of the good loser. What would the Aussies say?

I was out all day that terrible Sunday and got home and immediately called up ceefax page 301 for the sports news (still do). The headline "Senna killed at Imola" hit me in the stomach like a sledgehammer - it still hurts now.

Ebren said...

I don't know when I started caring about my performance in a game, but for as long as I can remember winning was everything and nothing.

You play because you want to play. But when you play, you play to win, because there is no game unless there is a winner. And there is no point playing unless you try to win, fight to win, if necessary cheat to win.

And if you lose, you lose, and if you win you win. But while you are playing you play to win.

There are bloggers here who have played the odd game of footy or tennis with me, I'm not an angry player - or when I get angry it is almost exclusively with myself, or with my team-mates for not trying to win. I don't criticise a lack of skill. When I cheat (and I do), it is never about revenge, or hurting someone. It is about gaining the advantage for my team.

I don't know what that makes me (other than injured a lot of the time) - possibly it's the kiwi genes coming through.

Incidently, i was a very small child, with speed but not a lot of cooridination, who was generally picked last in the playground.

I actually enjoyed it - finding out who would end up being lumped with me, ha! Stupid them. But then I was a contrary little thing.

mimi said...

Thank you guys, for your kind words. It encourages me to keep going and try for that elusive GU win, but as more articles appear here, the more I realise the quality of the competition.

bluedaddy said...

If you are enjoying it Mimi, then keep going. If it's any consolation I think your pieces have been better than most of the selected entries, esp. your cycling in London piece. Big Blogger is showing that there is a lot of good writing out there, but also that writing a piece to attract/provoke bloggers is not easy.

Ebren. I have to confess I am closer to your model than MOTM's. I have never really pursued a sport, but when i play I like there to be real competition. Losing at 5 a side last night while playing as a ringer, I ended up doing my usual thing of assuming the captaincy. The funny thing is people often seem happy for someone to take up that baton.

MotM said...

If ever we need another name for this blog "Alphamalescorner" wouldn't be far from the mark would it?

And I like it that way.

But let's have some more women to join the exalted company of mimi and Marcela.

Ebren said...

We have Zephine and louis14 as well.

And I'm really girly and know the difference between kitten heels and wedges.

Yeah, 4 female contributors, 17 male contributors. Not great.

Not a lot I can do either - all are welcome. I don't discriminate (well ... I do - but not on gender grounds).

MotM said...

Ebren - Forgot about Louis and didn't know about Zeph!


It would be good to have more female contributors, but the quality is the thing and your taste is impeccable!

Ebren said...

If by "taste" you mean whack on anything that gets an hon mention or is sent to me, then I accept the compliment.

If not, you are sadly mistaken.

MotM said...

Ebren - I thought by saying that you discriminated that you were exercising editor's rights. But you say that you publish what you get.

Amazing to think that this is the standard of submitted work.

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...

There may not be a great quantity of women contributing to this site, but the quality more than makes up for it.

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...

And before you start, this is not just a bit of French "galanterie", I mean it.

mimi said...

Olivier: do I know you from the OBO? French galanterie is most welcome here. My french is not great these days, but I used to live on the Rue Jacob in the fifth. Would even have a go in the other language.

Ebren said...

motm - I'm not above simply not publishing something I though was crap.

But Margin and Andrewm have taken to just publishing stuff anyway (the only two to take up my open invitation to give people posting rights). I don't have the heart to ban them ;o)

The copy I have been sent so far has been of a very high standard though - that much is certainly true.

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...


you certainly haven't met me anywhere near a cricket blog or an OBO. I'm afraid I can't tell a wicket from a trinket. But nice to meet you here anyway, and even though I haven't had time to do a lot of posting, I have read and enjoyed your pieces even though the subject matters are pretty alien to me.

Keep them coming!

Zephirine said...

Aha, my cover is blown - yes, I am a female person. I like to guard my non-gender-specific pseudonymity on GU, especially amid the midnight ramblings of the Aus cricket bloggers, but here one is among friends, n'est-ce pas?

Zephirine said...

Offside, if you go back and look at the posts following my Panesar bit, you'll find we're all clamouring for you to become a real author. Read it and glow...

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...

Hi Zephirine,

thanks, I had missed that. I have now posted an answer over there. The cross-referencing between posts is getting a bit confusing. I wonder if anything can be done about that, like a page dedicated to general comments/conversations. Ebren? ... fourturntables? ... Nerbe? ... Ebren? James? Allo allo?

Ebren said...

The "so close you can smell it" post (just before the latest batch of 'losers' started getting published) is the closest to a general thread.

Feel free to chat there - or anywhere, I'm not that bothered.

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...


in all this time, and in spite of my best efforts, I still haven't managed to get myself banned from GU.

I wonder what it would take to get banned from here.

Ebren said...

Don't tempt me. I'll do it!

Actually, it would take effort to do that. and I'm behind at work

zephirine said...

Offside, try posting the following:

"OMG u are all such a sad bunch of losers, all sport is a total waste of time. Why dont u get a life LOL."

That ought to do it.

MotM said...

Offside - There's kudos in at having at least one ban for the right reason. Why not register under a different name and complain bitterly about OffsideinTahiti's posts to the Moderators? They'll be forced to ban one of your identities and there you are - in the company of Ebren!

I haven't been banned yet, but I did write a scathing post about a complacent a Vic Marks Observer piece on the blog at 1.00am on Sunday. Rising at 8.00am or so, I logged on eager to see if others had joined me putting the boot in and not only had my post gone, but the whole article!

BlueinBetis said...


This is lovely, but is it my 'pooter or is the font really, really small?

I was in Thailand when Senna died, I remember reading, well looking at the pictures, (it was in German) of a daily newspaper. A shock to say the least.

I have to join offside in the "not banned" team too. Some days you just try, being childish, to post something, but this new community mod seems quite reasonable. Prepared to justify their actions, a breath of fresh air, isn't this "how many times have you been banned?" thing just another example of alpha-male syndrome?

I knew Zeph was of a female persuasion, but it took me a few weeks to work out that 4tt was Ebren, until he gave the game away by posting a link to his own article. Is Marvin Gaye - HB?

Greengrass is far too easy to spot. Sweden is an easy spot.

Ebren said...

Font is small - not sure how to fix it.

Marvin is indeed Hannibal.

lovingu is greengrass.

Basically, a lot of our accounts got shut down for making "off topic posts" so we had to create new identities.

I'm not proud, I was really confused and a bit pissed off.

I think just the sheer number of times GG and HB have been banned and the ridiculousness of some of the things they were banned for amused them/us so we mention it and turn it into a joke/ironic competition (if they wanted to be banned then it would be pretty easy).



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