Thursday, May 17, 2007

All my time in hell ... Mimitig

These words from the sometime reclusive and oft eclectic Jim and William Reid in their incarnation as The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Sometimes being a sports fan stops being a fun thing to do and plunges you headlong into one of Dante's circles of hell. Mostly, I'm glad to say, this is because your favoured team has endured a pig of a match, lost heavily. You curse and blind, swearing that the referee was an idiot. Sometimes you get a whole weekend where in every single sport you follow, your teams lose the plot.

Sadly, there are occasions when tears of frustration at the loss of a game turn to real tears of grief at the loss of a life.

In the sports I follow, this has happened too many times in my life for it to be fun. I probably have as many dead sporting heroes as living ones, and not all have died in pursuit of their sporting ambition. Some have fallen foul of the grim reaper because their love of the thrill and the chasing of adrenaline, has taken them into non-sporting but still dangerous activities. Some have been the victims of the vagaries of the weather, pure bad luck, or just the hand of fate.

When I was very young I remember the shock felt by the nation at the death of Graham Hill in an aeroplane crash. Others died with him, but Hill is the one always referenced in that accident. Years on and I, through the television coverage witnessed the death of Ayrton Senna: my own Formula One hero. In between these 2 terrible events, countless motor-racing aces had lost their lives. It never stopped me watching and enjoying the sport, and mostly, I didn't consider the risk to life and limb these men took. Then I began following motor-cycle racing in a big way. Here the risks were far higher. Every week, in whatever series you followed, there were horrendous crashes, men carried off on stretchers with broken, twisted limbs. Yet, across all levels, many of these competitors would be back a week later, riding. No matter that they had busted legs, hands, collar-bones. They would still get on their bikes and ride, and ride to win.

One of the great heroes was Steve Hislop. A rider for whom the words man-of-steel could have been coined. I followed his career with awe and fascination. He did what no current track rider can even dream of. He ruled the TT races on the Isle of Man and he ruled the world of British Superbikes. After suffering a poor season start in 2003, defending his '02 title, he was turning it around. We all knew that he had the talent and the hunger to triumph again. But fate had another card to play, and in an accident eerily similar to that which took Graham Hill, in the skies above Hawick, with poor visibility, something happened and his helicopter crashed. Hizzie died and everyone who had ever sat on a bike or watched bike racing mourned.


DoctorShoot said...

Yes the downside indeed of being robbed of a hero Mimi and poignantly put.

I remember seeing Russel Mockeridge ride on the ashphalt curcuit around the Bendigo showground. He was twice taken out but got through and cleared away in the final, legs and shoulder bleeding and bandaged, to record an amazing time and bring the crowd alive cheering and laughing at the feats of such a brilliant and talented individual. Three weeks later he hit a bus in a road race and was killed instantly.
Cycling sudenly had a black shadow over it for me and sadly nothing has ever properly illuminated it again in spite of all our wonderful riders of the modern era.

MotM said...

When I see James Hunt and Barry Sheene on Youtube or ESPN Classic they look like normal blokes (with all the imperfections that implies) who just happen to be world champions. You get the feeling that they haven't grown up with entourages and agents and media training. What you see is what you get, I suppose.

And, like the normal blokes that they were, after a working life of outrageous risk, they succumbed to normal bloke illnesses and were gone long before their time. You kind of hope that they somehow knew this was coming and packed more into their briefer spell.

Lovely stuff Mimi and what a crying shame.

file said...

fine expression indeed mimi!

I've never really followed motorsport but I've ridden bikes since I was 12 and met Foggy a few times

The edge is the real prize isn't it? that's why it's so thrilling for the pilots and for the spectators

but the price can be heavy too, isn't sport a bit sharp and bittersweet, tart?

and motorsport can bring it into a brutally sharp perspective

mimi said...

Apologies to those who have noticed similarities to something I put up in the Corner a couple of months ago. Yep, I've plagiarised myself! Seriously, I wrote this one first, but over the course of editing, I ended up publishing the other. I sent this to our glorious editor as I'm conscious of not having done the promised Chris Hoy article - just too damn busy at the moment, but conscious also of my obligation to do more than just contribute posts to others' fine words.
Thanks for your kind comments. I will work harder!

Tweet it, digg it