Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sporting perfection - Bluedaddy

I cannot consider myself a rugby fan. I played just once at school, and my fading memory won’t permit me to recall what age. All I can vividly remember of that ‘lesson’ was a more experienced and muscular boy employing what I later came to know is called a hand-off, to repel my dismal attempt at a tackle.

It was cold, I touched the ball not once, and I have never really properly engaged with the sport ever since, as either player or spectator. For some reason that causes me regret.

It shouldn’t really matter. There are plenty of other sports to get excited about, and several that I have played to greatly differing standards.

At school I loved badminton, with its thrilling speed and its delicious balance between powerful smash and deft drop shot. Table tennis was great too: a game that seemed to reward practice quite unlike any other, and drew me in to its metronomic rhythms and its trademark pops and squeaks. Plus I could play at home on our pull-out dining table.

Cricket was always more fun on the driveway down the side of our house than in the park. My brother and I could cut, pull and drive to our hearts’ content knowing that the slowly disintegrating fence, garage door and garden wall across the road were tireless fielders. Only our justifiably angry neighbours Mrs and Mrs M could halt our endless test matches, as we perfected the Derek Underwood splay-footed delivery or Alan Knott’s tics, stretches and sweeps.

And of course football was my daily bread.

But today a thread on GU reminded me of why I regret neglecting rugby. I revisited one of the greatest sporting moments in my lifetime, up there with Maradona’s second goal vs England in 86, the Headingley test in 81, Coe vs Ovett in and around 1980, and Ali vs Foreman in 74.

From the almost miraculous pick-up and mesmeric side-stepping of Phil Bennett, to the Dawes dummy, the determination of Tom David’s last gasp slingshot allied to Quinnell’s uncanny catch and release, and finally Gareth’s Edwards’ express train denying a last desperate All Black attempt to tackle, topped off with a magnificent dive into the corner.


It never fails to bring a lump to my throat, and often, like this morning, a tear to my eye. I don’t know if the fact that the Barbarians are a composite team rather than a national side makes a difference to the intense humanity of the moment. Clearly nostalgia for the carefree innocence of my childhood also burnishes the memory. But whatever it is I can never tire of watching it.

Maybe that is the problem; rugby could never be that good again.


andrewm said...

Rugby never is that good, period.

I also played a little in my youth. Horrible, horrible memories.

Badminton and table tennis are great though.

gg said...

Yes, BD, a brilliant try!

Almost as good as the one I scored in 1962 for Shawside v. St. Patrick's in the Oldham Under-17's League.

We were 3 points behind with 1 minute to go when I picked up the ball between our posts, side-stepped the onrushing Jim Baker - a fearful opponent! - and swerved round Dave McNeeny.

I saw the lightning-quick Joe Collins bearing down on me, so I exchanged passes with my winger Sammy Tyas then chipped the ball over the rest of their pack.

Our out-half, Joe Fitzpatrick - a great snooker player! - picked up the ball and sold a dummy, then slipped me a reverse pass.

I still had their left winger and full back between me and the line, so I made for the rapidly-narrowing gap between them and checked my pace at the last moment.

They banged together; I sverved round their prostrate bodies and dashed for the posts, throwing myself across the line to thwart their right winger.

I quickly converted the try to win the game, then woke up.

offsideintahiti said...

Nice one, BD, no lump, no tears, but that last burst down the line does bring shivers.

You'll have to give me a game of badminton one of these days. The loser to buy the cocktails.

mimi said...

As a Welshwoman, rugby is in my blood. Today I read Frank Keating's tribute to Ray Gravell. That was more than a lump in my throat - tears flowed for a very very modest man of the game. I'm old enough to remember seeing the Welsh heroes playing at the Arms Park - JJ, JPR, Gareth and Phil. I went with my Dad to the matches and the memories stay with me.

marcela said...

you look GRReatt in that clip of yourself playing badmington in you previous life, BD :)

i confess rugby never does it for me, in spite of the anticipation with which i clicked on the line 'perfection'...

however, i know what you mean about those instants that stay with us, and that fear of nothing ever matching.

but we must hope.

motivated by the commentary on your perfect rugby moment link ""If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story..." i am taking the liberty of adding to your super links:

IMHO one of the truly 'perfect' sporting documentaries of all time:


mimi said...

Phil Bennett was pretty good.

MotM said...

And the commentary!

I'm with you BD - it just doesn't get any better than that.

file said...

give us our daily bread but soaked in Baba-beef dripping eh?

thanks BD, storming try, they looked liked Arsenal on Bisto, how many passes in that move?

I think my first recollection of rugby was wondering groggily why no-one had told me palm strikes to the face were allowed too..and then trying to figure out what rule I'd broken by collapsing in a heap

bluedaddy said...

Thanks for all the kind comments, and murky buckets to Ebren for doing the link thingy.

I'd have come back here sooner but have not had access to the internet all day. I'm ok though, don't you all fret. Apparently there is a place called 'outside' full of marvellous things - even the air seems sort of fresher -and people apparently still communicate with their mouths using different sounds and facial expressions. How quaint, and such fun too!

GG - there is probably an equation involving time spent actually playing a sport, ability at said sport, and time spent (day)dreaming about same sport. Ebren is usually pretty good at that kind of number stuff but he's probably too busy with Ms Beeny or talking wankshafts with Jezza.

Offy - can we have the cocktails before the badminton?

Re The Try

As a team effort it recalls uncannily well Carlos Alberto's 1970 goal vs Italy, a sort of turbo-charged rugby version of that languid masterpiece, but with far less committed defending by Italy than the ABs, which is strange considering the relative importance of the two occasions:

I prefer the try - aaarrrgghhh sacrilege!

As for 'When They Were Kings' Marcela - have you seen it at the cinema? Joyous stuff.

marcela said...

indeed, bluedaddy.
at the picture house, like one should.

i had forgotten how satisfying it had been until i saw the clip again last night.

one of those moments that mark one...

offsideintahiti said...

Sure, cocktails beforehand, and at half-time too.

mimi said...

Bluedad: I recognise your real world. That's the one I went into today when no-one gave a """k that Liverpool got the 8 and the record. They're all Scots and don't give a **** about my boys.

byebyebadman said...

Anyone remember this?


It's worth remembering that the guy in second missed the world record by 0.02 himself...just unbelievable.

AND as an added frisson the fact that I stayed up to watch it meant that I didn't burn my mum and dad's house down whilst drunkenly making a toasted cheese sandwich. But that's a story for another time...

mimi said...

Ooh, byebye, good clip. How about the 400m?

That Michael now comes and contributes to BBC athletics coverage is just wonderful. That voice.

Do tell the story.

hannibalbrooks said...

Good stuff BD

Like many of us here I was fortunate enough to have been around (just) when the great Welsh team of Bennett, Edwards, JPR, JJ. John and the Llaneli front row were in their pomp. It was like sport elavated to an art-form, and the singing ... oh my god, what a sound ..


I've never had a clue what the words were or what they meant but the Welsh crowd in full voice is the greatest sound in sport.

I played rugby quite well but always, always, always prefered football.

My favourite sporting memory as a schoolboy was playing in a properly organised one-off Rugby League match at school, The pupils from Warrington against the those from Widnes. I was the Scouse 'ringer' who played Union for Liverpool U18s aged 15 in a specially arranged match for ' the woolybacks', but I can't remember which side I played for since I had friends in both teams.

Anyway, I scored the only try of the game and my team won because of it. So the fact that the winning try was scored by someone who was from Liverpool sort of undermined the entire premise of the game, which went down well with the rest of the lads in the school footy team.

offsideintahiti said...


gg said...

hannibal -

so we played in the same game (see above).

bluedaddy said...

BBB, that does sound like a good story. Johnson was out of this world wasn't he? And I agree with mimi -he has a voice like melted Valrhona.

Brooksie that clip is fantastic. I dont know if its my time of the month or something but once again I was welling up. Maybe I'm Welsh somewhere up line - Bluedaffy?

And you calling it the greatest sound in sport is some compliment, considering a certain ditty that gets an airing from time to time round your way (yes, and abroad too). It shows just how well brought up you are that you haven't mentioned it on this ol' Blue's thread :o)

mimi said...

Couldn't agree with HB more. The sound of a stadium full of passionate Welsh men and women singing their hearts out would bring a tear to the sternest eye.

However the Scots can send shivers as well. The drums and pipes at Murrayfield as Flower of Scotland gets underway is pretty damn fine.

gg said...

Mimi -

come on, luv, Flower of Scotland is a crap tune.

And that's not a question of Sassenach subjectivity - my Scottish friends say so, too (yes, those unreconstructed Jock leftists who also say that kilts are shite, forced
on our neighbours by a repressive London government).

offsideintahiti said...

Careful gg, you might get in trouble with the Kilt & Loincloth Society, of which I am an honorary member.

MotM said...

I love the Ovett - Coe stuff. but it's a little tainted for me by the stories of (legal) blood doping that still circulate.

What isn't open to question, is David Coleman's superb commentating - I am instantly transported back to bygone days.

Of course, Coleman could go too far - but I can't use his great Spitting Image stuff becvause it's all of youtube and the rest! Bah!

mimi said...

very funny gg. Of course the English always get very defensive when they realise that all the out-lying powers sing songs about how much they hate the English.

It's interesting that for songs to empower the English, they have Jerusalem, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

My case rests.

gg said...


and in what sense do you use the word "member"?


even if you promised me everlasting love, Flower of Scotland would still be a crap song and hate would still be a crippling emotion.

My 3 favourite national anthems (tunes only - the words are usually shite):

2) France
3) Upper Volta

offsideintahiti said...


in the stiffest sense, bien sûr.

Worst anthem in the world: Canada.

offsideintahiti said...

And I can prove it.

Please stay in your seats.


byebyebadman said...

Isn't Jerusalem a metaphor for making England a better place though? That's what I was taught in A level English (when I lived in Wales, funnily enough).

Apparently the origins of Swing Low Sweet Chariot being sung by English rugby fans began with Chris Oti scoring a hat-trick of tries at Twickenham. I've always found it embarassing.

Other songs they dear up at the proms and suchlike - Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia - pathetically cling to an England/Britain that disappeared long ago.

I think the French have the only worthwhile national anthem, though Wales' is quite stirring. Didn't think FOS was Scotland's national anthem?

Actually Chile's is good, if anyone remembers Ivan Zamorano looking like his head would explode when he belted it out in the 1998 World cup.

byebyebadman said...

Bloody hell offy that's awful (Canada's national anthem I mean, not your post). Do they bring out that hammond organ and warbling tenor for international competitions?

GSTQ must be the worst, then Star Spangled Banner.

offsideintahiti said...


either that or Céline Dion. I think i'll go for the organ.

byebyebadman said...

She's more of an organ grinder (the ears specifically).

marcela said...

if there is an enduring image that will never be forgotten it's...
ivan zamorano at the 1998 world cup :)

BTW -i've always been rather fond of the marseillaise, lyrics 'n' all. at least, the very few i know.

offsideintahiti said...

yeah, except for THAT line.

marcela said...

is guantanamera the national anthem of guantanamo bay :) ??

offsideintahiti said...

No, that would be the "Star Spangled Blindfold".

marcela said...

"Tiene el leopardo un abrigo
En su monte seco y pardo:
Yo tengo más que el leopardo,
Porque tengo un buen amigo"...

byebyebadman said...

And with this I bid thee goodnight.


passion on a plate.

gg said...

Gee, thanks, Offy -

that Canadian dirge put me off my Full Scottish Breakfast!

Maybe I'll go for the fried skunk instead.

"I'm a Lumberjack..." would be a suitable Canadian national anthem.

MotM said...

I started a facebook group to make the Benny Hill music the national anthem for England's teams. It will work perfectly for the football if the team are out!

Zephirine said...

Mouth, a noble endeavour but doomed to failure I fear. Surely, and sadly, the English sporting anthem is:

Engerlund Engerlund Engerlund
Engerlund Engerlund Engerlu-und
Engerlund Engerlund Engerlund
Engerlu-und, Engerlund?

Such an inspiring lyric.

Jerusalem has a great tune and the word are only a bit madder than the Marseillaise. GSTQ is not only dreary, it isn't even exclusive to us, the Americans use it.

gg said...

There's nothing wrong with "Swing Low...", except that it is oftenmost sung by a bunch of twits.

I would accept it as a national anthem on condition that everyone singing it was forced to do the gestures.

bluedaddy said...

God Offy that anthem was dreck. I hope the canadians are as embarrassed by it as they should be.

I'd like the Birdy song for our NA if we are going to have actions.

MotM said...

Actions? Well given that they are already in a line for the National Anthem, they could sit down and do "Oops upside your head" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLZZ30AE7-g..

If you don't know the actions, well, you're lucky - but there have been even less dignified bonding exercises.

mimi said...

The NZ national anthem is another poor offering.

This is the most lively version I've ever come across - maybe the presence of a professional singer moves it on a bit.


munni said...

My dad loves the Canadian anthem and sings it often. I have no idea why.

Because the holidays have just finished and I'm feeling very Desi this week, here is the Indian national anthem just before we won the cricket and here is what I think we should sing instead.

munni said...

And this time with links that work:



mimi said...

Thanks munni - the 2nd is full of energy and much more fun, but I do like the piano and children singing in the national anthem clip.

And at least it's not a dirge like GSTQ which is grim personified.

munni said...

The 2nd clip is from the movie Chak De India, which I highly recommend. Girl-power/triumphant underdog team sports movie, with all the cliches that implies, but extremely enjoyable.

bluedaddy said...

Played hockey in school munni. Loved it.

Any chance of you doing a small piece on Pseuds to explain football's place in India?

Tweet it, digg it