Monday, November 24, 2008

When Father Time Whispers - PhilWest

Twenty-three years ago I played football for a staff team in West London. I was a dreadful footballer, but 1500m track training added to 80 miles/week meant I had a fair turn of speed and I was sometimes able to wear down markers by non-stop running. I could at least give the (usually false) impression that I was a danger.

I remember a player on our side who was so old/unfit/useless that no one even bothered to mark him. He traipsed up and down the wing and every so often our centre half would gently float a pass to his feet, resulting in a throw to the opposition. We offered encouragement, but I could see his frustration and sadness, and consoled him with a beer afterwards.

Three years ago I gave up football. I’m still fit for my age, but I realised with horror that no one was marking me………

I heard that voice in my head, whispering the sad truth, and I listened.

I used to believe that the Sporting Gods didn’t have this problem. They know how ruthless sport can be, and when their ankles/knees/hips/backs start to complain, they listen to them sooner rather than later.

Some exceptions to this rule exist and have a special place in our hearts: Steve Davies, Tugay Kerimoglu, and Carlos Lopez to name just three of my personal favourites.

What drives on people like these? Love of the sport? Fear of their life after retirement? Sheer bloody-mindedness?

Does it matter?

Usually not, but when I hear that Evander Holyfield is signing up to face Nikolai Valuev for the WBA boxing title, I shudder.

He has money problems, and is due to receive $750,000 for putting his life at risk so that we can talk about “the changing of the guard”.

Evander is 46. Forty-six! He will be giving away 10 inches in height and around 100lbs in weight. He hasn’t fought for over a year, and is up against an opponent who has a 70% knock-out ratio. If things go badly he’ll need a lot more than a friendly word and a pint.

If he is choosing not to listen to “the voice”, we should try our best to dissuade him.

Unbelievably, today we hear reports (actually, more like taunts) that one of only three World Heavyweight champions to have retired at the zenith is considering a return to the ring.

Lennox Lewis, one of the world’s few lucky people who can look at himself in the mirror each morning and say, “I have nothing to prove”, is reportedly considering a come-back fight.

Depressingly, many people would back him to win should he decide to take up the offer.

Lennox is an avid chess player; that game of logic and strategy, and I respect him enormously for using his intellect and quitting while his body and mental faculties were unharmed.

The next time he is locked in silent contemplation over the 64 squares, I hope he hears a voice.


offsideintahiti said...

Ah, will you shut up now, please.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this Phil. Nice use of personal experience to make a wider and topical point.


guitou said...

Boxers haven't be able to resist for one more go for a simple reason: money. If the price is right, they get out of retirement anytime an offer is on the table.

Methusaleh Greengrass said...

I get your drift: I did my best writing years ago, but still come on here to flaunt my wares.

guitou said...

methuselah gg born in 3317 bc ! that's a lot of birthdays under the belt.

munni said...

There is something tragic and sickening, to me, about professional boxing. When the objective is to punch someone's lights out, and many of them end up with major brain damage, it leaves sport behind. Why anyone would go back in there, having been lucky enough to retire in one piece, is utterly beyond me. [/rant]

Oh dear, at seven a side yesterday, my team's secret strategy was, "give the ball to Munni, no one will mark her". I thought it was only because I was the only girl in the side, but I've just realised it's probably because I'm crap.

offsideintahiti said...

Sorry, I was talking to that voice in my head. Now, what was it saying? And what have I done with my glasses? Oh yeah, drank them both.

Mike T. said...

lend me an ear and I will explain to you.

Sir Alex Greengrass said...

the problem with seven-a-side is that there is only room for seven left-whingers.

andrewm said...

Holyfield does also talk - a lot - about his belief that God wants him to reunite the heavyweight titles. That might be the saddest thing of all about his comeback.

offsideintahiti said...


if you got pummelled by heavyweights for as long as he has, I'm sure you'd hear voices too. But Dog's voice? That's barking mad alright.

MotM said...

I hate it when old boxers come back. You make a good case well Phil.

I wrote this - - about the ethics of boxing, which trouble me.

philwest said...

Thanks for the interest again everyone.
Obviously not "ballsey" enough for the judges, can't remember lessons on ballsey back in 1976 English Lit lessons at school. (Not that his writing suggests he remembers anything from those lessons, I hear you reply)
Oh well! Ballsey it is this week - takes out dictionary......

munni said...

...and if you want to get into ethics, whoever puts up the money has a lot to answer for.

zeph said...

Surely, surely Lennox Lewis would have more sense....?

Nice piece of writing, Phil.

Alf Greengrass said...

"Ballsey" played in the England side that won the WC in 1966.

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