Friday, November 7, 2008

I miss the colour the most – Ebren

Jim Clark was one of the finest racing drivers that has lived. At the time of his death in 1968 he had two world championships, 25 Grand Prix wins and 33 pole positions – the last two both records.

But he raced and died in black and white and his car roared in crackling mono. That's the problem with looking back, the races and games, matches and Tests are grey muted affairs. And I miss the colour.

There is a place you can go, though. A throwback to days when cars' screams echoed from the walls around you; where the brilliant greens, reds and yellows of the cigar tubes that carried drivers into history sting the eyes again; and better still, you get to dress up.

Dressed in a natty tweed jacket, hair Brylcreamed to within an inch of its life, and with a crimson handkerchief proudly protruding from my pocket I headed to the Goodwood Revival this year. It was a shock. I've always admired Clark, Fangio, Ascari and the others. But reading about their deeds and watching newsreel footage tells you nothing about who they were.

Standing among men and women stepping out in full 1950s regalia, you could smell their world. Not imagine it, not re-live it through film and paper, actually be there again.

Watching cars sweep towards you from trackside, you could see just how small they were, how fragile. You could hear them again, see them in colour and smell the exhausts as these grand old machines were allowed to race again, to do what they were made to 50 years after others overtook them with newer technology.

On the track, Stirling Moss four-wheel drifted a vintage Jaguar 60 years after he won the first Goodwood meeting as an 18 year old, and then the spell was broken.

Four cars were fighting for the lead, following closer than a modern racer with its need for clean air can, and two clipped wheels. As machinery lovingly cared for and restored to former glory ripped itself apart against tarmac and concrete I saw the danger that came with the glory.

Jim Clark died on the track so did Alberto Ascari, they were not alone. As well as a window onto a lost world, Goodwood taught me something else: nostalgia is fine, but for all the glory that was – some things are better left in the past.

Every fan has their day – RedGiant

Is it possible to use the phrase ‘when I was a lad’ and not sound like a crotchety old man? As a kid it was a guaranteed toe-curler of a line, largely because it was followed by yet another anecdote about how things were better in the good old days: ‘… footballers were lucky if they got twenty pounds a week, and they were grateful if they got that’.

Worryingly, I’m using similar phrases with alarming regularity. All too often I find myself starting a sentence with ‘remember the season when …’, or, ‘you’ll never get another player like …’. Sometimes it can simply be a name that elicits a sentimental yearning for the comfort and warmth of a former time or place. Johnny Metgod. Neil Webb. Stuart Pearce. Jason Lee. Andrea Silenzi.

Ok, there was a hint of irony about the last two, but that’s the beauty of nostalgia, it’s entirely subjective. Someone, somewhere, might genuinely think that Silenzi was a good player; there might be a faded picture of him lending beauty to a trattoria’s wall, in Turin, say. It applies to most sports fans, mention the name of their favourite player from yesteryear and watch them go all gooey eyed and weak at the knees.

It’s big business too, this nostalgia malarkey. Take a look at Graham Budd Auctions, they sold a collection of John Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanacks from the first year of issue (1864) for £120,000. A single-sheet 1889 FA Cup Final programme recently went for £19,000 too. You could take a trip to the National Football Museum in Preston if you wanted to, the President of which (Sir Bobby Charlton) once described it as ‘the best museum in the world … apart from the Tate’.

Some people think it’s dangerous to be so pre-occupied with the past, though. Joe Kinnear certainly thought so after joining Notts Forest: ‘Ever since I’ve been at this club I’ve had the history rammed down my throat, I see they don’t have any pictures of the relegation teams’. Nice way to ingratiate yourself with the fans, Joe.

Not for the first time, I’m inclined to disagree with Kinnear. They say that every dog has its day. Well, every football fan has their day, too. In a footballing world dominated by WAGs, galacticos and oligarchs, nostalgia is part of what keeps us humble fans going. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Relieving nostalgia - miroljub

Over the last dozen years or so, I have been suffering from nostalgia for the footballing past. This chronic disease is marked by rapid mental deterioration including seeing, hearing, feeling things that are not there, nonsense speech, unusual behaviour, lack of emotion, unmotivation and social withdrawal.

Other symptoms and signs are: vertigo (triggered by frequent teams rotation), nausea (caused by moronic badge-kissing), vomiting (caused by eating prawn sandwiches and buying for my grandson yet another 100% polyester official replica kit), plus anxiety and pain over the nowadays player’s artistic diving and cheating.

One way I was trying to relieve nostalgia was to create a personal space and fill it with small reminders of past. Photographs of my favourite players and teams, mementos of special events, greeting cards and newspaper clippings, all these I have been using, without much success, to create a comforting emotional connection and gain some perspective on the complicated, contaminated, anarchic, difficult, ugly, and confrontational present vis-à-vis the simple, pure, ordered, easy, beautiful, and harmonious past.

However, thanks to CD ROM technology and audio and video reproduction, my free access to an infinitely recyclable past seems to have started to help me to understand that my 'disease' might be less a matter of simple memory on the traditional values and former glories than of complex projection; the invocation of a partial, idealized history merges with a 'dissatisfaction' with the present.

Further to this, I've found out the chief safeguards against the warm feelings and uplifting mood about the over-glorified footballing past. They are: 1) never close your umbrella while watching your grandsons playing in the heavy rain, and 2) never say in front of your grandchildren the following phrases: “Call me sentimental but...”, or “This is the can from the first beer I ever drank”.

Nostalgia for an age yet to come - ElSell

Look at that Nancy rolling round
Weren’t like that
Back in my day
When men were men
And boots were made of leather
Aye son when I were a lad
Things were better

“It was forever thus” as someone smarter than me is sure to have said or “old people are always complaining about the modern world” as some young idiot is saying somewhere right now.

Until recently nostalgia was somewhat of a dirty word, something to be thrown at fallen idols and idols who never actually fell, the scourge of Liverpool and Chelsea fans alike, although for different reasons.

At the moment however we are on the cusp of a nostalgia revival especially with regard to the English national game. With the club footed earning over 100 grand a week while those who actually run the club day to day earn minimum wage.

With millionaires choosing the bright lights of West Ham over trophy chasing and the possibility of glory, people are starting to hark back to a simpler time. I personally am getting sick of players flying into tackles with both feet off the ground and live in hope of someday seeing an old fashioned block tackle involving StevieMe and Fat Frank, although not in an England shirt because apparently neither of them has enough understanding of basic midfield play to be able to play alongside each other (that and under Capello tackling team mates has become a no-no). It was not like that in my youth when fine athletes like Jan Molby glided across the English tundra like some sort of displaced Danish Viking (they did exist apparently).

Yes nostalgia and comparing current with older generations are according to some ultimately pointless, today’s athletes are too fit, too strong, not as dietetically challenged as some of yesteryears heroes.
However as the old saying goes:
“Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.”
Maybe with regard to modern football this should be updated to:
“Those who do not read history are doomed to destroy it.”

And surely there are worse things than nostalgia for the past such as “nostalgia for an age yet to come” as The Buzzcocks so poignantly wrote about… well wrote about any of us who are not where we feel we should be but keep telling ourselves, that it is all going to come together soon, eh Rafa?

Goran, Stella & Me - Mac Millings

If someone offers me free stuff, I always take it. Sometimes, this clashes with my principles (I really should have refused that all-expenses-paid trip to Alaska to watch Sarah Palin execute East Coast liberals with a hand-sharpened moose antler) and, thus conflicted, I found myself part of the crowd taking in a match at the Stella Artois Championships; a tournament that seemed to think of itself as Wimbledon without the commoners. Still, free tickets. What are you going to do?

Leave, it turns out - watching Some Unknown beat That Other Guy just didn’t appeal. More importantly, this being June 12th, 1992, my freebie love meant I was missing a crucial Euro ’92 encounter, Scotland vs. Holland. While I’m neither Scots nor Dutch, I have ancestry of both kinds (one less in the Scottish camp since the passing of Racist Uncle Des), and it was with a heart angry at the cheapness in my soul that I escaped the heat, to the artificial cool of an adjacent building. Wandering, I came across an open door. The sign “Players Only” deterred; the fact that it was hand-written on a blu-tacked sheet of A4 seemed to say “Only Joking”. I ducked in. And there it was. The Game.

A seat at the back beckoned. I sat, hunched, fearing attention, watching motionless until I felt I was part of the background. There were more people in the room than I’d first realized, and, well, I knew some of them – their faces, at least. A pre-invincibility Sampras. There, all enthusiasm, the raw Ivanisevic. To the left sat that redhead South African, whatshisname; good player, just never good enough to win anything of actual significance. The ginger Tim Henman, if you will. We watched.

Scotland never looked in trouble against the Dutch, who, while still a decent side, didn’t even bother testing a lazy stereotype, forcing the Scottish goalkeeper to make but one save. Then, suddenly, 75 minutes in, Gullit, Rijkaard, Bergkamp, one-nil. I groaned. Loudly. Bugger. It’s over, I thought. Only Goran turned. The jig is up. He looked around, back at me, grinned a sly grin, nodded a conspiratorial nod, and turned back to the game. We watched Scotland lose.

The ginger Tim Henman won at Queen’s that year. I didn’t care. But nine years later, as Goran Ivanisevic served for the Wimbledon title, he cried tears of joy - and I did, too.

Red Rum was a Robot! - donwendyagain

Do you remember when sporting nostalgia was good? You would sit around in the pub with your mates having a few swift ones and inevitably the conversation would turn to sport. Who was the best boxer? Who was the best striker? Who was the best hooker? Hey, it’s a bunch of pissed lads, there was no way sex was staying out of the conversation!

Everyone would chuck in their tuppence worth and if the creative juices were flowing the finer points of an argument could last for days, weeks and even longer than some marriages as the ridiculous was mixed freely with the ever more ludicrous in support of spurious claim after nonsensical assertion. Maradona didn’t actually handle the ball and it was just a trick of the light that made it appear as if he had, Kevin Moran played the ball and Peter Reid dived to get him sent off in the 1985 Cup Final or my personal favourite Red Rum was really a robot because you never saw him relieve himself on the course and they had a real horse for public appearances and stable visits.

But those days are mostly gone as any time such an argument begins it is over before it has a chance to flourish as we have all seen the historical events in question hundreds of times on You Tube. We are also losing any chance of future talking points as some smart arse with some fancy computer technology, usually Sky’s resident know it all Andy Gray, has already proven that the ball was over the line before geeky Nigel has got the post match round in. They have even turned the technology on our beloved controversies of yesteryear and now we know conclusively that the 3rd goal was not over the line.

Sure we still talk over the odds and ends but it has lost its soul simply because we all know what really happened. Whoever said knowledge was power was talking out of their fundament as knowledge steals away the doubt that is essential for any debate. Oh for a return to the days when you could argue about just how good Bank’s save from Pele was without being able to dial it up instantly on You Tube or even just how real or unreal Red Rum was.

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