Friday, 8 February 2008

Float like a butterfly sting like a bee

In sport there is nothing finer than to see a skilful player thread their way drew a defence and score. Hours of preparation combined with nature’s gifts combine to create a pleasing and effective player. The sight of George Best in full flight outwitting the defence with grace and speed homing in the goal or Barry John who having practiced and practiced receiving the pass from the scrum half having a burst of speed and a shimmy slicing through a leaden footed three quarter line to score a try, these are great moments of sport.
Every so often there comes upon the scene a second rate striker who has neither the skill nor grace of a Barry John and has not devoted themselves to hours of unglamorous preparation. They have practiced the goal scoring celebration routine; they love the applause and the adoration of the crowd, but they simply are not out of the top draw.
It is then that the defender steps up to do his work because for every striker there is a centre half, for every fly half a full back and for every seeker and bludger. Their skills are admired by true aficionados of the game, their skills admired and valued by the discerning observer. It is true that this is no immediately obvious to those newly introduced to the sport they look for the more obvious gratification provided by the showy antics of the front player. But with experience and dedication they come to appreciated that it is only by overcoming the challenges of an organised defence that there is any real satisfaction or achievement in scoring a goal. As we see on our TV’s every week it is the second rate striker lacking in skill and proper preparation who lands up on the floor appealing to the ref whining: ‘it’s unfair, the full back tackled me’
Now one doesn’t need to be an advocate of the Tommy Smith, or Chopper Harris or Norman Hunter school of defending to grow impatient with the prima donnas who keep whinging to the ref. The great players relish the challenge of taking on skilful defender, they now that it improves their game, it puts them on their metal and reveals their true character.
Sometimes the poor manager, left in the lurch by a departing prima donna, or a striker with a an irreversibly broken leg, constrained by being an unfashionable team with a poor reputation and desperate to make a replacement, reaches down to the lower divisions hoping to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The tractor boy slugger's ego is heavily massaged to make him believe he can achieve great things. The press are promised a messianic advance which they pass on to the public. But, as the weeks and months go by, with the team performing more poorly than ever, the list of excuses which the manager can produce becomes exhausted. Likewise, the press who have promoted the striker as the new Eusabio become frustrated at having to try yet again to blag the readers with 'the Empress' new clothes.

It is yet another Saturday. The striker is once more on his back in no-man's land, legs flailing in the air and screaming to the ref while the ball has travelled fifty metres in the 'wrong' direction'. The manager harrangues the 'fourth official' at the sidelines and is asked to take himself to the stand. The fans trickle from the stadium

As so often in sport it is so in life.