Anorak News | Fun & Games

Fun & Games

by | 27th, October 2005

‘SOMETIMES you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Arsenal’s gallic duo of Robert Pires and Thierry Henry will be all too familiar with that feeling after the recent penalty shambles at Highbury.

While their fluffed attempt to recreate a 1982 Johan Cruyff spot-kick showed an admirable impudence, much of the post-match analysis was full of moralising and derision at the players’ apparent lack of respect towards the opposition and their basic irresponsibility as Arsenal were only a goal up at the time.

However, considering the recent debate concerning the apparent drop in entertainment value in the Premiership, surely a bit of unpredictable silliness is just what the doctor ordered?

The fact that Pires fluffed his lines in such an embarrassingly inept way will have no doubt added to the subsequent criticism. Indeed, there is nothing more amusing than seeing a show-off make a fool of himself – a hipper-than-thou skateboarder catching his privates on a hand-rail while trying an intricate move is a heart-warming sight to behold.

The risk of failure is intrinsic to an attempt at something memorable, and whatever the outcome – a botched penalty, a crushed testicle or a moment of sporting genius. But in this age of super rich owners, grasping agents and gold-dust sponsorship deals, sportsmen and women are encouraged, more than ever before, to tow the line and keep to the script.

And so it is in tennis. The defeat of Tim Henman by young pretender Andrew Murray at the Swiss Indoors tournament is a small victory for genuine personality in British sport. Since bursting onto the scene at last summer’s Wimbledon, the young Scot has injected a dose of unpredictability into the staid world of British tennis with his all-action style and emotional honesty.

For years the British game has been dominated by Tiger Tim, a sportsman who despite his regular placing in the top ten rankings never even managed to win BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year, an oxymoronic event won by larger-than-life colourful ‘characters’ such as Steve Redgrave, Nigel Mansell, Nick Faldo and even Henman’s long-time rival Greg Rusedski.

Despite being annually treated like a god during the All-England tournament and admittedly giving us all a few thrilling moments, Henman’s innate reserve has never managed to win over the entire nation. Indeed, his fans who year after year inhabit ‘Henman Hill’ are more often than not the kind of people who wave little Union Jacks at Last Night of the Proms, spend their weekends rambling in Sussex and propel Katie Melua to the top of the charts. They are not like you and me. They are not normal people.

No doubt, with the result in Switzerland, Henman Hill will morph into Murray Mound, and come June that particular grassy knoll will once again be full to bursting point.

However, with Murray’s passion and, dare I say, personality, the young Scot may well provide us all with some joyously unscripted moments, something rarely seen from a British player.

Let’s hope that unpredictability and downright silliness are not sacrificed for all eternity at the feet of so-called professionalism. Sport is not a serious thing. It’s fun.

And it would be all the poorer without the likes of Pires, Murray, Gazza, Chris Eubank, Dennis Rodman and the pert bottom of an occasional streaker?

Alan Duffy’

Posted: 27th, October 2005 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink