So here I am another year older. I am now officially as old as God’s dog. Bloody hell, who’d have thought it? There are, of course, people older than me who would scoff and call me a spring chicken. And they would be quite justified in that. But just let me have a little reminisce before the ageing process goes too far and I end up in some depressing institution dribbling into my soup.
Yesterday – the day of the sixty second anniversary of my birth – I was lucky enough to spend at COTA. Yes, I’m in the good old U,S of A, land of the acronym ruled over by POTUS and FLOTUS. From listening to some over here the former could stand for President Orange, Totally Useless Shit. Others may have it as, Prosperity Over Trumps Utopian States. Just depends who you listen to. It’s a bit like Brexit without other countries being involved.
Anyway – COTA – Circuit Of The Americas, for those who don’t know about such things. Yes, I treated myself to the American Formula One Grand Prix. I’m over here visiting family, so it would be rude not to really, wouldn’t it. So resplendent in Red Bull team shirt and cowboy hat I ventured forth. In the rain! Now I should explain that when it rains here it does actually rain. It comes down all at once in galvanised buckets. Before you know it you’re up to your wheel trims in water. Pardon? No of course we don’t walk anywhere, that’s just not the American way.
As luck would have it once we reached the circuit, God’s dog must have been looking down. The skies cleared, the sun shone and apart from Max Verstappen being cruelly robbed at the end I thoroughly enjoyed my treat.
Which led me to thinking. Over the years, who stand out in the memory as sportsmen I have seen in the flesh. No, not naked madam, I’m not some sort of changing room voyeur. It’s a bit like those lists you get on Facebook. I’m sure you have your own. These are mine.
Top of the list has to be The Holy Trinity. Yes, Best, Law and Charlton all on the pitch at the same time. I have to say that most of my footballing experiences were down at West Bromwich Albion’s ground. Back in the day that was hard enough to get to, let alone what must surely have been a three day trek to Old Trafford. Strangely they drew two apiece. United were losing in the first half two – nil. At half time Matt Busby must have said give the ball to George. They did, and someone sprinkled magic football dust on the ground. Bestie swayed and shimmied as only he could. Law headed in and Bobby Charlton struck a ball (not the flimsy plastic things of today) from twenty yards out which hit the back of the net like a thunderbolt.
At the same ground I saw that other trinity, albeit individually, Hurst, Moore and Peters. In another two all draw I witnessed first hand why Martin Peters was called ‘The Ghost.’ Across came the ball, no one was there until I swear that a trap door opened in the ground, out popped our man and headed home.
Cricket. Ah yes. On Saturday mornings Dad went to work. In doing so he had to pass Edgbaston, home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club. He’d throw me out on the way and pick me up coming back. I saw the legend which was Godfrey Evans playing for the Cavaliers in the swan song of his wicket keeping career. Other great names from the past, the two Fred’s, Trueman and Titmus, Bob Willis, Dennis Amis, Farouk Engineer, Gary Sobers. So many, but the one that stood out for me was the great West Indies player, Clive Lloyd. I always loved watching him, such a charismatic figure and I even played my own part in a test match, England v West Indies. The match, on Saturday as usual, was underway. All was going well until play was suddenly stopped. The crowd began to boo and jeer. I could make out cries of ‘sit down!’ through the din. Clive Lloyd was waving his arms, seemingly in my direction. Some idiot, it appeared, had wandered in front of the sight screen – a huge white board which shielded the ball from the crowd so that the batsman could see it coming. ‘How was the match?’ asked Dad when he picked me up. ‘Great.’ I replied, wondering if I blushed as much then as I had when I sat down with indecent haste that sunny afternoon.
At Cosford in 1981, Sebastian Coe broke the world indoor 800m record. I was there with my Dad and brother. Dad had been a racing cyclist in his youth. Both of them ran marathons for ‘fun.’ That gene thankfully missed me!
And so, back to the Grand Prix, at Zandvoort in the era of Mansell and Senna but perhaps more memorably my first at Brands Hatch, not perhaps for the race but for getting there. My Morris 1000 broke down on the way, but after a quick pit stop (and hastily joining the AA) I arrived in time to see Emerson Fittipaldi beat Jackie Stewart. The next year at Silverstone nearly half the field were taken out when Jody Scheckter crashed at the end of the first lap. What names though! Some still here but most long gone in pursuit of their sport. Hill, Peterson, Lauda, Hulme , Amon, Reutemann, Revson, Oliver, Ickx, Cevert and the never to be forgotten Jean-Pierre Beltois if only for the fact that I got his autograph even though I had no idea who he was, except that he must be a driver because he wore overalls.
So – thanks for the birthday wishes and allowing a sad old git to reminisce for a bit.
I wonder what I’ll do next?