The Twenty-year Quest for a Championship
I should probably add a quick note here before I tell you this sorry story. I have to confess that I have a terrible memory. But then I also have a fantastic memory. My problem is that it rarely serves me well to remember the postal code for a hairdresser’s in Cardiff or the colour of the jacket worn by the Jockey on the 1992 Grand National winner ‘Party Politics’ (Purple). My memory for the things which directly impact on my life is another thing altogether and I have more often than I care to remember forgotten something that was agreed in a meeting or to take out the rubbish at my parents’ house. With this in mind, what you are about to read may be utter nonsense as I have played for many sports teams in my life and I am sure that one memory has evaded me despite its soon-to-be-obvious significance. If I am wrong, please let me know.
Anyway, back to the story. The other day we were invited to lunch at someone’s house. As we were sat around the table, the conversation somehow turned to winning championships. We discussed which championships we’d won, how many etc… I racked my brains and for the life of me I could not remember winning anything.
I first started playing organised sport at the age of seven when my dad took me down to Wilmslow Rugby Club on the recommendation of one of his friends who coached the team. Why my dad took me to play Rugby rather than Football, which is his eternal passion in life, could come to some who know him as a bit of a mystery. However those who knew me in the first seven years of my life and observed his futile yet tenacious attempts to have me kick the ball / balloon / cat with my left foot as well as my right will have seen just how useless I am with both. His decision to give up must have been tough, but he had just discovered that my sister Clare had a talent for football so perhaps he was not so worried about his only son’s failure to be the next Johan Cruyff.
I played rugby for the next eleven years of my life. Once I started high school I played two games on most weekends. I was captain of the school team and in my senior year I played every single minute of every game we played and topped the scoring chart for our team. We won many matches but when it came to tournaments / cup competitions we usually fell at the first hurdle. The same was true of my club team. This never bothered me. I loved playing rugby and never considered the implications beyond the game I was playing in. It was just fun.
I did try my hand at other sports in my youth. When I was in primary school I played for the Football team (I’m pretty sure all of the boys in our class did so it wasn’t an achievement to be picked). We went through the entire season of friendly games unbeaten and often tore our opposition to pieces on the scoreboard. Then it came to the end of the year and we attended the competitive tournament against all of the same schools we had beaten that year. Naturally we cruised to the final and then in a cruel twist, with the score at 0-0 and seconds to go, one of our defenders put the ball into his own net from a corner. So close.
I also tried a season of Cricket when I was fifteen. Two of my best friends played so I thought I would give it a go too. Unfortunately I am as appalling at Cricket as I am at Football and so spent the whole season fielding in the deep and batting at number ten. The only reason why I didn’t bat at eleven was because Matt, who has been my best friend since we were seven was too nice to let me go last. He saw how terrible I was and let me go ahead of him. I scored four runs that season. They came in the cup final off a thick edge down to third man. When the ball crossed the boundary I received a cheer from the crowd and I waved at them like I’d just hit a test century at Lords. In this season we reached both the league and cup finals. I am sure you can imagine the result…
Then came American Football. I started playing at the age of fifteen down at a local park and very quickly came close to the glory that had proved so elusive through the first years of my sporting career. Following one of the most memorable victories of my career in the semi final of the league, when we scored with two consecutive thirty yard passes in thirty seconds as time expired, we had reached the final of an U19 league with a group of sixteen year olds. Needless to say we were soundly beaten in the final. I think the score was 62-0 but it could have been more.
At University I was an experienced player in an entirely rookie team. We did well in our third season, making the playoffs and falling just short in the first round. In my first year I played in the Annual England v Scotland U19 game, This is the only time I remember being victorious in such a fixture and I ended up receiving MVP honours. But this was a single exhibition game so I will not count it as a championship.
My professional career has up to now been one of playing for good teams but never going far enough. I believe we finished in second or third place with the Luebeck Cougars. In Tennessee Valley we failed to make the playoffs. Even when I returned to University and lent a hand to my old team at Sheffield Hallam, we reached the final of the plate competition and guess what……?
Which leads me to this season. After 19 years of playing organised sport, surely it is about time I won something?