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 When Shankley might have had a point ...

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nordmann
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PostSubject: When Shankley might have had a point ...   Sun 24 Jun 2012, 15:10

Every so often something transcends its own traditional boundaries and plants itself in the common consciousness for no apparent reason related to its assumed importance at the time. A news item on TV, such as Michael Buerke's BBC report from a starving Ethopia in 1984 which triggered such a monumental awareness and desire to help is an obvious example. Likewise the assassination of John F Kennedy, not unimportant in its own right, quickly however assumed such huge significance that an entire generation of people worldwide can remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news first.

Football, as Bill Shankley once famously remarked, is not a matter of life and death - it's more important than that. He was speaking facetiously (we think), but he still made a valid point with regard to the importance we sometimes place on what really should be trivial events, often despite ourselves and often as a community in unison. Sport, which is in essence the epitomy of elevation of trivial pursuit to an inflated level of importance anyway, has nevertheless produced some genuine "moments" which have united people - as a shared experience, as a moment of immense significance, or even just as a "moment", but one that has still left people in its wake feeling somehow that they have just witnessed or experienced something profound.

My own personal "moment" is the entrance of Abebe Bikila alone into the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo in 1964. I don't believe there were live TV transmissions so I must have seen it after it had happened, probably in a cinema newsreel as I vaguely remember people around me clapping - a strange phenomenon those days in Dublin picture houses. My ignorance of world affairs was equal at that age to my ignorance of athletics. Yet I remember almost crying with joy as he crossed the line and can still re-run the last twenty yards as he approached the tape in my mind. I have no doubt that the significance and my reaction were both prompted by behaviour of those around me, but yet this cannot diminish its importance as an experience in my own life, however bogus that sensation might be.

Can anyone relate other such "moments" that sport has produced - be it for them personally or for the community around them? Moments which captured, or even shaped, the zeitgeist of their time? Maybe even moments that did indeed have a real significance well beyond that artificially claimed in sporting terms?
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: When Shankley might have had a point ...   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 01:33

This reminds me of something I was going to mention a few weeks ago, but I can't now recall what event triggered my thoughts. It was more a why question than a what one, though.

I was brought up in a very non-sporting family - my father (in a rugby-mad country) used to say that he wouldn't go across the road to see a rugby match and I think I was 16 before I saw one. (We didn't have television, no-one did till 1960 in NZ, and we didn't after that either.) I think for me personally it was a game I watched, just with my husband. It was the 1973 FA Cup final between Leeds and Sunderland. I think the first game of soccer on television I had seen, and the first FA Cup televised here. It was in the middle of the night, starting about 3am and Sunderland scored early. (I used to think it was after 8 minutes, but apparently it was after 20.) My husband tried to ensure that I understood this wouldn't be the final score and Sunderland wouldn't win. But they did, and I was so excited and tense by the end. I don't know any of the players or the coach of the present day team, but Sunderland is still a team I have a very soft spot for.

The zeitgeist for our nation was probably when Colin (Pinetree) Meads was sent off in a game against Scotland in 1967. Although I would have been 17 then, I have no actual memory of this happening, just the constant angry mentions of it since. Meads was a legend at the time, and still is. I see a Daily Telegraph comment at the time saying that for someone with his reputation for toughness it was like sending a burglar to prison for a parking offence.

The other one that I would think of was the Busby babes' deaths in the plane crash. I remember once my brother-in-law, a life-long Manchester United fan, sitting me down to explain about this event, in the hopes I might have softer views of Man U. (I don't think it worked, but I suspect this, along with the Liverpool tragedy at Hillsborough, was an event that has at least echoed over the years for British people.)
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PostSubject: Re: When Shankley might have had a point ...   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 09:21

Caro, that moment when Sunderland beat Leeds is imprinted on the hearts of almost all football fans of my generation - sheer bliss, to see the greatest (and the most hated) team in England humbled by the no-hopers. They still have a special place in my heart as well.

I remember Ali (Cassius as he then was) beating Liston, to become World Champion. I was the only one in my family who supported him, (almost the only person I knew who supported 'that loud-mouth upstart') and somehow I knew that the world was a slightly different place afterwards.

I remember being being in a crowd of 20,000 Scots in Dens Park when Dundee played FC Cologne in the UEFA Cup (1971?) They lost the first leg in Germany, another goal at home, so they were 4-2 down with 30 mins to go. Scored 3 goals, to win 5-4 on aggregate. The crowd were higher than the stadium roof by the end - incredible atmosphere! I am not the 'fan' type, but even I was 'carried away' that night.
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PostSubject: Re: When Shankley might have had a point ...   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 09:42

As I think I've made very clear, I'm allergic to sport but even I couldn't escape getting caught up in the national fever of the Argentina world cup debauchle. From watching some of the qualifiers in the pub, the plans of some supporters to buy a submarine to get there,through the infamous rowing boat incident when two of the players had to be rescued in the wee small hours when drifting out to sea, the farewell extravaganza at Hampden, the cringing disappointment and embarrassment of the actual matches and then the recovery of a little bit of national self respect with the Dutch match and Archie Gemmel's goal, the whole farango was about as perfect a evocation of a country's psyche as you could get. If ever a picture expressed the sentiments of an entire nation, it's this.


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PostSubject: Re: When Shankley might have had a point ...   Fri 29 Jun 2012, 13:06

I remember the 'World Cup that got away' in Scotland as well - as you say, a finer example of the Scottish psyche would be hard to find.

Ireland had a little of it in the recent European Championships. So many were sure they would do well, until 3 minutes after the first ball was kicked, and then reality began to dawn. Didn't annoy the supporters one bit, though. No soul-searching, no recriminations (well, very few), no disgrace - just buy another pint, and get on with your life.

National Cultural differences?
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PostSubject: Re: When Shankley might have had a point ...   Sat 04 Jan 2014, 22:18

@nordmann wrote:
Maybe even moments that did indeed have a real significance well beyond that artificially claimed in sporting terms?

I always think that this picture of an exhausted and self-shocked Mark Edmondson dropping the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Australian Open Men's Singles Tennis Championship in 1976 should be more famous than it is:



Edmondson had come from a set down against fellow New South Welshman and favourite and holder John Newcombe to win in 4 sets. It was a dramatic match which included an interruption for high wind gusts and violent temperature fluctuations on that January day in Melbourne. Mark Edmondson was ranked 212th in the world and is the lowest ever ranked winner of a grand slam tournament.
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