That Sporting Life. Round 1.

Ahhh, sporting autobiographies, aren’t they great? They’re all oozing out for Christmas and without them words wouldn’t have a place to crawl into and die. Yesterday I dashed into Waterstones (a miracle that they still exist, a jolly good miracle, shame HMV couldn’t hold out) just to have a little mooch and get some ideas and as I was leaving my attention was caught by a wall covered in ‘sportobiographies’ (I hope I’ve invented a new word there, but I doubt it). The problem with a lot of these books is that they are written by sporting ‘personalities’ and as David Foster Wallace pointed out when he was still alive: such is the time and dedication and focus required to become a successful sports person that the development of charisma tends to take a very distant back seat. Of course the modern sporting legend/diarist does not work alone and in order to produce a lucid, cohesive and semi-entertaining reflection on their life, or part of it, they turn to a ghost for help. Which I suppose is why I often feel haunted whenever I pick one up.
Now I do not for a second wish to undermine or belittle the achievements of the sporting legends in question, though it must be said that some sporting careers are far more substantial than others and some are only marginally more remarkable than my own; which is non-existent. One also needs to consider the sport in question. Some sports are naturally far more exciting than others and everyone has their preferred areas. Incidentally, I have a deep mistrust of anyone who likes EVERY sport; there simply isn’t the time in the day to like ALL sports and have any kind of a life and therefore to ever be worth listening to.
For instance, personally I could never bring myself to read about the life of a rugby player or manager or indeed anyone involved in the sport. It is inconsequential that I don’t like the game, what is relevant is that rugby bores are easily the most boring of all the sporting bores. Which is saying exactly what it’s saying. Footballers don’t care if you watched the match, rugby fans are amazed if you didn’t. Nor could I ever be found jealous of someone clutching a Formula One book. I find Formula One not only not particularly sporty but also so dull that my eyes begin to fuse shut after about 3 seconds of it popping, uninvited, onto the telly. I suppose I could manage a tennis book provided it was by a ‘character’ of the sport. That said Ivan Lendl is my tennis hero but I imagine his autobiography would be as interesting as watching paint not dry. Boxers are usually beyond mental repair and cyclists tend to just talk about being on a bike and then not being on a bike. Which doesn’t nurture much interest.
I would imagine (I have to imagine because I’m not going to look this up) that football books soaks up a big chunk of the sporting life-story shelves, some of which are stretching themselves just to be labelled as books. Take for instance (I’d have to because I’d never pay for it) ‘From Nowhere: My Story’ by footballer Jamie Vardy. You don’t need to know much really: bad kid turned slightly less bad, helped Leicester win the Premiership then got fast-tracked to the England squad which crashed out of the European Cup in shame. I’d keep shtum if I were he. ‘My Autobiography’ by Ian Wright doesn’t hold a lot of promise since he seems incapable of stringing a worthwhile sentence together as a pundit. Joey Barton clearly doesn’t appreciate how redundant the first word is in the title of his ‘No Nonsense: The Autobiography’. Then, of course, there’s ‘Big Sam: My Autobiography’ by Sam Allardyce which, as far as I am aware, has yet to be updated to include the hilarious anecdote about the time he was exposed as a greedy, corrupt chubster who isn’t fit to manage a 4th rate burger van.
Which brings us briefly to titles. If I wandered past a book with the face of, let’s say Tom Cruise, on it along with his name in big print I would assume it was a book about Tom Cruise. If no other names were apparent I could also safely assume that the book had also been written by Tom Cruise. In similar fashion if I wandered past a book with Harry Kane slapped across the front of it, written by Harry Kane, I could quite reasonably assume it was his ‘auto’ biography and not an assessment of the postmodern anthropological landscape of Eastern European cinema. Mind you I wouldn’t get all the way through reading that either. The point is either have the awful subtitle (Walking Tall, Against All Odds, Hit The Bugger etc) but ditch the ‘my story’ bit. Because it’s annoying. It annoys me. Incidentally Harry Kane is yet to publish ‘his story’ though I’m not sure whether that’s because he’s brighter than he looks or smarter than he sounds.
Anyway, I shall stop being harsh about footballers, they are wonderful role models for someone or other and there are plenty of other awful, rainforest consuming, charity shop clogging ‘sportobiographies’ out there. About cricket for instance, which these days isn’t a wholly dissimilar game to football. These epics include Chris Gayle: Six Machine, I Don’t Like Cricket……. I Love It (2 puns before you even open it, bargain!), Ben Stokes: Firestarter – Me, Cricket and the Heat of the Moment (how did we manage before this came out?) and Mark Nicholas: A Beautiful Game, My Love Affair With Cricket (which is probably about one 38th of the length of Mark Nicholas: Living Up My Arse, My Love Affair With Myself).
Having said all that I only recently moved from ‘I Am Ozzy’ to ‘Rod Stewart: The Autobiography’ so, as is so often the case in this blog – what do I know? Not much.
G B Hewitt. 25.10.2016
America here we come – I can feel a bottom of the barrel, directionless rant coming any minute now. And World War 3.

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