Friday, August 22, 2008

today : The Glorious and the Inglorious

The past couple of weeks has seen the creation of many new sporting heroes. Here in Britain, several people, previously little or even unheard of have, by dint of winning Olympic medals, catapulted themselves into the public consciousness. I guess nobody is more famous in the world right now than Usain Bolt. And I imagine he will not be paying full price for trainers anytime soon. Michael Phelps will probably end up very very rich through endorsements and the like.

Sport is made up of moments. Rebecca Adlington's expression of joy and disbelief when she won the 400m freestyle gold. Bolt dancing the last 20 metres of the 100 and still smashing the world record and Michael Phelps touching a thousandth of a second ahead to win his eighth gold. Their glory will be remembered, and it shall remember them.

It's ironic then that Don Fox died today. Rugby League is a parochial little sport, confined to a small number of Northern English towns and followed mostly during one match per season - The Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. Don Fox was a giant of the game. Record try scorer for his clubs, a stalwart of the international side and generally revered as one of the best players of his generation. Yet he will be remembered for one inglorious moment. With his team trailing 11-10 in the last second of a Challenge Cup Final, Fox - already named man of the match - lined up a simple conversion in front of the posts. It was the kind of kick that he would pop over without a second thought week in week out. Yet nerves got the better of him and he skewed the ball wide of the posts, losing the cup for his team.

Matched with an iconic snatch of commentary: "He's a poor lad!", Fox went down as one of the sport's (and British Sports') most famous moments; the epitome of the last minute miss.

Which is kind of cruel. Because even criminals have a shot at redemption.

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