Oii ref! – Good effort

I’ve done it. I’m not altogether proud of myself. I was loud and abrasive too. But I’d probably do it again.

I have bashed refs. Not physically mind you and most often from the comfort of my sofa, at times with little provocation, except in the case of one particular rugby union official who is referred to as ‘thon man’ in a tone of familiar disgust. (Don’t encourage me; we’ve lost before we’ve started with thon man blowin’).

I’m reminded of this highly contagious social pastime with the news that World Cup final referee Howard Webb is to take on Colchester versus Shrewsbury on Saturday. That’s in League One, the league below the Championship, which is below the Premier league and a long way from Soccer City. No disrespect to either club but most football fans, commentators or people with eyes would concur that this isn’t the Big game of the weekend (I realise that the Premier league isn’t the be all and end all of football. I’m personally hoping that Lisburn Distillery don’t get a sudden epiphany of Best-like guile and slide a few past Dungannon Swifts in an attempt to go down in the comfort of having reached the hallowed 20 points mark. Aside from this, QPR-Stoke, and West Ham-Wigan are the others to look out for).

It seems every week on Match of the Day the uniformed collection of pundits bemoan how they are left talking about the performance of the officials rather than players. Think Mark Halsey a few weeks ago. He failed to see the tackle made by Callum Mcmanaman who rammed his studs through the knee of his opponent but went unpunished, not even a raised eyebrow. Halsey was also relegated to a League One match in lieu of this incident.

The two examples mentioned are professionals; they both have plenty of experience in the game. Even in spite of this, they made mistakes. Of course they have. Sport at this level (League One upwards!) is fluid, fast and not exact. I’ve recently taken up umpiring my sport and although I was confident I understood the rules since I’ve played for years, when I had the whistle between my lips I started to doubt the knowledge I have accumulated. The more I’ve done it, the better I’ve become but it isn’t as natural as deciphering the rules as a player. I don’t enjoy umpiring in the same way I do playing the game but it has increased my understanding of the sport.

Maybe this is the crucial element that casual observers don’t have. It always easier from the sidelines. Competitive sport can’t happen without the officials and they want to be the best they can be. Do you think Howard Webb wants to hear Alan Hanson drone on about how “unbelievable” his decisions are? Not all the players get things right 100% (or 110%) of the time, we shouldn’t berate the officials of they don’t either.

They are out there trying, perhaps their motivation is an inflated sense of self-importance, maybe they are no good at the game themselves or they might just enjoy getting out of the house and away from the family. And, as they say in my neck of the woods, God loves a trier (although, a Christian friend of mine recently revealed he was fairly sure this isn’t a direct quote from the Holy Bible. He may benefit from reading a different version!).


Sports Toughest Man

Over the weekend just past we saw many examples of awesome physical beings demonstrating their attributes in their chosen sporting amphitheatre.

An early instance was one that couldn’t be missed if you have got up from the sofa, left the telly buzzing, put the kettle on and whipped up your own half-time pies from scratch such is the sheer size of Everton’s Victor Anichebe. The man-mountain, who scored an equaliser against Aston Villa in the Premier league, surely must be fuelled on a diet of medium-rare prized Hereford steaks and an endless supply of spinach (although the Nigerian bears a closer resemblance to Bluto rather than Popeye!)

The 6 Nations kicked off on in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon when big men were not difficult to come by. Despite missing upwards of ten of their preferred playing squad the Welsh could still rely on front row hard man Adam Jones, who settles the scales at around 120kg. His opposite number however, Irelands Mike Ross, beat him to the pies, not the tries making the aforementioned overworked scales squeal under a daunting 127kgs.

I make no apology for pointing out that rugby players are fit. Close observation/ ogling of the Italian and French players backs up this scientific precision. Each side are a fit, strong, sculpted collection of 1st XV Erotes godliness.  And they have stamina, yes, I admire their stamina.

Then there was a whole other category of gym-moulded individuals in the form of the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. American footballers force their physicality on the world through constant posing and very nearly tighter than skin-tight lycra. Although they wear a considerable amount of body armour so it ain’t all a precious contribution from the almighty above, even if some of them believe they are Gods gift. The Super Bowl is an over the top celebration of a game that essentially only requires one man per team to have a skill while the rest either shove people out of the way or run a lot, usually in a straight line. They love to show off and the public love to see them brag.

Tonight will see the focus shift to a sportsman with immense physical capability, the ability to endure pain and agony like no other, to keep going when he has long since been written off, to get back up when he has been knocked down, beaten, bruised and trampled. All this on a diet of jelly babies and sugary tea. Champion jump jockey Tony McCoy has suffered for his sport. He has fractured his T12 vertebrae, shattered two others, has metal strips in his spine, broken both shoulder blades, ankles, cheekbones, ribs, a wrist, a leg, collar bone, fingers and teeth.

A mud splattered A P McCoy at Worcester races

McCoy at Worcester races (Photo credit: gordon2208)

A sportsman doesn’t have to be pumped, amped and ripped like a Ken doll on steroids. He doesn’t have to flaunt his physical attributes in your face like a shirtless Ronaldo. Jockeys are usually small and they have to make certain weights to get the rides on the best horse. McCoy is 5ft 10ins and around 10 stone 4lbs (he has ridden at 10 stone), although the addition of steel plates, nuts and bolts holding his joints together might add a few pounds.

A different breed – The life of a jump jockey, is on BBC radio 5 Live tonight at 7.30pm. Listen to hear the story of a sportsman who is a physical enigma.