Brian Viner: What do Shane Warne and Bobby Davro have in common? Absolutely nothing. I rest my case

The Last Word

Those of you who read about my recent encounter with the Leeds United chairman, Ken Bates, will know that there were a few moments of friction between us. These seemed to trouble his charming wife Susannah, who sought to make sense of them by asking when my birthday falls. When I told her that I was born on 25 October, everything seemed to fall into place. For Susannah it wasn't so much that Ken resented some of my questions, or that I was dissatisfied with some of his answers, more that he is Sagittarius and I am Scorpio.

Like many otherwise sensible people, Susannah Bates swears by astrology, whereas some of us prefer to swear at it. Its near neighbour in the dictionary, astronomy, is an estimable science, but then sometimes a single letter makes all the difference in life, as also exemplified by Mr P Gascoigne (Paul) and Mr B Gascoigne (Bamber). Anyway, the idea that the compatibility of two people might be explained by their star signs is, of course, utter bilge (albeit highly lucrative bilge, if you look at how much money is generated by the horoscope industry).

If anything makes a mockery of the notion that two people born under the same sign of the zodiac must perforce share innate characteristics, it is those lists in daily newspapers of famous people's birthdays, although I confess to being briefly flummoxed on Monday this week, which was the birthday of Shane Warne, Michael Johnson and Goran Ivanisevic, three men of intelligence, charisma and sporting excellence. Imagine how reassured I was to see that it was also Bobby Davro's big day.

My cynicism got a further boost from Marcus Berkmann's marvellous book Ashes to Ashes: 35 Years of Agony (and About 20 Minutes of Ecstasy) Watching England v Australia, which I've been reading ahead of our gig with Angus Fraser at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival today. Marcus, it seems, is as entertained as I am by the business of shared birthdays, and lists a number of cricket-showbiz pairings twinned by actual birth dates. If Mike Denness and Richard Pryor, Geoffrey Boycott and Manfred Mann, Eddie Hemmings and Ivana Trump don't deliver the perfect inswinging yorker to the credibility of astrology, then how about Dickie Bird and Jayne Mansfield?

Blood, sweat, tears and cheers run in sporting families

The sporting record books have no place for the relatives of the leading protagonists, yet in the sporting history books they loom large. Without the influence of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, or sometimes grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, some of the great sporting careers would never have happened, or would have happened very differently. Which is not to say that the influence of family members is always benign. The pathologically pushy parent is a feature of modern tennis scarcely less than the Nike swoosh. And how many boxing careers have been undermined, if not entirely wrecked, by dads or brothers insisting on a piece of the action? Nor have the frères Anelka been an overwhelmingly positive force in the career of Nicolas, and there are further examples too numerous to mention.

On the other hand, sport is rarely more poignant than when the mums and dads get involved. Even those hard-hearts who weren't at all moved by Frank Lampard pointing to heaven when he scored a goal after the death of his mother, surely got a little moist-eyed when Pat Cash clambered through the Centre Court crowd to hug his old dad on winning the men's singles title at Wimbledon. Or blubbed a bit when Jim Redmond left his seat to help his distraught, injured son Derek across the line in the 1992 Olympic 400-metre semi-final, still the ultimate example of a father taking a walk-on role in his son's sporting career.

For sustained positivity, though, it's hard to think of anyone to match Rafa Nadal's Uncle Toni, who this week reaped the greatest of rewards, a career Grand Slam, for keeping his remarkable nephew focused yet grounded. Bravo!

Freddie leaves the crease unbeaten for generosity

It is a small personal boast that I watched Freddie Flintoff's final knock as a professional cricketer not from beyond the boundary, but from just inside it, as a long-on stricken with anxiety lest the great man should hoist the ball heavenwards with me underneath it as it plummeted back to earth.

The occasion, a couple of months ago, was a charity cricket match in aid of Help For Heroes. The actor John Challis, "Boycie" from Only Fools and Horses, skippered my team, and Flintoff the other, though with his crocked knees he was expected to be non-playing captain. He knew, however, how much everyone would love to see him out in the middle, and his marvellous cameo (with a runner) was the only respite he got from signing autographs, which otherwise he did for hours on end, sitting at a trestle table in front of a queue that never seemed to diminish, and not once looking anything other than delighted to be there.

It has been customary these past couple of days to invoke his famous words of consolation to Brett Lee as proof that he is a class act as a bloke, not merely as a cricketer, but let me just add to the evidence his generosity of spirit on a blustery July afternoon in Shropshire.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style