Sport: The art of remembering what matters most

WHEN YOU put the milk bottles out at night, and the keen air sharpens your senses, and you glance up to a scythe of moon and a dusting of stars, it is only natural to think: how tiny we are in the vastness of the universe. How strange this life is.

And yet, when you step back and shut the door behind you, what other thoughts crowd in? If he comes for the milk bill tomorrow, we're talking about a post-dated cheque. What would have happened if Cole hadn't followed up? Lightbulbs and cat litter. Lightbulbs, cat litter, and find chequebook. Surely the referee would have given Yorke a penalty?

Being humbled by the cosmos is like staring into the sun - not something you can spend too much time on. Instead, the mind veers away to other concerns. Which is where the real problems begin.

If I could concentrate my mental resources on useful projects, such as remembering where I put the car keys, remembering not to leave the newspapers by the front door because the cat pisses on them, and, oh yes, remembering where I left my chequebook - if I could master even these small accomplishments, my life would be easier.

Even better if I could store useful information in my head. How many stopcocks are there in the house, and where are they? Which fuses correspond to which lights? What is my current tax coding? Where, exactly, is the garden fork? Did we lend it to anybody, and if so on what basis?

That advertisement with the challenging questions in thick black type which crops up on the front of newspapers - do you forget names, people, faces? - actually, I don't recall the details - well, it rings a bell. That accompanying picture of a baffled young man who looks like someone stumped for an answer on a 1950s American quiz show. I identify with him.

A psychologist writes: This problem occurs because the subject does not wish to take on adult responsibilities and engage with adult patterns of behaviour.

The subject responds: Not true. I don't take any pleasure in being inefficient. It simply wastes my time and prevents me doing other things which are more enjoyable. And even those things are adversely affected.

I have often thought it would be nice to remember poetry - even accepting the obvious risks of becoming one of those people who remembers poetry. To be able to call upon an apt quote when the occasion requires would be... well... I would like, when the occasion requires, to be able to call upon an apt quote.

I once spent several hours trying to commit to memory a poem by Louis MacNiece, The Sunlight on the Garden, because, basically, I liked it. A colleague of mine with a particularly well-stocked mind spent several... pints, actually... trying to coach me in my task.

And, for a while, it worked. I had consciously enriched my mental store. I had added something of real value. But the words slipped away like... well... they slipped away.

Yet some things do lodge in the space between my ears. They fall into two broad categories.

The first is pop tunes and lyrics. Especially - and perversely - those I have heard my children singing over breakfast, or late at night when they should be asleep. These songs are usually associated with a mental picture of a group of strutting youths with body piercing - or an unnaturally mature 15-year-old thrusting her pelvis at the television cameras.

The second, thank God, is sport. I may not be able to remember poetry, but I can recall certain sporting moments with the utmost clarity, and I can recall the emotion of them.

Frank Lampard Snr, who hardly ever scored, jigging around a corner flag after scoring for West Ham in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

Peter Elliott actually winning the title his talent merited at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, accelerating away from the Kenyans with a broadening grin. Arthur Ashe concentrating his willpower at the side of Wimbledon's Centre Court before finishing off the new brat on the block, Jimmy Connors.

Life is full of mysteries. But these are the kind I find myself dwelling on. Why didn't every England footballer at the last World Cup practice penalties as a matter of course? Why did West Ham sign Iain Dowie? Even more puzzlingly, why did they buy him back after they'd sold him? (I've read Harry Redknapp's reasons, and I'm still not convinced.) Why does David Ginola wear a vest? What does Dennis Wise do for an encore?

And all this week, there has been another one nagging away at me. What would have happened if Cole hadn't followed up? Would the referee have given Dwight Yorke a penalty?

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness