In Sport, nothing is forever. You only have to look across the Atlantic, where after 86 years the seemingly eternal "Curse of the Bambino" was lifted from the Boston Red Sox as they won the World Series, while the Washington Redskins - whose last football match before a presidential election had hitherto always indicated whether the incumbent or challenging party would prevail - were finally relieved of their psephological significance. When the Redskins lost against the Green Bay Packers, the runes decreed that President George W Bush would lose too. So much for the bloody runes.
The older you get as a sports nut, the more you realise that the status quo never lasts. I once offered this pearl of wisdom to a footballer of some prominence and he said "Status Quo? Saw them at the NEC. They're sound." Served me right for talking Latin to a guy whose classicism was in his feet.
But the point remains; 20 years ago, nobody but a fool or Nostradamus would have predicted that the West Indian cricket team would within a couple of decades be obliterated by England in Test series both home and away, or that in 2004 there would be fans of Liverpool FC in their late teens who had never seen the League championship trophy paraded at Anfield.
Similarly remote, 25 years ago, was the prospect of a British golfer becoming world No 1, a distinction which in due course would belong to both Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo. And sooner or later, albeit in the sense that a monkey with a typewriter will sooner or later reproduce the works of Shakespeare, even a British woman will win a singles title at Wimbledon. It is beyond doubt.
But there is an increasing realisation, too, that these things cannot be left entirely to the chance that the right sperm will go to work on the right egg. Some champions are born but others are made, and in no sport is this awareness keener than in golf. The whole point of the Faldo Series, the admirable event initiated and backed by the six-times major championship winner, is to winkle out youngsters who have a talent for hitting the ball, and then furnish them with the physical and psychological apparatus they will need if they are to become top players.
It was my privilege recently to play golf with a 17-year-old two-handicapper called John Pleasant, who is a student at a place called The Sports Academy, based in Billericay, Essex. The Sports Academy is a non-profit making organisation which offers two-year modern apprenticeships in sporting excellence (MACE), currently with an emphasis on golf. And if at least one of its graduates does not go on to become a decent tournament professional, I'll eat my visor.
The Sports Academy's marketing director is the former Essex and England cricketer Mark Ilott, who also played with John and me that day, and who, incidentally, told a lovely story about a friend of his, a sometime England spin-bowler who perhaps should remain nameless. This guy started going out with a girl who knew little about cricket but sweetly expressed interest in his bowling repertoire. "You don't really want to know," he said. "No, I do," she insisted. "If I'm going out with you, I want to know all about what you do." So he fetched a cricket ball and showed her how he bowled his leg-break, his off-break, his googly, his flipper. She was fascinated. "And how do you do that one they always say on telly that you're really good at," she asked, guilelessly. "The long hop?"
To return to young John, pleasant by both name and nature, he could not have been a better advertisement for The Sports Academy. Baseball-capped and ear-ringed, he must sometimes curdle the gins and tonic of those watching from the clubhouse window, but he plays beautifully and in the politest possible way, gave Mark and me a thorough tonking.
Youngsters such as John, and the Faldo protégés, are the Open Championship winners and Ryder Cup heroes of the future. As for the nearer future, the European Order of Merit, finalised this week following the Volvo Masters, makes hugely encouraging reading. Of the top-earning 100 golfers in Europe this season, more than a quarter are English and almost half are from the British Isles. Perhaps the time will come when, to give the poor overwhelmed opposition a chance in the Ryder Cup, the old contest will have to revert to the United States v Great Britain and Ireland.
Nothing is forever. Sporting supremacy is a mortal phenomenon; it grows old and it dies. Despite yesterday's extraordinary finish in Bombay, Australian cricketing dominance is still a long, long way from reaching for the Zimmer frame. But, trust me, that time will come.Reuse content