The tragedy of Dunblane brought about finally the realisation that sport does not matter much in the wider scheme of things

If, as it appears, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales has caused people to reflect on the comparative unimportance of sport, a good question is why did this not occur to them at the time of Dunblane and other horrors.

In the enormous reverberation of last weekend's tragic event, it should not be forgotten that other awful opportunities to put sport into proper perspective have either been ignored or soon forgotten.

As I recall it now, there was no suggestion that British sporting activities should be respectfully suspended following the Dunblane murders or when a mountain of coal waste came down to take the lives of more than a hundred children in the Welsh village of Aberfan.

Both events made me weep but the more recent tragedy of Dunblane - and I guess the passing of time has something to do with this - brought about finally the realisation that sport does not matter very much in the wider scheme of things. The terrible news from Dunblane reached me in Las Vegas shortly before a contest for the world heavyweight championship. Given half a chance, I would have abandoned an assignment that no longer had my full attention.

Something similar came to mind when it was decided to continue with the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico only eight months after an earthquake devastated large sections of Mexico City, claiming more than 30,000 victims. Back from assessing the damage to installations, a BBC producer, now retired, told of bodies being torn from the wreckage so that work could begin on the restoration of a television complex. "It made me sick," he said. "To stage the World Cup there is utterly immoral."

There have been many occasions over the years, increasingly so these days, when I have grown irritated and fed up with sport, even though it is a bit presumptuous to be irritated with issues that do not seem to bother many people.

The best advice I was given as a starter in this trade was to take the job seriously - but not myself. I have tried to abide by this, if not always to the satisfaction of previous employers.

Sometimes, this led to quite nasty verbal encounters. Once, in an aggressive tone, and immediately after the match, I was asked to explain how England's football team had managed to lose in Switzerland. The question, in essence stereotypical, was: "How did they manage to lose against a bunch of waiters and clockmakers?"

"You tell me," I replied.

"No, you tell me," came the answer. "You are supposed to be the expert."

A Canadian with whom I was once associated used to say that "ex" is something in the past and "spurt" is a spray that never made it, but that is another story.

What I'm going on about here is something that Hugh McIlvanney summed up perfectly when he described sport as a "magnificent irrelevance". Unfortunately, that truth is all too often ignored in the language of commentary and reporting. Apart from calamities that result in death or serious disability, nothing in sport should be referred to as tragic.

Gareth Southgate's appearance in a television commercial based on his crucial penalty miss in the semi- finals of Euro 96 was objected to by a sports columnist on the grounds that he was capitalising on a national tragedy. This was quite ridiculous.

Success in sport can lift countries and communities but care should be taken to ensure that it is not invested with too much importance. This is made no easier by the studious manner in which some self- anointed people continue to regard sport as evidence of retarded development.

I have never come across a defeat in sport that has justified more than fleeting anguish. In the context of life itself it ought not to matter over much to a spectator, whatever the depth of his or her affiliations.

It did not take the death of Diana, Princess of Wales to remind me that there is a limit to sport's relevance. If I did not know it before, I knew it when more than 40 protesting students were murdered in Mexico City shortly before soaring doves of peace were released there to announce the 1968 Olympic Games.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone