Like most cricket fans I could listen to Bumble, or David Lloyd as he's sometimes known, for hours.
Not so much for his idiosyncratic phrase-making, his unflagging enthusiasm, or the unique perspective he brings to the game as the only man to have played Test cricket, coached Test cricketers, umpired and commentated; more for his glorious Accrington accent, which, with the greatest of respect, sounds like a plate of tripe and onions would sound, if it could talk.
Anyway, on Thursday I was able to indulge myself, because Bumble came to the Rankin Club in Leominster, the town closest to where I live, and all evening entertained a packed house with his wry insights and marvellous anecdotes. His own sadly abbreviated Test career knew one spectacular high – 214 not out against India in 1974 – and one agonising low – a direct hit in the goolies from Jeff Thomson. He says that in commemoration of that episode in the 1974-75 Ashes he still loses his voice every February, but he didn't tell the Rankin Club faithful what he once told me, that the box he was wearing that day "was one of them pink Litesomes that looked like soap holders. They had holes in them, and the impact inverted the damn thing, and forced one of me knackers through one of the holes. From time to time you hear the announcement, 'Is there a doctor in the ground?' That day they had to send for a welder."
He brought as many tears to my eyes as had been brought to his when he first told me that tale, but of course there is a great deal more to Bumble than a deft touch with an anecdote. He is also, behind the tripe and onions, an unfailingly perceptive judge of cricket, and I sat up when he shared his opinion that Andrew Strauss, rested from the forthcoming Bangladesh tour, might not be England captain much longer. It is Bumble's firm belief that a captain should captain, not take time off citing exhaustion. And he thinks that if Strauss does lead England into the next Ashes series, some of the players might listen to his team talks thinking, "Where were you in Bangladesh?" Still, at least they won't also have Thommo bearing down on them.
Death and glory make an inappropriate match
My mother-in-law, Anne, who lives in south Yorkshire, last week alerted me to a news story in the Barnsley Chronicle, which began: "A plumber has been charged with manslaughter two years after a man died of carbon monoxide poisoning, allegedly because of a badly fitted boiler. Barnsley fan Michael Enwright, 41, of Gordon Street, Elsecar, died on February 18, 2008, days after the Reds had put Liverpool out of the FA Cup."
I've changed the deceased's name and address, because it's bad enough being poisoned without your demise also provoking sniggers, but the Barnsley Chronicle's intro is a classic example of a reporter trying to weave together two unrelated local stories to make a better local story. As Anne observed, was the newspaper implying that poor Mr Enwright's death was crueller because he didn't get to see his team play in the next round, or less cruel because he'd just had the joy of watching a famous win?
Whatever, just a day later, Anne's auntie Jessie died, aged 97. Anne has since been preparing a few facts for the funeral oration and coincidentally finds herself with an intro the Chronicle would applaud. For dear old auntie Jessie was born in 1912, which was, as Jessie herself was fond of reminding people, the year Barnsley won the Cup.
Donovan an ideal poster boy for US football
A few years ago in Los Angeles, as I've confessed before in print, I picked up a man in a bar. As an Evertonian desperate to watch the 8am transmission of a Newcastle v Everton Premier League match, I sought out the only place in town that was open and showing the game, a bar on Sepulveda Boulevard, and the one other person there was an American guy called Ryan, a huge football fan. We got chatting, and as I had a spare ticket to a Dodgers baseball game that afternoon, I invited him to join me, not least so I would have someone to talk me through baseball's many complexities. Anyway, we had a good day out, Ryan and I, and we've since stayed in touch by email.
This week he wrote to say how thrilled he was to have seen a clip of the goal Landon Donovan scored for Everton against Sunderland on Wednesday, for Ryan is a big LA Galaxy supporter, indeed he tipped me the wink that David Beckham was on his way there months before it was announced. But Ryan, unlike most Galaxy fans, hopes that Everton somehow find a way of making the US captain a permanent signing. "He should stay because it's a better league, he'll become a better player, and that's better for the sport in this country and the image of American players in general," he wrote. Amen to that.