Brian Viner: Never too old for a fight to the bitter end

The Last Word
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The Independent Online

In the sporting arena it is deeds that thrill, not words, and yet the deeds wouldn't be as memorable without the words. Hungary's 6-3 demolition of England at Wembley in 1953 is rightly remembered as one of the most seismic footballing performances of all time.

But for those of us who weren't there, who weren't even twinkles in anyone's eye, what best evokes the humiliation at the feet of the Magnificent Magyars is not the old newsreel footage but the famous line from Geoffrey Green of The Times, describing the brilliant trickery by Nandor Hidegkuti that sent England's captain, Billy Wright, rushing past him "like a fire engine going to the wrong fire".

More often, though, it is snatches of radio and television commentary that fuel the memories: Ken Wolstenholme declaring the 1966 World Cup final all over, Cliff Morgan rhapsodising as Phil Bennett started and Gareth Edwards finished the epic 1973 try for the Barbarians against the All-Blacks; Peter O'Sullevan calling home Red Rum ahead of Crisp in the same year's Grand National. And, the following year, Harry Carpenter blowing a gasket as Muhammad Ali won the Rumble in the Jungle. "Ali, at times now, looks as though he can barely lift his arms up. Oh, he's got him with a right hand! He's got him! Oh, you can't believe it. And I don't think Foreman's going to get up. He's trying to beat the count. And he's out! Oh my God, he's won the title back at 32!"

I thought again of dear old Harry's words that steamy night in Kinshasa on reading this week that Roy Jones Jnr and Bernard Hopkins are to fight in Las Vegas in April, giving Hopkins the chance of revenge almost 17 years after he lost a unanimous decision to Jones for the vacant IBF middleweight title. "I am going to end this thing between me and Roy once and for all," said Hopkins. He is 45, Jones is 41. The notion that 32 represents the twilight of a boxing career belongs to a long-gone era, more's the pity.

Crouch revelation puts Terry scandal in perspective

On their TalkSport radio show on Wednesday, Jason Cundy and Darren Gough ventured their jointly held opinion that the John Terry affair has received far too much media coverage. How could we all get so worked up about Terry when there's an inquiry going on into a war that has cost tens of thousands of lives, was the essence of their argument. Where was the sense of proportion? What do Terry's misdemeanours really mean in the scheme of things? And on and on they went, brilliantly fashioning an hour's radio discussion on the Terry business out of the supposition that the media really ought to turn their attention elsewhere.

Indeed, the variety of ways in which the media have devoured this story over the past week has become almost the most interesting thing about it, from Janet Street-Porter declaring in the Daily Mail that she won't be buying Daddies sauce ever again (an act of sacrifice, with nary a thought for her sausage sandwich, in protest at Terry being made Daddies sauce "Dad of the Year"), to the red-top columnist who suggested that certain footballers probably wouldn't be as sexually delinquent if they weren't paid so much to do a job which affords them such a lot of spare time.

This thesis is a little like asserting that the Pope wouldn't be quite so religious if he wasn't Catholic, but it does remind me of something Peter Crouch said a few weeks ago, in a programme about footballers and their money. Crouch was asked what he would have been if he hadn't been a footballer. "A virgin," he replied.

On my bike to Twickers? I think I'll pass

Fascinating as this afternoon's England v Wales Six Nations match promises to be, I'll be happier watching it on the box than sitting in the stadium, for the simple reason that getting to and from Twickenham is a logistical nightmare. Following the Australia game in the autumn I used just about every form of transport bar a penny-farthing and a Boeing 747 to get back into central London, and my mood as the journey reached its second hour wasn't helped by my friend Dominic, who observed that the last time he saw an international at the Stade de France he was, within 25 minutes of the final whistle, enjoying steak-frites at the Gare du Nord.

Divided States of Merseyside

At Anfield, the "Yanks Out" banners are the least of the abuse routinely directed at Messrs Gillett and Hicks, while exuberant cries of "USA, USA!" have resounded round Goodison Park in recent weeks, with the impressive Landon Donovan, of Ontario, California, joining Tim Howard from North Brunswick, New Jersey, at Everton. But when the 213th Merseyside derby unfolds at Anfield this lunchtime, those "USA" chants from the visiting fans will be deployed more in provocation than support.

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