Brian Viner: Turning back clock to Borg’s five-star show is irresistible

The Last Word
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The Independent Online

Today, ever fond of a paradox, we at The Last Word complete our look forward to all the looking back we will be encouraged to do in 2010.

Last week, we covered the months January to June, so let's now start with 5 July, the 30th anniversary of one of the epic tennis matches, the five-set final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe that yielded the Swede's fifth consecutive, and last, Wimbledon title. On 27 July it will be 20 years since another sporting epic, Graham Gooch's remarkable knock of 333 against India at Lord's. His 123 in the second innings made him the first man in the history of Test cricket to score a triple-century and a century. How England could use that kind of batting in Johannesburg right now.

Returning to 1980, it was quite a summer. On 1 August it will be 30 years since Seb Coe found spectacular redemption, having lost the Olympic 800 metres final to Steve Ovett six days earlier, by winning 1500 metres gold. Two landmark birthdays fall later in the month. Alan Shearer, once the tormentor of centre-halves, now the tormentor of discerning Match of the Day viewers, hits 40 on the 13th, while three days later Jeff Thomson, still reckoned by an old adversary, Bob Willis, to have been the quickest bowler of all time, turns 60.

If nobody has ever delivered a bouncer quite like Thommo, who ever delivered an aperçu like John Arlott? That summer of 1980 had its sadnesses as well; the peerless Arlott gave his last commentary on 2 September. On 4 September, it will be 20 years since football's new "professional foul" law was first invoked in the top division with the brandishing of a red card. The player sent off? Manchester United's Steve Bruce.

The same month sees the 50th anniversary of a more significant football first: on 9 September it will be half a century since Blackpool v Bolton Wanderers became the first league match televised live. As for cup football, on 12 September it will be 125 years since Arbroath established a record that endures today, beating poor old Bon Accord, from Aberdeen, 36-0 in the Scottish Cup. The Arbroath centre-forward John Petrie scored 13 of them, and another Scotsman had a similarly memorable day a century later. On 15 September it will be 25 years since Sam Torrance holed the putt that reclaimed the Ryder Cup from the United States for the first time since 1957.

Back to great Aussie cricketers and great broadcasters, but this time a man who fits both categories: on 6 October Richie Benaud turns 80, doubtless with the same panache with which he once turned a cricket ball. And back, too, to great British middle-distance runners: Steve Cram passes 50 on 14 October.

Three days later, it will be 150 years since golf's first Open Championship was contested at Prestwick. Willie Park was the winner; only eight men took part. And four days after that, the cricket world has further cause to crack open the champagne, even if not everyone feels that Geoffrey Boycott's 70th is cause for celebration. Joining him a couple of days later on three score years and 10 is (outside Yorkshire) an even bigger sporting icon: Pele.

On 29 October it will be 50 years since one Tunney Hunsaker became a footnote in sporting history, as the first boxer to lose a professional fight to Cassius Clay, the future Muhammad Ali. And the following day, Diego Maradona, the only man to rival Pele as the greatest footballer to draw breath (please don't write in, those of you who would award that distinction to George Best), makes it, somehow or other, to 50. Exactly a month later, on 30 November, Gary Lineker catches up.

One of Lineker's claims to sporting fame is that he has racked up centuries in three sports: more than 100 goals in football, several century breaks on the snooker table, and a ton at Lord's. A keen cricket fan, he will surely be aware that, just a fortnight after he was born, occurred what many still consider to have been the most thrilling Test match of all, the famous tie at Brisbane between Richie Benaud's Australians and the West Indies of Sobers, Worrell, Ramadhin and Valentine.

Finally, fittingly, the last notable anniversary of 2010 also takes us back the furthest. On 18 December it will be 200 years since championship belts became part of pugilism. The first one was presented to the bare-knuckle fighter Tom Cribb – who (with a bit of help from the crowd) had beaten the freed American slave Tom Molineaux at Copthall Common, Sussex – by boxing's most noteworthy fan, King George III.

Easy target Tiger is not fair game

An iron-pumping Tiger Woods, bare of torso, steely of gaze, looks out from the cover of the February issue of Vanity Fair, which will doubtless compel many sports fans to shell out £4.20, as it did me in Piccadilly station, Manchester, on Wednesday. But be warned.

While the photographs by Annie Leibowitz, taken before Tiger's fall from grace, are diverting enough, the accompanying article is a thoroughly nasty exercise in schadenfreude, based on the highly questionable notion that we are all, scarcely less than poor, wronged Elin, victims of the golfer's serial infidelities. Vanity Fair is a fine magazine, but this is well below par.