Regular readers will know I'm not a football fan. I did, however, manage to catch the spoilt histrionics of some of the Chelsea players after their draw with Barcelona. It was classic football cretin behaviour and it's one of the reasons I find the sport so offensive. What is the point of having a referee if they're allowed to be abused by morons in such a fashion? Clearly these overpaid hairdressers feel themselves to be so superior to the lowly officials that they can do what they want. Maybe we should call their bluff.
From now on, games should be played with no officials present. It would be hilarious – like allowing them to decorate their own houses without the aid of interior decorators. It would be glorious chaos – they would soon turn on each other demanding that their "people" officiate the match. Soon, each hairdresser would be surrounded by little entourages – squabbling and fighting with other entourages... it would be a smash hit. I'm probably letting my footballing prejudice cloud my judgement – if I'm being honest, I do enjoy a good bout of unsporting behaviour.
Ice hockey is, famously, a series of fights interrupted by a game. The sport itself is pretty dull, but when two lunkheads lock horns, down helmets and start going at each other – it's dynamite. Fighters (sorry players) are always allowed a good 30 seconds bash-time before the officials intervene. Meanwhile, vast swathes of Canadians, normally a passive people, scream "kill, maim, cripple, disfigure" while downing huge vats of Molson beer. I never miss a fight when I'm in Toronto.
I remember watching Wimbledon as a kid – my dad tut-tutting over John McEnroe's outbursts and applauding the ice-cool Bjorn Borg. To me, it was a microcosm of the punk-hippy situation. Borg was the hairy hippy firing off incredibly long guitar solos, while McEnroe was the punk pretender – short and spiky and full of gob. I would pretend to agree with my dad that McEnroe was awful while secretly being totally in awe of him.
He was a left-hander like myself. I could never tell my dad how much I liked McEnroe. I do think he probably guessed when I changed my service action to ape the complicated Mac serve. I would watch with hushed reverence as Mac the Mouth abused line judges, swore at the umpire and then, for a grand finale, demanded to see Alan Mills, the tournament referee.
After lengthy, hushed discussion into walkie-talkies Mills would eventually come on court. By now, Mac would be sitting in a huge sulk, like a big angry baby with no toys left in his pram. My dad would start making motions to turn the TV off in disgust. I would have to attempt to distract him by asking some technical question about foot-faults while keeping an eye on the action. Eventually Mac would be placated, return to the court and serve three aces in a row.
Years later I would meet McEnroe in Lake Louise in Western Canada. We were both at the same "celebrity winter sports" event. I approached him gingerly at the bar in the evening.
"Could I get a photograph with you, John?" This was a big deal for me – I've never asked anyone for a photo with them – it's so naff, but this was my childhood hero. "Fuck off," replied the Mac. I wandered off in delight – Mac the Mouth had told me to fuck off... Who said that you should never meet your heroes?
My dad and I never spoke about it but my admiration for Super Brat was to be the first of our subsequent great divides. He eventually went off tennis and retreated into the safer arms of cricket. Cricket rarely gets out of hand, although I can remember a fine bit of finger-pointing at a Pakistani umpire by Mike Gatting which my dad watched in abject horror. I think the Barmy Army were not to his liking either, but he realised that the world was changing.
Cricket could be livened up a bit by taking a leaf out of the ice hockey book. It might help sell the sport to North America. Just imagine a huge pitched fight in the centre of Lord's. Everyone would rush back from the bars to watch the action. Dickie Bird could be brought out of retirement and become a special "dispute" umpire. Forget Twenty20, this is surely the future. Greco-Roman cricket – you heard it here first.
The crazy tweets of Andy Murray...
I'm back on Andy Murray's Twitter list and just in time for hot news on the exciting world of tennis. "Where do you go with forfeits after someone's gone out for lunch with their clothes on back to front?" writes Murray. Where, indeed? More next week.Reuse content