I'm with my father when it comes to sport

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I wonder if you can have too much jubilation. You go to bed to the sound of crowds hosanna'ing the monarch and you wake to English football fans partying outside your bedroom window. Hurrah to Her Majesty and another hurrah to the boy in the mohican. Next day you're hurrahing again because the most fearsome boxer in the world has been flattened by a gentle giant with a British passport.

I wonder if you can have too much jubilation. You go to bed to the sound of crowds hosanna'ing the monarch and you wake to English football fans partying outside your bedroom window. Hurrah to Her Majesty and another hurrah to the boy in the mohican. Next day you're hurrahing again because the most fearsome boxer in the world has been flattened by a gentle giant with a British passport.

Ropy accent and inane mannerism, acquired in some foreign place, of referring to himself in the third person, but a British passport's a British passport. Still got a hurrah left in you? Then let's hear it for the Irish, putting three past those footballing giants, Saudi Arabia. Huzza, huzza, huzza!

It's like spending too much time at sea and finding, when you hit dry land, that everything's still moving. Even when there's no one cheering, cheering is all I can hear. A couple of days ago I thought I was being cheered in my shower. Just the pipes, but for all the world it was as though I had a hundred fans in there with me, roaring every time I soaped. The idea is not entirely preposterous. Though no longer athletic in the Leni Riefenstahl sense, I suspect I am still a sight of some ruined magnificence – like the tomb of Ozymandias – when I lather. Worth a shout or two, all things considered. But I am not a fool: I know when my ears are playing tricks on me.

It will be good when we revert to losing and can enjoy some peace and quiet again.

In the meantime the festivities are making me melancholy. My father, methinks I see my father. Maybe jubilation enjoins memories of fathers on men whose fathers are no longer alive, causing us to remember them with peculiarly fervent longing. Memories of being hoisted aloft on strong shoulders to see a cup presented or a royal personage drive by. Lift me, daddy. We hug our male friends every time a goal goes in, and maybe that's a substitute for our earliest same-sex embraces. Enfold me, daddy. Mothers make the world safe for us, blinding us on the breast. A father's grip might be just as sure, but he holds us out towards the naked flame.

I have a friend my age who heaves his six-month-old son on to his chest and takes him into the shower with him. It would seem the baby loves it. How could he not? I love it for the baby. "My mother groaned, my father wept/ Into the dangerous world I leapt" – no weeping in this instance. Into the dangerous watery world they leap together. Infinitely touching, not to say biblical, I find this – the patriarch Abraham, full of years, making a great feast of the unexpected gift of fatherhood. Age apart – and my friend's not that old – it's stirring. An elemental bond, sealed elementally.

But then as I've explained, when it comes to fathers I am myself all water at the moment. On top of everything else it is the 10th anniversary of my father's death. Ten years, fled like a dream. Ten years in which much has happened for me, and nothing has happened for him. As always, my mother rings to make sure I know it's Yahrzeit, the day to remember him by, as calculated by the Jewish calendar. The Jews commemorate the dead with candles. Man is a flame, the flame is extinguished. You can't fault the imagery. So we keep it simple, the Yahrzeit candle a mere deposit of wax in a miserable methodistical little glass, guaranteed to burn for 24 hours and then go out with a dead sizzle, like hot oil escaping down a sink. This at least you do not confuse with the sound of crowds cheering a penalty.

And would he have been a fatherly sort of father, my father, this last week or so? Hard to say. I doubt he'd have lifted me up to see the Queen or bought me a flag to wave or had much to say about Rio Ferdinand. Lennox Lewis knocking out Mike Tyson, though, might have got him going. He'd have admired that final punch. "Sheesh – you wouldn't have wanted to be on the end of that, eh Howard?" he'd have said, by implication returning the question – not what sort of companionably male father he, but what sort of companionably male son I. And we'd both have known the answer to that.

His one true sporting passion was wrestling. "For God's sake, dad," I used to jeer, catching him biting his knuckles in front of the box, "they aren't touching each other." "That's how it looks to you," he'd say, "because you don't understand the science."

The science wasn't all he was in it for. What he really loved was needle. In every wrestling bout, he reckoned, there was a moment when needle entered and the play-acting gave way to genuine anger. "Now it really is needle," he'd say, rubbing his hands, and had the house gone up in flames around him, he would not have noticed.

He had a weak heart, else he might have become a wrestler. He had the build for it. As it was, he settled for judo, buying himself what looked like hessian pyjamas and a square of coconut matting, upon which, because he had no other opponent, he'd pin my mother. "That's a waza-hari," he'd say. "Three points to me."

It was her idea that he join a club. But then came his heart operation. "No more judo for you," the doctor warned. Just to be on the safe side my mother confiscated his outfit. But after he died we found a new one under the mattress, together with a 4th degree black belt – a yodan – three higher than the shodan he had when he told us he'd quit.

Briefer than a candle, man's life. So you might as well burn yourself as out as wait for the wind to do it. His philosophy. To which I'll raise a cheer on Father's Day.

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