Saturday, 16 July 2011

My top 10 moments in sport

10. 17-17 read the score in the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup final.  Time was almost up and Martin Johnson took the ball a few yards further, to allow Matt Dawson to send the pass to Jonny Wilkinson.  Wilkinson, probably the greatest fly half in rugby history, had his moment and took it without hesitation.  With his weaker foot.  Every Englishman wants to beat the Australians at any sport.  To do it in their back yard with an entire nation screaming at him to miss, Wilkinson showed why he was the best in the world at kicking an egg.

9. 2008 saw the greatest final of all time at Wimbledon because not only did it go the distance.  Not only did it ebb and flow back and forth but it featured the two greatest tennis players of all time.  It was Federer's finesse vs Nadal's raw power.  It was mesmerising to watch and turned out to be the pinnacle moment in possibly the greatest rivalry in tennis history.

8. Michael Phelps is a machine.  To win one gold medal at the Olympics is impressive.  To win two is immense.  To win 14 is just ridiculous!  8 of those were won at the Beijing Olympics, which included an incredibly tense 7th gold, won by just 0.01 seconds.  Swimming may not be the biggest sport in the world but Phelps transcended it to all time star with unparalleled achievements.

7.  At this point, I think I am permitted a little self-indulgence.  Other football fans, especially those who support Liverpool, will accuse me of bias but I think that this moment has greater merit than the Champions League final in Istanbul.  When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prodded home a last minute winner in the Camp Nou to win the Champions League, it completed an incredible treble of the Champions League, the Premier League and the FA Cup.  Sure Istanbul will hold dear memories for LFC but it was an inspired, possibly lucky 6 minutes within 120 minutes that won that trophy, a fact that makes football a great game.  But Solskjaer's goal was the culmination of an entire season's hard work and rewarded with a trophy haul that may never be matched in English football history again.

6. You can argue for ages which is the greatest World Cup goal you have ever seen.  Maradona's goal after the Hand of God.  The endless passing move that Argentina finished with such style.  Michael Owen gliding past the Argentinian defence.  Yet nothing will beat the quarter final of the 1998 World Cup, the Netherlands vs Argentina.  In the 90th min, De Boer pinged a 60 yard pass in Dennis Bergkamp's direction.  The ball sailed over his shoulder at pace, yet he jumped up, got the ball under control, turned the defender and scored a breathtaking goal to take his team through to the semi-finals.  It was one of the most exquisite pieces of instinctive skill you will ever see.

5. The fight that went on to define the career of the most talented boxer ever to enter the ring, The Rumble In The Jungle.  Ironically it is not Muhammed Ali's best fight.  I would argue that was The Thriller In Manilla but this fight took him from great fighter to all time great.  Ali duped Foreman for 7 rounds, only to burst out of the blocks in the 8th, as he saw Foreman flagging and knocked him out.  The great moment is when Foreman starts to go down.  Any other fighter would have slugged Foreman one more time.  Ali didn't bother.  He knew he had won and so did the rest of the world.

4.  It was 16 years in the making but when it happened, it was a moment of Olympic legend.  Steve Redgrave won his first Olympic gold medal in 1984 and had succeeded in winning the gold medal at the next three Olympics.  The Sydney Olympics came around and this was his chance to make it five times in a row.  Simply unheard of.  Yet it was no procession.  In a desperate struggle to the line, the British time took the gold by the smallest of margins but it was the margin that put Redgrave into realms of sporting immortality.

3.  Jose Mourinho took his expensively assembled Real Madrid team to Camp Nou, to take on what everyone was calling "the best team in the world", the mighty Barcelona.  Real Madrid had done all they could to stop their fierce rivals.  The front line cost £150 million alone!  It didn't work.  The world watched as Barcelona put on the perfect footballing display and dismantled the most expensive football team in history.  5-0 read the score at the end and as a curious side note, Lionel Messi, Barca's most potent weapon, wasn't even on the score sheet.  It was a massacre and a work of art all at the same time.

2.  The Ryder Cup is one of my favourite sporting events.  The idea of taking a sport that is very individual and turning it into a team event makes it a bit special.  That way, every match has a value, every hole has a significance and every shot is important.  So when this great event got extended to a fourth day at Celtic Manor, you just had the feeling it was going to be special.  Indeed it came down to the last match, where Graeme McDowell had to win to seal the Ryder Cup.  Sure he enough, he held his nerve and got Europe over the line by half a point in what turned out to be an electrifying and tense finish to the best Ryder Cup ever.

1.  Sometimes a great sporting event is remembered off the back of an incredibly close contest.  Not this one.  The 100m sprint final at the Beijing Olympics featured three men who were not only the fastest in the world at the time but of all time.  Milliseconds should have separated them.  Instead Usain Bolt destroyed them.  At 30m it looked close.  By 60m it was all over and by 80m, Bolt displayed his utter dominance by celebrating before he had even crossed the line.  He smashed the world record at a canter and marked his place in history.  He has since gone on to break other world records, including his own 100m record but nothing has ever matched Bolt's moment in Beijing.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Just Keep Walking

Sometimes, you just need a walk alone to clear your mind.  As I walked away from my home, I contemplated how dark it was on a miserable night.  I should have gone out earlier.  Ah well, I only need a few miles.  I'll just keep walking...

I contemplated what I wanted to do with my life.  I remembered the grand plans I had.  I could be anything I wanted when I was young.  I really wanted to be an actor, mainly because I didn't (and still don't) like myself.  It was nice to escape into any other kind of character.  I didn't like comedic acting too much because I don't think I am funny.  I preferred darker types, not necessarily villains but those who permitted me to be a part of myself that no one else accepts.  The reality was that between people doubting me, parents telling me how I needed a steady job, teachers deciding I wasn't as capable as their favourites and a lack of opportunity, I just let it wear me down.  The world won the day.  As for me, here I am walking along alone.

I had forgotten how steep the hill was outside my estate.  It is way longer than I remember on foot.  I am so out of shape; being stuck behind a desk at work is catching up with me.  I have only walked a mile and I am already getting shin splints.  This hill feels like it is killing me but it should come to an end soon.  I'll just keep walking...

So I didn't become an actor.  I ended up working in an office.  It is soul destroying.  There is little joy to be found in it.  No reward but a mediocre wage at the end.  They point out your mistakes with ferocious zeal and are slow to praise you.  In fact, every bit of praise is accompanied with the phrase "Keep it going" like you have to prove that your industry and professionalism wasn't a flash in the pan.  You see other people promoted because of who they know and not what they know.  Unappreciated, underpaid, overworked and not listened to.  So for now, I have nothing to do except to just keep walking.

It's starting to rain.  Not just spit, it is lumping it down.  It is falling so hard, the splash of each raindrop feels like a small stone impacting on me.  It soaks me in no time.  I feel cold and weary.  Just keep walking...

Out here, in the cold, wet, dark night, I am reminded of how lonely I am.  Not alone, lonely.  You see, the loneliest people can be found in the most crowded of rooms.  Sure, I have friends who I associate with and look out for me but nothing compares with someone you care about above all.  Someone to come home to.  Someone who makes it worthwhile to wake up in the morning for and spend your days doing your best to make them happy because that is what they do for you, just by being themselves and being with you.  I got told that opening up would bring me such a blessing.  Girls love it when a guy is honest about his feelings and unrestrained.  Instead, it turns out that such opening up doesn't bring you that.  It exposes you to pain and hurt that runs so deep that it only exacerbates that lonely feeling.  It robs you of hope.  It causes your dreams to dry up.  It makes you wish you had never bothered.  Loneliness, a cruel and crushing feeling, is at least consistent.  You know your burden but it is only magnified when she says she doesn't want to be with me.  Just got to keep walking...

As I get to the place where I intend to turn around and go back, I slump on the park bench by the bus stop.  I have been walking for several miles now.  My feet ache from shoes not designed to take so much walking.  I can't feel if I am sweating from walking up all these hills because the rain has left me soaked.  I am shivering a bit from the cold.  I really need to get back home, get dry and go to bed.

The problem is I don't want to keep walking.  If I go home, I will go back into that world that has disappointed me so much.  The world that wore me down, made me miserable & grumpy, then left me alone with nothing to aspire to but an improved standard of survival.  I know that I will go back and retire to a comfy bed but then that will seem like a brief moment.  Then I will be awake, having to go to a job I grow to hate more every day I do it.  Then I will come home to whatever distractions I can find that will not remind me that tomorrow I will yet again be a slave to money.

No one to share my world with.  No child to tell that they can be whatever they want to be.  That they shouldn't listen to anyone who doubts them because they are just bitter that they let the world tell them that they couldn't be amazing.  That they couldn't change the world.  Well, they are wrong.  You can be what you want.  You can do something you love.  You should be with someone you love.  Your world should be about those you love and passing it on to the next generation.  It is the dawn on horizon of hope.  A horizon I can't seem to find even though I just keep walking...

The rain drips from my face.  I try to remember if this is what crying feels like.  With no hope comes no feeling.  You crave for that day that someone will just love you for who you are.  You pray for that day to do something great and show the world that it only takes will of a single man to change everything.  You long for that day when those you passed on your hopes and dreams to tells you that they are living them and that they are happy.  I just want to feel the warm sunlight of solace over the horizon of hope.  It isn't there.  It isn't coming.  So I get up and head home.  There is nothing else to do.  Just keep walking...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Zack Hemsey - Music Manna From Heaven

Those who know me very well know that I love music from film soundtracks, trailer scores and inspirational instrumental music.  It has to have an epic feel to it, the kind that gives you goosebumps as it builds to its awe-inspiring climax.  I am always on the look out for new music like that.

If you are wondering what kind of music this means, try searching for Immediate Music, Two Steps From Hell, Groove Addicts or anything by the big Hollywood movie score writers (Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Williams, Klaus Badelt, etc).

But I would like to take this post to specifically give a shout out to Zack Hemsey.  I discovered his music from the Inception movie trailer, appropriately entitled "Mind Heist".  He went on to create remixes of this fantastic piece of music and now has released an album called The Way, available to listen to for free on his Youtube channel.  The simplicity and beauty of this album is powerful, so much so that I found myself just sat here listening to it.  At times, the music felt like it was a soundtrack to different parts of my life.

Lend Zack Hemsey your musical ears.  They will thank you for it.  It is music manna from Heaven!