Death and Lessons: How I Learned Where My Love of Sport Came from
Today my grandmother died.
It’s funny, because after being told earlier tonight that Margaret ‘Orma’ Collin died aged 93, I’ve been watching a hell of a lot of sport.
I know I should be in bed, but suddenly I’ve seen the light.
For years, I’ve tried to work out why I love sports so much when both my parents couldn’t really give two craps about the future of Queens Park Rangers Football Club or whether the greatest cricket player in the world, Sachin Tendulkar, is going to hit his 100th century in England this summer.
Now I’ve realized it.
My grandparents really loved sport.
Grandpa was a university-level rugby player before a serious injury nearly paralysed him. He was a damned good skier and tennis player. He loved his ice hockey – which helped relations with the locals when you’re living out in the picturesque Hudson, Quebec for 20-odd years.
My grandfather, before age and strokes overtook his once-strong body, loved to explain to me sports and sporting tactics. I remember him waxing lyrical about John Aldridge’s goal for Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup Final, telling me how well constructed the goal was. That’s what happens when extremely good engineers fall in love with spectator sport – suddenly goals become buildings. If Grandpa had been with me for Queens Park Rangers’ visit to me at Cardiff City, he would have reconstructed all four goals of the 2-2 draw, and probably told me that while the first two goals of the game seemed wonderful, they were the product of bad defending.
He loved watching rugby, from watching my younger brother play some of his matches in junior school to watching the Six Nations. Although he was an Englishman, he absolutely loved the way the French played rugby. He loved their flair and their never-ending decisions to play the beautiful game. And when the French are on form, it is beautiful.
And as for my grandmother? She loved tennis and skiing. Although I’ve got nothing to tell you about her skills on court or on slope (although my mother’s beautiful style in both sports were taught by my grandmother!), I know that when it came to big-time tournaments, she loved Wimbledon. She loved watching "The One That All Tennis Players Want To Win" and the hallowed grass, and she loved the beautiful sound of racket and ball and gasps and applause. I remember as a kid hanging out with the family watching the 1987 Lendl-Cash match at Wimbledon, as well as the 1991 French Open final between Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. She didn’t want Cash or Agassi to win, on account of their hair. Personally, I liked the jazzy Nike look of Agassi, but I wasn’t about to tell her!
And me? I’m a pretty competent skier and an OK tennis player. I played rugby at an exceptionally crappy level and I can watch it on TV without knowing what’s going on. I go to many Queens Park Rangers games and waste far too much time during the day worrying about their future. I also do it for Penn State football and New York Yankees baseball. Give me a professional sports game, other than lawn bowling or curling, I’ll generally watch it or at least be a little interested by it.
And thanks to my grandparents who are now back together up in the sky, I know where I got it from.
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