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  • Writer's picturePatrick Mills

Sport

It’s everywhere, you can’t move for news about the premier league, England losing in the cricket and in the rugby. Endless fixtures, transfers, acts of great excitement, personal bests. And there seems to be a world cup every five minutes, and to cap it all there is the eye watering sums of money to keep it all going and feed our addictions.






Growing up I wasn’t terribly interested in sport, but somehow Chelsea got in my mind when we lived in Italy - I think I might have been seven - anyway I used to sing Blue is the colour in the car.


Being despatched to boarding school knocked out any enthusiasm for sport - it was always cold, always muddy, house matches, school matches, athletics, gym, crashing defeats, bloody noses and the changing rooms and showers (more ghastly than you could imagine- deep heat, towel flicking, lost kit etc etc).


I remember being in a cricket team that was all out for two - a bye and a leg bye, the headmaster was appalled, and admonished the team in front of the whole school at assembly.


Another horrific memory was if caught wearing pants under sport shorts (all games, all weathers), the master in charge would make the boys take their pants off while the game carried on as they awkwardly tried to maintain modesty. It was very humiliating - the other boys did their best to ensure maximum embarrassment and a muddy bottom. Completely unimaginable now.


As my teens progressed so did the violence, particularly in rugger (rugby). I was put in the scrum at the beginning, which was a hellhole of terror. Sweaty, smelly, muddy. Never again. Then I got rather lanky so was made to go on the wing and tackle.


But it was the source of my only piece of sporting fame.


We played endless house matches. Our house, particularly my year was rubbish at rugby. At around 16 years old our best result was a draw, in every other rugger match we got thrashed.


On a freezing midweek day with relentless drizzle my team was pinned back on our try line (is that a thing?) for most of the game, until I spotted the opposition were constantly getting the ball out from the scrum so they could run at us and hopefully score.


Both teams three quarter lines were pretty flat (I think that’s the right term), we were backs to the wall, the opposition pressing us back all the time. Then suddenly the ball came out of the melee and I took off as fast as I could, caught the ball just being passed down the 3/4s and ran the length of the field and scored a try between the posts.


It was exhilarating.


I have no memory about the rest of the game, but despite my heroics we probably lost - again.


Time marched on and I tried to support Bristol City (football) - they were in the old first division and we lived in the west country, it all seemed quite appropriate but it didn’t tick any boxes for me.


I went to Kings College in London to study Geology and was taken to Chelsea against Fulham by Rob, a long time friend and Chelsea fan. It changed everything for me. It was raining and cold, but the Chelsea fans surged up and down the terraces singing songs, swearing at the ref and going beserk when we scored. Chelsea won 5-1 or 5-3, .


And I was introduced to a set of heroes: Eddie Neidzwieke, Kerry Dixon, Pat Nevin, Nigel Spackman, Paul Canoville, Colin Pates, Micky Droy, John Bumstead, David Speedie et al.


Very quickly I went matches more often. I was hooked. Since then I have seen them win countless trophies and play some fabulous football. The heroes changed into Gullit, Vialli, Wise, Zola, Lampard, Terry, Hazard, Poyet, Gallas, Jose Mourinho, Ballack, Deco - the list goes on for ever


During the summer I was taken to test matches at Lord’s by my uncle Mark - I was completely absorbed and quickly got to grips with Wisden, followed the progress of the county championship through the sports pages of The Times and spent hours looking at scorecards. Cricket is hard to understand, but once you get it, it is scintillating.


Importantly it is a nice day out in an agreeable venue, the sun shining (most of the time), you watch a bit, enjoy a few beers and a chat with your mates.


I have followed Somerset for years, and still love the memories of Botham, Richards and Garner. Colin Dredge, Brian Rose and dasher Denning were the local players.


It is more raucous now as Ben Stokes thrashes the ball to all parts of the ground and out if it. it remains great fun, beers still flow if you can put up with queuing for most of the day. But I do miss the days when you could take alcohol into the ground. At there Benson & Hedges final Somerset v Notts, the lads from the west country came armed with 24 packs of cider and lager - they were in fine voice by 11am.


Live is always better than on the telly. But on the road or away from the screen radio provides a very special way of enjoying sport (the bowlers holding the batsman’s Willey, famously said on Test Match Special by the commentator.


My favourite example of test match commentary was between England and Australia and it entertained us in the car for our entire journey back from holiday in France (bar a 90 minute ferry crossing). It was nail biting. I forget who sealed the game for England, but the Aussies need five runs to win, England one wicket. As we drive down the hill into Deptford, who ever it was took the last Australian wicket. Howzat! I nearly crashed the car.


Bu it has all changed for me.


Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s my love of sport (watching not playing: I was always hopeless) started to dwindle. I didn’t notice much early on, I carried on watching sports regularly but I became aware of a slight fear of crowds, particularly if there was a bottleneck and the crowd squashed up.


This year I have been to some cricket but little else. My fear of being in crowds has increased (I feel the same when I go up west in London), and my general interest has fallen sharply, I have not watched a minute of either the cricket or rugby world cups going on now. I find it all quite boring: cricket, football, rugby, tennis, golf, athletics, tiddly winks - the whole gamut. Well not quite, I went to watch ice hockey in Streatham - fast skilful and frequently violent it was exciting. The crowd still niggled me. Something definitely not right.


I think part of this massive turn around is fuelled by the massive amounts of money sloshing around, not really knowing who plays for Chelsea or anyone for that matter - it feels distant and uncomfortable. Parkies has to take its share of the blame. I think it is an apathetic reaction, which I wrote a bit about in an earlier piece titled Ennui, getting going, getting excited, rousing myself from ennui is a daily struggle.


I was telling my sport mad chum Gus about this over lunch and how weird I found it - he suggested I write about. And sure enough it does make more sense to me. So much of Parkies is odd like that.


Who knows if I will ever regain the enthusiasm, but I have plenty to do, and I witnessed some wonderful and exciting moments at Lord’s, Taunton, The Oval, Stamford Bridge, Dulwich Hamlets, even the odd moment of rugger, on TV, on the radio and online.
















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3 Comments


Sarah
Sarah
Oct 28, 2023

My passion for football was reignited with the Women's World Cup. We've been to a couple of matches at Stamford Bridge, and it is a really pleasant calm atmosphere when the women's team play. We also had a great time a couple of months watching Zola play at a fundraising game.

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Guest
Oct 25, 2023

5-3 it was. A fabulous game. Glory days. Dixon 2 and I think it was nevins debut. Rob G

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Guest
Oct 24, 2023

It’s striking how your interest in sport has gone from anti, to pro and back again. The experience of sport at school must kill it for so many people - I hated rugby and football, but was on the school team for swimming and athletics. My favour with the PE teacher and my peers followed the seasons. I’ve never been one for live sport though - I like having the option of being able to do something else. I don’t get the ice hockey thing though, or any sport that hides the protagonistS face and feelings. It looks too much like armour, which makes sport look like war which I suppose is what it is to some extent. Maybe you’ve…

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