“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically, with the clear implication that “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquillity are more life-enhancing than interesting ones, which from historical perspective usually include disorder and conflict.
So it says in Wikipedia,so it must be true! It also suggests that to be apocryphal,as are so many familiar quotations or sayings. Does the Chinese word for crisis translate as opportunity? I think we’ll find out soon enough,when $200bn of tariffs take effect. I certainly think some of their neighbours will view it as an opportunity;Trump clearly expects China to view it as an insurmountable opportunity which will force them to a negotiating table. I think he’s on to plums.
Indeed,there seem to be few certainties left in life. Football clubs and the world’s biggest companies have taken the saw about death and taxes and tossed it contemptuously aside. The current generation is unlikely to be as well-off as its parents,for the first time since Napoleonic times. And now Eliud Kipchoge has slashed 78 seconds off the world marathon record,raising an interesting conjecture…
I recently found a commerative 50p in my change,for Roger Bannister’s famous four minute mile. That happened in 1954,and was viewed as an impossible goal when the Olympics began 58 years earlier. 27 years later,another British athlete,Seb Coe,had taken over twelve seconds off the record. In 37 years since,only another four seconds has gone.
Similarly in the 800m,his record from 1981 has had less than ONE SECOND shaved from it. Those two bald statistics suggest that athletics is nearing a plateau of achievement,possible improvements mainly through technology only. But a more comprehensive view of progression in athletics is surely via a more comprehensive event-the decathlon.
Daley Thomson was definitely a hero of mine,even though I had little interest in athletics in general. At the end of WW1,the record points total still hadn’t broken through 7500-it would take until 1950 to surpass 8000. Thomson was a magnificent athlete,as were many of his contemporaries. Jurgen Hingsen and Thomson broke each other’s records regularly,with Thomson having the last laugh. He would push the record to 8798 in 1984,a record that stood until 1992. Even now it is only at 9126,less than 4% better.
And yet the human race is considerably taller,fitter,better nourished than the bare improvements above indicate. The big improvements in athletics records seem to have occurred in the forty years post-WWII with only incremental changes since. And although the article I referenced earlier hints at a huge barrier being lowered in the marathon,I’d contend the theory to be correct,that we aren’t improving as much as we think.
But then you look to other sports. Could Alex Higgins or even Steve Davies live with the new wunderkind of the baize? Could Arnold Palmer or Ben Hogan master the new kids who can hit a six-iron further than they could drive? How would the heroes of the ring fare against today’s speedy warriors? Different times indeed,and no less interesting for that-watch some YouTube videos for proof of that. And as for rugby,there’s some big lads out there nowadays!!!
Then we return to our first love,The Beautiful Game. And the reason for this article. Paddy McCourt just had an interview with Simon Ferry. In days gone by,Paddy would have been a legend in The Hoops,revered for his skills and mastery of his art. Instead,his achievements with us were few,our memories fleeting. Because the game has “moved on” with scant room for the tanner-ba’ player and the emphasis on fitness levels. That might actually help explain the number of unfortunate deaths on the field in recent years,as players push their bodies past the possible. Of course,we still get players who remind us of The Beautiful Game,of the stars from our past. Messi,Ronaldo-both of them!-Kaka,Ronaldinho,these players would grace any era. But they are few and far between,and I think the game is much less attractive for that.
Football needs its mavericks,the fans adore them. And in this day and age,they would get managers sacked.