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Monday, August 01, 2005

Frailty, Thy Name is Woman
(But Fealty, Thy Name May Not Be Man Either !)
Over the past fortnight, two sporting incidents, nay, revelations have had me gasping for air. Both involve sportsmen of the highest echelons and their future absence may prove apocalyptical for their respective teams. Vastly differing reasons but their import will cast heavy clouds of despondence among those left behind.

Graham Thorpe, it must be said, was no Uncle Fred in the Springtime. Doughty, accumulative, combative were the phrases one used when alluding to him and any pretense to elegance and panache was incidental. He was an obdurate wall of resilience at two-drop and especially in the Ashes was one of the few Pommies who could look McGrath, Warne and company in the eye and soldier on. He averaged consistently over 40 in the Ashes and though I think he missed the last Ashes, his contribution in lost causes, especially against Australia was typical of the man-plucky, pugnacious , unheralded and utilitarian. Not the first cricketer to be besieged by marital strife, he had kept away for increasingly long periods and the selectors gave him the prompt heave-ho on learning his intention on not to tour again.

( I have no axe to grind against the selectors, who have in their wisdom, picked instead a giant lumberjack, who among other virtues, is a non-native, has the stance of an unenthusiastic elephant who has been ordered at gunpoint not to leave till he successfully hatched the microscopic egg of a humming bird,and a cassata striation where most humans have monochromic hair )

What can and will Arsenal do without Patrick Vieira ?
Never have the words “talismanic captain” been used more feelingly, never has an individual epitomized his side’s angst and fortitude better, and not since the days of Cantona has an English audience responded more warmly to a foreigner. Arsene Wenger’s first signing, a long time ago on 1996, Vieira has made the shift from a strapping midfielder to a unshakeable powerhouse in the middle of the park—an exemplary work rate, searing shearing upfield forays, pinpoint tackles, and legendary ball distribution have been his hallmarks. He leaves Highbury finally, more I guess out of frustration than any skirmish with the club. Not making any headway in the Champion’s League would have rankled, as would the World Cup 2002 disaster.

The Gunners have signed up Alexander Hleb and Fabrice Muamba—the latter apparently having a surreal likeness to Vieira, but with Edu and Pires already gone, the load in the midfield will shift to three teenagers—Fabregas, Flamini and Muamba. Still, Nedved and Vieira in the center of midfield for Juve may make for some viewing indeed.

An England Ashes side without Thorpe at No. 4 and an Arsenal side without Vieira ( No. 4 jersey ) leading them out is unthinkable, at least for me, but come the second week of August, we will have to reconcile to it.

Graham and Patrick, Thanks for the memories, Gentlemen !

Apt to close with the closing lines of S & G’s The Boxer:

And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains……


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