It is barely a decade old, but has Transfer Deadline Day already evolved into the most reliable barometer we have of who we are?
The more pessimistic might consider it a neat document of the fall of mankind, but I like to think there is light in the darkness.
Surely, the day’s ability to get so many excited about so little is proof positive of man’s enduring ability to dream — even if his dreams have been downsized from world peace and space travel to an inexperienced full-back on loan.
On the other hand, there is no great sign of evolutionary progress in the worrying lengths young Britons will go to draw attention to themselves on television, as they huddle behind beleaguered Sky Sports News presenters. As the night closed in on our correspondent outside White Hart Lane, and the swelling mob who wanted a striker closed in with it, we gained an insight, like never before, into man’s capacity for terror. But at least these lessons learnt give us the opportunity to act before the people who will gather behind Marty or Evanne or Clare this summer also expand their repertoires into vivid sexual mime. We can take no more chances — the yahooing is over. The sanctuary of the sponsors’ board can be the only backdrop we know from here on in.
The other service Thursday’s garish spectacle provided was to put a human face on the prospect of £100,000 per week. More importantly, it put a face on the prospect of being denied £100,000 per week.
From now on, when we look at ourselves in the mirror, and when we ask ourselves if we really want that job, that promotion, that third slice of cake; if the face looking back at us isn’t the face of Peter Odemwingie in his car en route to QPR, we shall know we don’t really want it enough. And who knows, maybe Peter will have saved us from making a fool of ourselves.
Of course, there is no more accurate indicator of where we stand, on Transfer Deadline Day or any other day, than Becks. And on Thursday, the man for all seasons grabbed centre stage once more.
Or rather, you suppose, the man behind him did.
In a way, it was a mixed week for Simon Fuller. He has done a lot for Andy Murray since he took the controls there. A tear here, a smile there, a Mammy edged ever so slightly out of the foreground. The brand-building has kicked on in earnest. But there remain some inconvenient frustrations, like Djokovic.
Fuller’s work with the cult of Becks is more straightforward — the legwork had been done before he got involved — but that shouldn’t detract from his ingenuity in keeping the ball rolling.
Back in 2007, different times, Fuller hooked us on the sheer scale of the deal. Becks would make $250m to convert America to sawker. Sporting retirement marketed as a lucrative calling.
This time, once more in touch with his public, Becks won’t be paid at all. And even if the recent revelations about certain charitable men tend to make us cynical, who can knock the lad for giving his wages to needy children? Even if you can picture the high-fiving at Fuller HQ when one of the brand managers came up with this one.
Two months ago, I assured you that Becks would not, if this day ever came, do a Barton. He would not attempt to speak French without using any of the words because Becks, unlike Joey, is man entirely comfortable in his own skin.
Sure enough, there was no need for Becks to try too hard in Paris. His many disciples would soon do that for him. The greatest payoff of all, as far as Becks is concerned, came within minutes hundreds of miles away. Relevance. And the man who will have to pay the heavy price, Roy Hodgson, sighed wearily at the first of the many, many enquiries he will have to field. “Might this have further implications for England down the line?”
The face Roy made then; it was the very opposite of Peter’s face. As Transfer Deadline Day confirmed, despite all its promise, that there is always trouble round the corner.
Super Bowl overshadowed by health fears
It is going ahead alright, by all accounts, the Super Bowl.
Despite one of most powerful press conference performances we have seen ahead of a big game in a long time. Not Beyonce’s acapella rebuttal of doubts over her ability to sing live, but Ed Reed’s worries about how long he will live. And with what quality.
Ordinarily, with a legend of the sport on the cusp of a first title, game-week talk would be all about boyhood dreams and about getting the head right for the big one. Instead, the Baltimore Ravens safety talked freely about the nightmare that his head would never be right again.
“Who doesn’t wake up and forget things?” joked the 34-year-old this week, as worries about concussions and lawsuits and brain injuries overshadow his side’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers. But Reed wasn’t laughing as he admitted to worrying his gears were already beginning to grind.
“I fear for my family. To have to go through that if it happens, God forbid.”
He wasn’t, mind you, playing a sympathy card. “I signed up for this. I knew it was a contact sport. I know there’s going to be pain and ailments and injuries. Do I want that to affect my life? No. But do I know it’s going to affect it? Yes.”
We have heard from many cyclists they had no option but to participate in doping programmes that probably jeopardised their health. That sport might eventually clean itself up and emerge stronger. You do wonder how recognisable the gridiron will be if it ever gets around to doing right by its players.
How many more will fall?
Denials, confessions, denials via confessions. Confessionals in denial.
Just another week in sport and pharmacy.
Of course A-Rod didn’t spend $3,500 in 2009 on ‘sports performance creams’ from disgraced doc Anthony Bosch.
Didn’t he tell us himself he’d given up the old soup since 2003? And maybe Vijay Singh really had no idea that deer antler spray packed a little anabolic hormone for that extra zing.
Why would a one-man multi-million dollar industry have these things thoroughly checked out?
And perhaps it is indeed a crisis of conscience and a touching concern for the sport that has Michael Rasmussen spilling the beans on the cocktail that kept his wheels turning throughout his career.
And when Lance Armstrong promotes again a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the only salvation for all endurance sports, he isn’t being in the slightest bit self-serving.
Alas, for these folk, benefit of the doubt is in short supply these days. We haven’t that much left to believe in.
And sadly, no matter how self-justifying they were, maybe the only words that rang true this week were Armstrong’s.
“No generation was exempt or clean. Not Merckx’s, not Hinault’s, not LeMond’s, not Coppi’s, not Gimondi’s, not Indurain’s, not Anquetil’s, not Bartali’s, and not mine.”
How many more litanies of the sporting saints will be decimated before we know the full truth?
HEROES AND VILLAINS
Stairway to Heaven
Danny Graham: If there’s anything a man can do to win over the sceptical northeast faithful, it’s to wander about on a cold Deadline Day in just a t-shirt.
Kieron Dyer: For anybody beginning to despair at the hand life has dealt them, the injury-prone midfielder continues to provide reassurance that there is always, somehow, somewhere left to turn.
Hell in a Handcart
Christopher Samba: The battle cry that £100k per week gets you nowadays: “I’m not the fittest but I’ll see what I can do.”
Jim White: The moment, around half-ten on Thursday, when he had given up the ghost?
“Things are gathering pace now — Xisco has been released by Newcastle.”
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