Who Do You Think You Are?

Article excerpt

It has often been suggested that the reason why many people take up golf in middle age is because it is the one sport where you can still entertain the delusion of being in possession of a rare, if untrained, talent that, if properly nurtured, or simply discovered, could lead to competition at the highest level.

With the purely athletic sports such as running and swimming you can become disillusioned almost before you are old enough to develop illusions in the first place, while any code of football is a cruel instructor that middle-aged decrepitude sets in much earlier than most non-sporting types would believe.

In tennis and cricket you can last that little bit longer, especially if you can convince yourself that guile rather then physical power is the key to success (be a spin bowler or wicket keeper if you really want to kid yourself).

But golf, it's said, is the one major sport where you can fool yourself deep into middle or even old age. Unless, of course, you've played it since youth and have the torment of a rising handicap.

There is another sport, however, indeed a whole range of sports, where the older you are the more you can convince yourself that whatever the years may have taken away in terms of agility, eyesight and so on, they have given back in wisdom and skill. That, of course, is motorsport. The remarkable sight of middle-aged and older men strapping themselves into leathers or spine-challenging sports cars is often attributed to a Freudian compensation for failing powers. But surely there is an additional, if not exactly alternative, explanation: just as the most desperate park sportsman still occasionally believes his alter ego is Wayne Rooney or Shane Warne and the old rocker or karaoke king may still be waiting for their big break, the ageing petrolhead feels he is still engaged, however distantly, in the same sport as the superstars on two or four wheels. …