Magazine article The Spectator

Useful Lives

Magazine article The Spectator

Useful Lives

Article excerpt

New York If one was making £160,000 per week - that's more than a quarter of a million dollars every seven days - it would be safe to assume that one's father would not choose to deal in cocaine for a living. Not necessarily, it seems - at least not in the John Terry family. The man who had to stand down as captain of the England football squad for having screwed a teammate's girl is a hell of a fellow. His mother and mother-in-law were cautioned last year for shoplifting. Now his old man is charged with dealing in the wrong kind of coke. What in hell's name is going on here?

Modern England, that's what.

Compare this with one Dave Sime, a fellow I sat next to last week here in the Big Bagel. Pronounced Sim, his name was better known among us when we were kids than John Terry's is among the filth of Chelsea today. Real Chariots of Fire stuff. Dave Sime held six world records in the dash and short distances while at Duke University, and added three more immediately after graduation. His father was a Depression baby who never made more than $100 a week as a house painter. After work he'd play baseball with Dave and make him run dashes.

'Speed is all, ' he'd tell him. Dave Sime went to medical school and turned down myriad offers from baseball teams as well as basketball franchises. 'Why play for money when you can do it for fun, ' he said, or something like that.

At one meet against North Carolina he was asked by his Duke coach if he would try the low hurdles as the team needed the points. Sime ran them for the one and only time in his life and broke the world record.

He was among the first to establish a new method of laser surgery on the eye, one that is now routine. He told me that when his father had a heart attack and took to his bed, young Dave went to work after school, gave the moolah to his mother, and trained at night under the streetlights if there were any. (He was from New Jersey. ) Just as I imagine John Terry would have done if his old man were not (allegedly) dealing in cocaine or his mother shoplifting.

Now I know that Terry did not choose his parents, but nor did Dave Sime. I suppose it all has to do with genes, and Dave's parents sure had them. His old man played professional baseball as well as basketball, but made more money house-painting. The occasion on which I met Dave involved yet another great friend, Anthony Maltese.

Tony was the reason I remained small during my growing years. …

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