Cheer Up, Fernando -- the Only Way to Deal with a Sporting Meltdown Is to Laugh at It

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

Cheer Up, Fernando -- the Only Way to Deal with a Sporting Meltdown Is to Laugh at It


Byline: Dan Jones

[bar] OES anyone who doesn't support Chelsea actually feel sorry for Fernando Torres? That's not meant to be a loaded question. I'm genuinely interested to know how far the spectrum of sporting compassion extends. It strikes me as possible, albeit unlikely, that someone out there might be watching Chelsea's [pounds sterling]50million man lumber around the pitch (or, latterly, mump on the bench) and not be laughing until their stomach lining starts to come up. But I've yet to meet them.

Rumours -- strongly denied by Chelsea this week -- have suggested that Roman Abramovich's flaxen-haired blunderkind is available to prospective buyers for a knock-down price of [pounds sterling]20m. Which was a pretty funny story, too. It would take some cheek to ask [pounds sterling]20m for a striker who spent a year demonstrating that he can't score goals any more; the equivalent of asking [pounds sterling]20m for a washing machine which used to work faultlessly but has now turned every single item of its owner's clothes pink.

Cruel? Yes, but then that's what so much of the sporting life is about. Watching a great player, a great manager, or a great team reduced to temporary but abject haplessness is one of the terrible, inhuman pleasures that comes with a love of sport. It isn't admirable, Christian or pretty. But it's morbidly captivating and frequently quite funny.

Christmas time always reminds me of one of the most gripping episodes of sporting schadenfreude I've seen. In the BDO World Darts Championship Final at the Lakeside Country Club in January 2000, Ronnie Baxter experienced the worst trousering he has taken before or since, smashed 6-0 in just 46 minutes by Ted Hankey, during a match in which he could take only four legs.

Hankey was good but not that good: Baxter's game simply collapsed. He started the match as one of the best players in the world. But when he got up to the oche, he might as well have been one of the tanked-up roisterers chuffing fags on the banks of tables behind him. As he hugged Hankey at the end, there was a wry smile on his face. …

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