The perfect tale for after dinner
SOMETIMES I think sportsmen do stupid things deliberately, just to give themselves a few amusing anecdotes for the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit once their playing days are over. You can just picture a packed corporate function in the year 2021: a room full of mildly sloshed executives guffaw helplessly as Andrew Flintoff recounts the night he got into a bit of bother with a pedalo in the Caribbean. These stories get exaggerated in the telling as the years pass. At the moment, Flintoff is being necessarily coy about the extent of his spontaneous sailing adventure, telling a press conference: “There was water involved and a pedalo as well. But I don’t want to go into detail.” Given a few years and the need to play it for laughs, you can be sure that the pedalo story will have been embellished to the point where Flintoff sails half way to Cuba, gets kidnapped by al Qaeda death squads and is eventually rescued by the SAS. Then goes on to score a century the next day. Tales of blokey misbehaviour and bawdiness are, of course, what revisionist sporting history requires. No one will pay good money to hear how a player stayed in the night before a crucial match with a mug of Horlicks and a Touch of Frost DVD and scored a useful 70 the next day. Ian Botham and former England batsman Allan Lamb once embarked on a spoken word tour, under the banner “Beefy and Lamb in a Stew”, and you can bet there was very little analysis of either player’s forward defensive stroke but plenty of tales of the “still scored a century after a drunken night” variety. It would, however, be a shame if Flintoff’s achievements were overshadowed by an apparent desire to tick the box marked character. It’s clear that we can either have sportsmen who win or we can have characters, but rarely both. The after-dinner circuit is never likely to be troubled by Jonathan Edwards’ Triple Jump Funnies or The Crazy World of Jonny Wilkinson because, while being successful, such sportsmen are generally considered too dull because they never indulged in pranks of the “Deep Heat in the jockstrap“ variety. But they’ll probably have the last laugh. Having won medals and things, they can enter the even more lucrative world of motivational speaking, where tales of late-night drinking are generally frowned upon anyway.
Steve Constable is away.