*BS*I would imagine that every local newspaper could tell you a tale about its most irritating pushy parent.*BF*
Take it from me, there are one or two out there but a particular favourite came to me courtesy of an old mate who works for a local rag in Nottinghamshire.
He came to dread Monday mornings in the summer months in that his first duty would always be to open a weighty envelope that had been delivered by hand at some point during the night.
Contained therein would be a 2,000 word account of how a local lad had done over the weekend in his favoured athletics event which I recall involved chucking something or other into the middle distance. Let’s say the discus for sake of simplicity.
Attached to each report would be a photograph of the young shaver in question who my friend described as “a blubbery, pasty-faced chuffer with a face like a welder’s bench. The sort only his mother could love.”
No matter, as it seemed the lad had talent. Every report featured expressions such as “new personal best” and “Olympic hopeful.” Even in 2007, his place at London 2012 was all but guaranteed save for some unfortunate sequence of events, it seemed. Following an all-county event held in Newark, Mum’s report hit 3,000 words for the first time as her not-so-little soldier missed out on a bronze medal by a fraction of centimetre; a wonderful effort for a 13-year-old so gifted that he was competing at Under-16 level.
Despite earning great money as a freelance and living with a former Miss Junior Venezuela, my friend recalls that his days in the summer of 2007 had never been longer. He would spend most of Monday cutting the report down to the 200 words it just about warranted and ignore the photo in the time-honoured belief that ugly beggars don’t sell papers unless they come from huge, prosperous families. Following Tuesday’s publication, much of the remainder of the week was spent fielding phone calls from an barely sentient parent, outraged at the fact her reports had been cut down to a fraction of their original length.
Though brow-beaten, my friend put forward the not unreasonable point that, whilst he welcomed her missives regarding “the new Geoff Capes” (try Google), he didn’t feel it was appropriate to give him more coverage than Nottingham Forest, Notts County and the county cricket club put together. ‘Twas a viewpoint that cut no ice, sadly, as he was constantly rebuked for “stifling natural talent and hating to see our young local kids doing well.”
Then one glorious happy day an anonymous caller told my friend that just a modicum of research would reveal that the bane of his life was actually a pompous, talentless, no-mates Mummy’s boy whom the right-thinking would happily shove out of a high window.
It transpired that our budding Olympian’s Mum had told nothing but the truth in her fulsome reports. Research and reading between the lines gave a whole new different perspective, however. First, our hero didn’t compete at U14 level for very good reason, in that there wasn’t enough interest in his event to form an U14 category. But in his most recent meeting, he did indeed finish fourth… out of five competitors.
Naturally, there are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, the charitable amongst us might stress that here is a lad who had given the burgers and Playstation a miss in favour of getting off his backside and trying to be the best in his chosen sport. The cynics – and you know who you are – might stress with equal accuracy that, out of maybe one million kids who were eligible to take part in this event, our hero was only better than one of them. By the same token, the personal best of which his mother so proudly spoke was shy of the Olympic qualifying distance by about half the width of the English Channel.
Five years on, I’ve no idea if this young fellow and his doting Mum will be packing their bags ready for London 2012. As a betting man, I’d imagine that the odds on this happening are slim to the point of anorexic; which is a shame, really, given his steadfast adherence to the true Olympian ideal.
They say that nobody ever remembers who finished second and I suspect this is true to the greater degree. That said, everyone remembers the have-a-go duffers, who embrace the great British characteristic of failing to accept they’ve no discernible talent despite all evidence to the contrary.
So if I should discover that Nottingham’s latter day equivalent of Eddie the Eagle Edwards is competing, I’ll make sure I tune in for a chuckle.
With Wimbledon and the Olympics to endure in 2012, it’ll be a damnably long summer without one.