Sunday, August 5, 2012

Golden moments given a first class celebration

Golden moments given a first class celebration

The sight of somebody doing a spot of Sunday morning painting is hardly unusual in the British Isles and the average person would barely register a glance as they pass a fence being creosoted or a wall being given a second coat. Never before though have I been driving around my local estate to see a postbox being painted and certainly not painted gold. Yet that was the sight that met me this morning as bound for the local park we saw the early morning sun gleaming off the colour gold and not the usual Royal Mail Red. Yesterday Kat Copeland (of Ingleby Barwick, Stockton) and Sophie Hosking (of Wimbledon) paired up in the double sculls at Eton Dorney and clinched Olympic Gold. The look of astonishment and sheer unadulterated joy on the face of 21 year old Copeland epitomised everything that is great about the Olympic Games. I’m not someone who will claim that they know Kat Copeland, or that I’ve seen her walking her dog or glimpsed her powering down the Tees in early morning practice. I won’t even pretend that before the Olympics I was really fully aware of her, despite the fact that she lives but a stone’s throw away. Yet the early morning practice, attention to detail, technique and scrupulous attention to diet and nutrition will of course have gone on. Kat Copeland will have geared all of her attention towards the Olympic Games for four years, aware that the dream of an Olympic medal could be realised, but equally aware that the dream could be shattered in the mere blink of an eye. Of course, all that we see is the outcome of all of the practice and never the Winter Dawn starts when the rain lashes down and the wind chills to the bone.

On the topic of paint, whilst not wishing to draw too close a comparison between an Olympic Gold Medal winner and a non-league football ground (as the two are not quite measurable on the same scale), the transformation of Guisborough Town’s football ground when I arrived there yesterday was marked and testimony to the countless hours people spend toiling – often in the dark and gloom at the end of a day, or even in occasional sunshine – all for the club they support. It didn’t even require entry into the ground to see a difference, as a new plush welcome sign adorned the front of the ground above the turnstiles. The pitch – which seems to get better every season – had been worked on tirelessly by our groundstaff and a new wall had been built on the far side of the ground, upon which were new sponsor boards. Paths were free of weeds and aside from the electrical storm which crackled across the ground in the second half, being in attendance was a genuine pleasure.

Guisborough will not be unique. At Marske United they have been beavering away to build a new stand and at other clubs wonderful servants will have been working countless hours to do their bit for their clubs.

All of the close season football talk is dominated with who will win the league, who patently won’t, who will be struggling at the foot of the table and which team is splashing the cash to mount a challenge. But for me, these are side issues. Of course we want our teams to do well, but surely our involvement is more than just that? We’re involved because we are part of a community. This is the very reason why Darlington fans become (perhaps understandably) prickly when their club’s predicament is joked about. It is the reason why people do spend countless hours doing what they can for something they genuinely care about and frequently with hardly any recognition.

The sense of community is also why I will feel proud every time I post a letter at my local post box; proud that Kat Copeland’s hard work and focus has been rewarded. What a first class idea by the Royal Mail to leave a lasting legacy of these games in the communities that helped to shape these athletes.

Whoever you support, I hope the season is kind to you. Above all though (and however cheesy this sounds), let’s all remember that our involvement and love of sport must surely transcend the results on the field, even in the dark moments when travelling back from West Auckland or Spennymoor in midwinter having been given a drubbing.  In the spine-tingling moment when Jessica Ennis won her gold medal, what struck me most was that the other athletes joined her in her lap of honour and were forthcoming in their praise and congratulations. I reckon football can learn a lot from this. I certainly know that I can.

For now, I’m looking for a good excuse to send somebody a letter.  

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