Soapbox: almost as good as football

Anyone for cricket? Well, what about Rugby League? Or, of course, tennis? In the almost complete absence of football, Pete Sixsmith was game for most things sportive…

The beginning of July sees the end of the close season and it means that football can start again. It has to mix in with other sports and it is fairly low profile at the moment, but it’s back so a muted three cheers for that.

Over the weekend, I had a mixture of sports on the go, a kind of sporting bouillabaisse with lots of different components. But it ended up giving me a very satisfied and warm feeling, just like a stew concocted by the excellent Keith Floyd.

On Friday night I hurtled up to Chester-le-Street just in time to see the Kent batsman van Jarsveldt deposit the ball in the crowd for a huge six.

Durham never showed anything like as much quality in their innings and were comfortably beaten, proving that Kent’s South Africans were better than ours.

An umpiring decision of Rob Styles proportions against Michael di Venuto did not help the cause – my reading of the lbw rule differs from Richard Kettleborough’s in that I believe that if you are well down the wicket, are hit high up on the pad from a ball going wide and you actually nick it on to the pad, you are not out. Mr Kettleborough, apparently, knows better.

First game of the season on Saturday when Blyth Spartans hosted Partick Thistle on a day when it rained so much that dogs, cats, rabbits etc were walking round in pairs looking for a man building a robust wooden boat. Thistle won 3-1 to send their exuberant and intoxicated following back to the mean streets of Glasgow having had a fun day in the even meaner streets of Blyth.

Sunday saw Gateshead Thunder back on track in Co-operative League 2 when they beat York for the fourth time this season. The day was made even better when I got home to see that league leaders Barrow had lost at Hunslet – the equivalent of Manchester United losing at Fulham, so Thunder are now sitting second on points difference and look well set for the play offs. I might even go and see them at Keighley next week, particularly if the Timothy Taylors brewery shop is open.

Finally, I got home in time to watch the most gripping sporting event of the year so far.

Not the greatest of tennis fans, I was totally absorbed by the last hour of the Federer v Nadal final. It was theatre of the highest quality with each point being contested so fiercely that it looked as if the players would explode.

Nadal was all power and strength but with a degree of subtlety while Federer is the most delightful touch player with a degree of power and strength. It was a genuine classic and for an hour, tennis looked a much more enjoyable sport than football. Then Federer came out to receive his runners up trophy, dressed in a cardigan and trousers that made him look like something out of a Terence Rattigan play and I realised that it is still the most bourgeois sport there is.

In my younger days I would play, usually during the Wimbledon fortnight. There were council tennis courts at the bottom of our road and there were many tense games between the hard kids who lived in Drybourne Park and the even tougher ones from Drybourne Avenue.

As a spectator sport, its appeal always seems limited to the middle classes of Dorking and Ruislip, and the sight of those twits cheering for Tim Henman always made me turn to the pages of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for political justification for strafing SE19.

Great year so far for Spain – European and All England Champions. They could complete a great hat trick by sending Iniesta, Villa and Senna on a three year sabbatical to the Stadium of Light. But we may have to make do with Andy Johnson instead.

New balls please!!!

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