School of sport: FOREVER AND ANON

Freddie Mercury

So, what do the following have in common? Freddie Mercury, Magnus Magnusson, John Stephen Akhwari, Winston Churchill, JRR Tolkien, Winnie the Pooh and a hockey umpire?

Freddie Mercury was the front man for the band Queen, one of whose classic hits was entitled, Don’t stop me now! You might recall the essence of it was we are not to stop him because “I’m having a good time, having a ball”. The ball in question was not a sporting one though.

Magnus Magnusson was the host of a popular television quiz programme called Mastermind where contestants were given two minutes to answer as many questions as possible before the buzzer went.

If the buzzer went off while he was in the middle of asking a question, his catchphrase was “I’ve started so I’ll finish!” John Stephen Akhwari was a marathon runner from Tanzania who competed in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and, after injuring himself badly, crossed the line over one hour and five minutes after the winner when there were very few spectators left in the stadium. Asked why he continued running, he replied: "My country did not send me five thousand miles to start the race; they sent me five thousand miles to finish the race.”

Winston Churchill was invited to be the Guest Speaker at the Speech Day at his old school, Harrow, after he had led Britain through the Second World War with such wisdom, courage and determination. He stood up, said, “Never, never, never, never, never give up” and sat down again!

We will most likely be able to identify the following partnerships: Batman and Robin, Anthony and Cleopatra, Adam and Eve, Bonnie and Clyde, Romeo and Juliet, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Strawberries and Cream, Salt and Pepper.

However, can we complete one more partnership that comes from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Forever and …..? It is, of course, ‘Forever and Anon’, which makes it rather a long time, just like Churchill’s “Never, never, never, never, never” is a long, long time! A number of people have made interesting comments on this matter. Groucho Marx quipped, “I intend to live forever, or die trying”.

And in a lovely exchange in one of A. A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh’ stories, Piglet asks, "We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?" to which Winnie the Pooh replies, "Even longer."

And finally, in our review of what all those people had in common, we come to hockey umpires. A frequent call from the umpire to the players is, “PLAY ON!” when they recognise a foul has been committed but the player who has been fouled still has the advantage.

So, what is the meaning of all this? Let us remember what these characters said: Don’t stop me now! I’ve started so I’ll finish! Never give up! I came to finish the race. Forever and anon! Play on!

The first and obvious point we could take from all of this applies to how we play sport. We will do well not to give up during a match. We need to show commitment. We must learn to play with determination; as Lance Armstrong, the great (but later disgraced) cyclist said, "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."

The main point here is more than that, though: Please, please, please, please, please, don’t give up sport now. In fact, never give up sport! When we have started sport at school so we must carry on with it after school. Play sport forever and anon!

As the umpires say, play on! And the reason our children should do that is because they have the advantage. Too many pupils give up sport when they leave school but school sport is just the start, whether it be serious or social.

Many people now enjoy Veterans sport, for which they are eligible at the age of thirty-five. As of July 15 2008, the oldest rugby player was a 90 year old Japanese man named Sadayoshi Morita.

Des O’Brien was a British and Irish Lions rugby player, who also happened to play squash for Ireland and tennis for Wales but he was still playing hockey for a club’s eighth eleven at the age of 62. Play on!

Many youngsters will have played sport at the top level at school – having had that privilege they also have the responsibility to play on. What will they all have in common? We trust (and must ensure) it is that they will all carry on playing sport.

Remember the words of the playwright, George Bernard Shaw: “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Don’t stop now! But this article will stop now.

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