Why sportspeople and clubbing don’t mix
PUBLISHED: 09:58 30 September 2017
I could have been a professional footballer or cricketer.
With a little luck, I’d be looking back on the glorious highlights of my career: a century in the Ashes; a World Cup-winning six against India; captaining Norwich City to FA Cup Final victory v Ipswich; the Golden Boot.
If only I’d been given the support, training and lucky breaks to make those moments real.
More to the point, if only I had the talent.
Instead, I was a cricketer best known for a long run of golden ducks, having a dent in my skull from a cricket ball slung at my head by a teammate (accidentally, the story goes...) and being better at sinking cider and singing songs in the bar than scoring runs.
As for football, I’m enthusiastic, which is sporting speak for a bit limited. The fact that I’m currently dealing with a broken hand after bumping into an opponent during a match rather sums me up.
But oh, how I have always longed to have the talent to make sport look simple.
I’ve always envied the effortless sportsmen at my school and in the same teams and clubs as me.
Envy turned to anger when I saw people with talent who didn’t give a damn - those who had a gift but refused to exploit it.
I remember one boy at my school who would wander about for most of a match, then effortlessly beat three players and ping it into the top corner from 30 yards.
While most of us were 90pc toil and 10pc skill, he was the opposite. I hated him because he didn’t care.
For me, it’s all about making the most of your talents and understanding how lucky you are.
Which brings me to the England cricketers Ben Stokes and Alex Hales.
They are men with a ridiculous amount of natural talent, backed up by the best coaching available. Stokes in particular seems to have the skills of about 10 people. He bats, bowls and fields brilliantly. He changes games, excites crowds, wins contests.
Just to prove that there is always a catch, he’s got ginger hair. You can’t have it all...
I’m guessing Stokes and Hales have been living the dream that drove them on through the long practice sessions and damp days in Durham.
So why put it all in jeopardy?
I make no comment about what happened inside and outside the Bristol nightclub a few days back. But why were they there at all?
The upsides of being England internationals in a number of sports are glory, adulation, money and earning a living from playing sport. I’d take all of that.
The downsides include pressure, constant scrutiny and the baffling human trait to try to bring down those who succeed.
Nightclubs are a hothouse for the latter, with weeds watered by booze, targeting the tall poppies.
Trouble often happens when young people congregate in a club, so it seems blindingly obvious that professional sporting stars should steer clear. It’s a small - I’d say negligible - sacrifice for the likes of Stokes and Hales to make when weighed against the good things their career brings.
They are not the first to fall into the trap, of course. And it’s understandable that they might be drawn to the adoring women, free Champagne and hero worship on offer. With the same amount of money and talent at their age, I’d have been an idiot (sorry, more of an idiot).
Nonetheless, I still think Stokes and Hales, given the amount of media and life training modern cricketers receive, should be able to make sensible decisions.
Beyond that, there must be a strong argument for top-level cricketers, footballers, rugby stars and others to have written into their contracts one simple clause - never set foot in a nightclub.