I remember, ooh, fifteen years ago – no, my maths is dodgy – twenty-five years ago (oh, how I wish my maths oops, sorry: math – keep forgetting where I am – was right first time), my dad had brought me up to follow West Bromwich Albion football club. For those outside the UK, they’re a soccer team whose home ground, The Hawthorns, is just outside Birmingham, inside the borders of The Black Country, and they used to have one of the best soccer teams in the UK.
When I was fifteen, local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, arguably with a more successful past but, at the time, had only just been saved from liquidation and were in the lowest professional English football league, Division Four (now Npower League Two, after the Premiership, the Championship and League One). There were only two stands open in their ground, Molineux, actually in operation, the other two being classed as fire hazards following the Bradford City disaster a couple of years earlier.
As there were only between 6,000-8,000 fans attending the home games at Molineux (a far cry from the 61,315 record in the club’s hay-day), there was still adequate space in those two remaining stands, The South Bank (terrace) and the John Ireland (seated) stands. It was at this point in Wolves previously illustrious history that one of my scooter-riding buddies asked if I wanted to go watch The Wolves one Saturday afternoon after we’d stripped his PX125 down and put it back together again.
Now the golf bit…
…whenever I read The Bleacher Report and how they report on Tiger Woods, I always, always think of that first game at Molineux in late ’87 and what I witnessed as a then impartial spectator from my vantage point, high up on the terraces of The South Bank.
First, let’s have a look at a Bleacher Report article that turned up in my RSS feed, today, concentrating on the head-to-head the golfing world is waiting for both at Medinah and in the FedEx play-offs: Tiger Woods vs Rory McIlroy.
No harm there – every blogger that is even partially interested in golf has seen the Greg Norman comments about how he believes Woods’ is intimidated by the Ulsterman, how the torch was passed from the The Great Bear himself to Woods and now it’s his turn to pass on the ‘face of the game’ accolade to Rory. And we’ve reported on it accordingly.
Now, back to the Molineux, circa 1987. For ninety minutes, I stood in a crowd that was so biased (totally unintentionally; it was just the fans’ passion for the club that took over their emotions), they called and heckled every decision against them by the ref. Even the opponent’s goal, which was scored right in front of us and was obviously good got called into question. And the one incident that really sticks in my mind: a Wolves defender lost control of the ball and, although he tried desperately to keep it in play, it must have rolled two yards out, over the line. When the linesman flagged and the ref gave the throw-in, the entire South Bank erupted with abject hatred and genuine disbelief, even though the ball had so obviously rolled out of play. As not (yet*) one of that partisan crowd, it was quite intimidating.
About turn again, back to today and The Bleacher Report article. Whilst the guys concede that the former number one is second best to McIlroy (they’d be hard pushed not to) they bemoan the fact that “it seems all anybody wants to talk about is Rory McIlroy.”
Bleacher Guys – what do you expect? Pot, kettle, black spring to mind.
Tiger’s had his day in the sun, and boy, was it the summer solstice of them all, or what? The same as Wolves had their day in the late fifties, winning what is now the Premiership back-to-back in the ’57-58 & ’58-59 seasons and then the FA Cup in ’59-’60, a time when the Wolves back four was the England back-four, the first time that had ever happened.
Tiger’s had three great wins this season, defeating the OWGR top three and coming from nowhere to occupy second place in the world rankings. Wolves have just come to the end of three monumental campaigns in the top flight of English football, picking up wins against record-holding champions Man Utd, conquerors of Europe, Chelsea, local rivals West Brom and added many other famous (and unlikely) scalps along the way – but for both Tiger and the men in Old Gold and Black, those days are something for the fans to celebrate singularly when they come around and not a sign of things to come; they are not the norm and although successes will surely happen, neither entities will ever truly emulate their Glory Days of yore.
So when The Bleacher Report accepts that Tiger is no longer the best in the world, accepts that, for all their doubt earlier in the season, Rory McIlroy has become the successor to Tiger’s throne, perhaps they can stop revelling in the past and offer praise where praise is due, instead of underpinning every article with this lingering incredulity that their hero came, saw and conquered, but won’t quite accept that the empire has fallen.