The passing of the Major League Baseball star, Yogi Berra (aged 90) late last month is a reminder that daftness will always have a place at the heart of sport. The feared clutch hitter famed for his Yogi-isms was said to have a homely face and a talent “routinely underestimated”. Some of his quotes are like gold dust: “If you see a fork in the road, take it”; “Half this game is 90% mental”; “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there any more”; and surely the best of the lot, “You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you”.
The final quote is a ridiculous, yet hilarious taunt to the opposition at the end of a match – any match, be it football, table tennis, cricket or that American stuff. Berra, the son of Italian immigrants, liked to speak his mind even if mocked and derided. And in this ludicrous age of squareness and grim pontificating, he is a fine example of not being bound by the narrative of the day.
Ten World Series rings with the Yankees is testament to his greatness, but more than this he was one of America’s best-loved stars; “small and squat” but he made people smile.
Looking through the early tables of the Bolton League is in some quarters eerily familiar: Flixton ‘A’ and Ramsbottom ‘A’ battling it out for the Premier crown; Heaton ‘D’ (they’ve had a few letters along the way) tucked in nicely near the top of Division Three; Meadow Hill ‘A’ and their annual see-saw between Three and Four (often assisted by a benevolent committee).
Behind these team names and others are Yogis of our own, however: Roy Caswell – rarely seen not wearing beige pants; Roger Bertrand – the man with the plastic bags (one for his bananas, one for his bottle of cordial that resembles cleaning fluid and two more for good luck); Alan Lansdale, known for his acerbic yet sardonic lines (“You can’t use them serves against an old man”); Ray Isherwood, zipping through the divisions faster than anyone (an ode to his skills on the side of his carpet van, “For Quality, at Affordable Prices”); Paul Brandwood, perhaps loosely attributed with “He’s only got a backhand and that’s poor”.
This is shaping up to be an interesting season both on and off the tables. May the wry words of Boltonians and those coddled and adopted in this north-west heartland long continue.