Did He smile to see His work?

As far as sporting stories go this week, two catch my eye. The first is that Father Time, the iconic weather vane that sits atop Lord’s, the home of the MCC and English Cricket, has taken a battering. The recent high winds have caused considerable damage to the iron silhouette, so much so that specialists have been called in to repair him. You can’t help but smile at the irony.

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He’s been in the wars previously, back in 1992 he was hit by lightning. He made a recovery then and it is hoped he will do again. For ‘Father Time’ is perfectly English: an exquisite combination of weather, cricket and eerie stoicism. A hunched figure, with long chin and reaping scythe lain across his back, he replaces the bails on broken stumps. The metaphor is apt and indeed, hangs heavy over English cricket at the moment. As the old foe, Australia, swept aside a very decent New Zealand side at the weekend to win the World Cup, England cricket looks to repair its own wicket; chins long from stroking, pondering the conspicuous absence of a key prince; the scythe still ringing from its latest harvest.

And the other story that has me thinking, also involves Father Time. He is intervening in another sporting career, perhaps the most iconic of our generation. With results from the latest PGA Tour event, a golfer, whose rise and fall must be the most significant in the game’s history, slipped out of the world top 100 for the first time since he entered it back in 1996. It is difficult to contemplate, such has been his omnipotent presence in the game: a list of the best one hundred golfers in the world that doesn’t include Tiger Woods.

It has been a desperately sad decline. Beset by injury, but mentally never the same since we all found out he liked to ‘up and down it from anywhere’, Tiger has subsequently limped around golf courses, looking like a big cat unable to find its next meal. And this was, arguably, the greatest sportsman of his generation. In a game, notoriously difficult to rule, he was the undisputed king. Even without fully working knees, he could win its greatest prizes. He had his own dress code and he hit the ball further, closer and truer than all those before him. He played a sport that was inconceivable to anybody watching. The chip on sixteen at Augusta back in 2005, the one where the ball temporarily stopped on the lip to take a bow and show its swoosh to the world, was, for me, the greatest shot ever played.

If this is the end for Tiger, I’m not sure what I should think. I have a friend offering anyone the bet that Woods will never again win a major. And there’s part of me that feels he has a point. But a big part of me that doesn’t want it to be true. It feels odd. It feels a little bit like grief.

As April tiptoes in once more, and the palatial splendour of Augusta comes in to view, one must think of Woods. Much like Father Time, a shadow of man; one that echoes the message that things move on, however hard you try to put them back together. Regrettably yet inexorably, life is the same, but different.

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Sam Roberts © 2015. (Text only). All Rights Reserved.

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