Thursday, September 08, 2005

A clash of dreams

Dreams will clash, traveling across time zones and countries. Giant dreams of hope and misery, gathering us up on their way as waves would, rising as they reach The Oval. Can you hear the noise of these breathless wishes, whispers once, now a suffocating roar, prayers to realize unrealized dreams, to give every new hero his due, to give the last hero stamina for a final blow, to see both heroes neither bowed nor defeated?

Yesterday James Blake stepped out of the US Open, a man defeated but proud, who plays sport as it should be played: with courage, tenacity, and a smile. A man who plays the sport to his own music, as champions do. One day a slam will be his. The parallels with English cricket are there. These are parallels that run with every sport and every sportsman. Tragedy, success, jubilation, despair; all ingredients of life and its reflection in sport.

England has seen hell. Beaten at one’s own game, the losses are doubly galling for a game’s masters are expected to not lose their grip. Now they have found themselves and taken us with them as they have made one realization after another, like an adolescent superhero slowly discovering what he is capable of. These realizations are perhaps nowhere else as dramatic as they are in fantasy and sport, which are close relations. The other superhero has discovered what old age can do and how quickly it sets in, and it is now left with the grit and sheer desire that are the residue of champions’ evaporated fantasies.

And when these five days pass, what will we feel? A sense of loss is inevitable for how many series have taught us more about how games can be played, about how so much that went before was wrong only because so much here has been right? Some of us will come out rejuvenated in what increasingly looks like a new era in this game. We are here now. Where will we be when this era ends?

In five days these Ashes will be over, forever recorded only on paper and film and memories that are inevitably exaggerated. All the noise, all the sound, all gone. These five days will be beautiful; they will be all about sport, all about life. Please don't let it rain.

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