Media Monitor: Mentors, memorable moments, role models and money in sport

On the Carnival weekend, Dimanche Gras and its Calypso Monarch competition are usually in the spotlight. Not in this Covid-benighted year 2022. With nothing appealing about the completely unjustifiable Taste of Carnival, it was from the sports news that the three most interesting stories came.

The first is the death of John Landy, the second the firing of Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa and the third a most unexpected one about Tiger Woods and money.

Photo: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa looks on from the sidelines during England Premier League action against Liverpool at Elland Road, Leeds on 12 September 2021.
(Copyright Reuters/ Peter Powell)

Landy is perhaps best known for being the second man—Roger Bannister was the first—to break the four-minute barrier for the mile.

 After a long battle with Parkinson’s, says a Guardian report, the Australian middle-distance runner has run his final race at the ripe old age of 91. Bannister, the man with whom he had his famous rivalry in pursuit of the sub-four-minute achievement, was just a few days short of 89 when he left us five years ago this Thursday. Also—Fate plays these games—after a long battle with Parkinson’s.

About Landy, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, no mean middle-distance runner himself in his day, had this to say:

“He lit the spark that led to the legendary chase for the four-minute mile between 1952 and 1954 and was one of main protagonists in that quest.”

Photo: In the first mile race in history in which two runners finished under four minutes, England’s Dr Roger Bannister leads Australia’s John Landy across the finish line at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, BC on 7 August 1954. Bannister was clocked at 3:58.8, Landy, 3:59.6.
(Copyright AP Photo)

“Ultimately Roger Bannister got there first,” he adds, “but […] Landy followed up by breaking Bannister’s world record in Finland just six weeks later.”

“Their race for the world record and their iconic meeting at the 1954 Vancouver Commonwealth Games captured the imagination of the world. It did more to globalise our sport than any other event of that era.”

Landy passed on Friday in his native Victoria, where he was Governor from 2001 to 2006. In 1999, Sport Australia hailed his selfless 1956 act as the finest sporting moment of the 20th Century. In mid-race in the Australian Mile Championship, he stopped to inquire about the well-being of injured rival Ron Clarke.

The Australian is probably best remembered for that incident in the 1,500m final at the Australian Track and Field Championships. Landy stopped and ascertained that Clarke, one of several runners who had fallen in the third lap, was okay. Then, satisfied that he was, he pursued and overhauled the leaders to win the race. In a time of 4:04.2.

Photo: Australia middle-distance runner John Landy was featured on the cover of the 21 May 1956 Sports Illustrated magazine.

That 66-year-old incident is an outstanding example of what sport really is about. Or should be.

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates never mentioned globalisation. He described Landy as a ‘role model’ for the Olympic Movement and said that ‘we will always remember John Landy as a man who both espoused and lived the Olympic values’.

Bielsa’s firing is reported everywhere. The Express report focuses on the fact that American Jesse Marsch is the leading contender to replace him.

Online, the ESPN report contained this:

Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani said on Bielsa’s exit: “This has been the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure at Leeds United.

Photo: Leeds United fans react to news of the dismissal of club manager Marcelo Bielsa.

“[…] However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now to secure our Premier League status.”

From Director of Football Victor Orta came this bit:

“Since arriving at Leeds United, Marcelo has had a huge impact on the club on a scale I have not seen before.

“[…] It is disappointing his reign has had to end in this manner, given the special times we have enjoyed in recent years, which have been some of the best in my career but we cannot hide from recent results.” (my emphasis)

I think of Courtney Walsh spurning a golden opportunity to beat Pakistan in the 1987 World Cup by mankading Saleem Jaffa off the last ball of the match.

Photo: West Indies strike bowlers (left) Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh
(Copyright Ross Setford/EMPICS via Getty Images)

I think of Andre Agassi declining to win the 1994 Miami title by walkover because Pete Sampras was indisposed at the scheduled time of commencement of the final.

I think of the 1960/61 West Indies tour Down Under when 90,000 people reportedly turned up for the first day of the Fifth Test in Melbourne and enormous crowds later came into the streets of the city to give Frank Worrell’s West Indians a send-off.

In one of the matches, I remember reading somewhere, Australia wicketkeeper Wally Grout deliberately hit the ball into the air to be caught after the Australian umpire had inexplicably given him not out the ball before.

And I think of Sandpapergate, the incident in the Newlands Test in South Africa in 2018 when Australia captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner hatched a plan to have Cameron Bancroft use sandpaper on the ball.

Photo: A satirical look at the Australia cricket team ball tampering incident.

And I wonder…

…about the report in a French online magazine which quotes Steve Williams, the New Zealander who caddied for Tiger for years, including in 13 of his 15 major wins.

According to the report, the gifted American had no interest whatsoever in the quantum of his winnings.

“One of the things I admired most about Tiger,” says Williams, according to a quote in Golf Digest, “is that, once he had signed his card at the end of the tournament, he never, I mean, never once looked to see how much he had won for finishing where he had finished.

Tiger played first and foremost to win trophies, to break records. Not for the money.

Photo: Iconic American golfer Tiger Woods sizes up a putt.

“You might say,” he ended, “that he did not have to [be concerned with money] but all the others check. Only he never once did!”

A 2020 Forbes magazine estimate puts Woods’ fortune at US$800 million, the story notes, over 90% of which comes from sponsorship contracts.

Tiger, it ends, tops the PGA Tour Career Money list with US$120 851 706. Way behind him in second and third are Phil Mickelson (US$94 955 060) and Dustin Johnson (US$72 687 258).

In many minds, thanks largely to Hank Haney, the world’s greatest golfer is a Scrooge.

Will this news from a seemingly unimpeachable source be splashed all over this week’s back pages?

Don’t hold your breath!

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About Earl Best

Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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