The (ab)use of the pun in the titles of sports books: The use of puns in the titles of sports books, particularly biographies, is nothing new. 1951 gave us Plum Warner’s “Long Innings” and Jim Laker’s “Spinning Round The World”, and so a new tradition was established. Ever since these early attempts at punnery any […] More…
Two huge cricket records at the Oval smashed by two different cricketers and best friends in the last Test match before one of them retires from international cricket…it reads like a plot of a corny cricket novel. But, as we all know, James Anderson and Alastair Cook made it happen in the latest Test match, […] More…
Sportspages’ New Stock catalogue is packed with rare items and sports memorabilia, detailing iconic and extraordinary sports events. We were spoilt for choice when we tried to choose a few to highlight. In the end we plumped for three extraordinary football matches. In each of them a team finished with a result football teams can […] More…
How many male footballers can be described as an England World Cup Winner?! Very few, but Ray Wilson could. An England player, who started his career with Huddersfield Town, Wilson died a few days ago at 83. He was a quiet, modest, key member of England’s 1966 winning football team. England’s men’s football team winning […] More…
The Winter Olympics are not often the scene for British sporting triumphs. At this year’s Olympics we have 4 medals to date, one of which is gold. We may possibly win another medal, which would make the Pyeongchang Olympics our most successful Winter Olympics ever. We have, however, managed a few sporting coups at the Winter Olympics over […] More…
Our New Stock catalogue is out now, packed with fantastic items of sports memorabilia. Big names from various sports feature heavily: cricket’s Jack Hobbs and Les Ames; golf’s Henry Cotton; football’s Ray Wilson and Bob Paisley and athletics’ legendary Zatopek, to name but a few. Two characters stand out for both their achievements and their […] More…
The (ab)use of the pun in the titles of sports books:
The use of puns in the titles of sports books, particularly biographies, is nothing new. 1951 gave us Plum Warner’s “Long Innings” and Jim Laker’s “Spinning Round The World”, and so a new tradition was established. Ever since these early attempts at punnery any sportsperson who was tempted to put pen to paper, however misguidedly, could tap into the rich resource thrown up by unusual sporting terms and phrases. To be honest, the vast majority need more than just a promise of dressing room banter and blow by blow accounts of their on-field triumphs to help sell their books. If Steve Davis had called his autobiography simply “My Story” or “I won Lots of Snooker Matches” instead of “Frame and Fortune” life could have been very different.
Often the pun gives a clue to the sport involved – “A Game to Love” by – surprise, surprise – tennis’ Ann Jones, Bernhard Langer’s “While the Iron is Hot”, “Life in the Fast Lane” by Eddie Irvine and “Another Hurdle” by David Hemery. It can also relate to the role or position that the subject played in his/her chosen sport. Who can guess what the subjects of these books did for a living? “The Breaks Are Off”, “Running Commentary”, “I Declare”, “Right Back To The Beginning”, “In The Long Run” and “In Safe Keeping” – answers below.
Cricket books probably give the best opportunities for this approach – “All Round View” (Imran Khan), “A False Stroke of Genius” (Wayne Larkins), “The Gloves Are Off” (Godfrey Evans), “Lasting the Pace” (Bob Willis), “Runs in the Family” (John Edrich) and “Over and Out” (Denis Lillee) being some good examples. Some puns can be unforgivable – a serial offender was Graham Dilley with “Swings and Roundabouts” and “Hick and Dilley Circus”, but there are others – “No Bull” (Andy Bichel) and “Playing it Straight” (Ken Barrington) take a bow. One cricket title is so obvious that it has been used more than once – Geoff Boycott, Glenn Turner and Mike Atherton all used “Opening Up”. I wonder if Alastair Cook will be tempted to follow in a great tradition.
Rugby and football also provide opportunities for the play on words – “Centre of Excellence” (Jim Renwick), “Rubbing Shoulders” (Phil Blakeway) and “Kicked Into Touch” (Paul Thorburn) being a few from rugby. Football books include “Heading For Victory” (Steve Bruce),
“Leaping To Fame” (Peter Bonetti), “By The Book” (Clive Thomas), “Back At The Top” (Bill Foulkes) and “Managing My Life” (Alex Ferguson).
Of course, the lure is far stronger if the title hints at some far more interesting extra-curricular activity – “No Half Measures” (Graeme Souness), “Wasted?” (Paul Smith), “Rock Bottom” (Paul Merson), “Fast and Loose” (Martin Offiah), “Back From The Brink” (Paul McGrath) and my favourite, “One Hump or Two?” (Frank Worthington).
It is surely no coincidence that two not so legendary “characters” of British sport, Steve Davis and Nick Faldo, have chosen puns – Faldo twice, with “Life Swings” and “The Rough With The Smooth”. Given his more colourful private life, these are probably well chosen. Another common approach is to incorporate your name into the pun, such as “Pat On The Back” (Pat Eddery), “Hunt For Goals” (Roger Hunt) and “Ball of Fire” (Alan Ball) – which was also used by “Fiery” Fred Trueman.
Terry Downes came up with the inspired title “My Bleeding Business” for his 1964 autobiography but how is it possible that John Prescott was the first to come up with “Pulling No Punches”? Come on you ex-boxers, it is time to put your hat in the ring. My new autobiography, “Magnus Bowles ‘Em Out”, which includes full details of each of my six wickets this season as well as some revealing stories from the pub afterwards, will be in the shops soon.
The answers to the Titles quiz above:
“The Breaks Are Off” – Graeme Swann (off-break bowler)
“Running Commentary” – David Moorcroft (distance runner and commentator)
“I Declare” – Mike Denness (cricketer and England captain)
“Right Back To The Beginning” – Jimmy Armfield (footballer who normally played at right back)
Two huge cricket records at the Oval smashed by two different cricketers and best friends in the last Test match before one of them retires from international cricket…it reads like a plot of a corny cricket novel. But, as we all know, James Anderson and Alastair Cook made it happen in the latest Test match, England v India, at the Oval. Cook had already announced his imminent retirement so we all knew this was to be his last innings as an international batsman. He clearly didn’t dwell on the fortunes of a legendary, ‘invincible’ batsman’s last innings at the Oval sixty years before him. Donald Bradman, still with a possibly unbeatable Test match average of 99.4, was then cruelly out for a duck.
Alastair Cook, on the other hand, seemed calm and unfazed as he ratcheted up his 118 runs in the fifth and final Test. That made him the England player with the most Test centuries; the most Test runs, having played the most Test matches for England. On the 1st March 2006 Cook scored his first England century against India. On the 10th September 2018 Cook scored his last England century against India…and, of course, his last international century ever.
James Anderson, not to be outdone by his best friend, took his 450th Test wicket in the same match. He became ICC’s top ranked Test match bowler for the first time. He broke Glen McGrath’s record for Test wickets and so stepped into the lead for being the fast bowler to take the most wickets in Test cricket history. Both Anderson and Cook’s records and achievements are phenomenal.
If we wanted to be really picky about the pair, however, we might suggest they put a tiny bit of the kind of incredible effort they’ve put into their skills and achievements as cricketers into the naming of their respective cricket autobiographies. Alastair Cook, “Starting Out. My Story so Far”; James Anderson, “My Story”…it reminds us a bit of that corny cricket novel again…
Sportspages’ New Stock catalogue is packed with rare items and sports memorabilia, detailing iconic and extraordinary sports events. We were spoilt for choice when we tried to choose a few to highlight. In the end we plumped for three extraordinary football matches. In each of them a team finished with a result football teams can only dream about.
On the 26th December 1963, Fulham played a legendary match against Ipswich Town. Not only did Fulham win 10-1, but Graham Leggatt scored a record breaking hat trick in 3 minutes. Fulham were understandably on Cloud 9 at the end of that match. Sadly, their euphoria did not last long. Two days later they lost their next match: 4-2. Guess who they were playing? Ipswich Town – in the return fixture. It’s hard to imagine which was the sweeter victory?!
Ted Macdougall pulled off a fantastic string of goals for AFC Bournemouth on 20th November 1971. In a fourth division match against Margate, he scored 9 goals. As a result he found himself rubbing shoulders with the Portuguese legend, Eusebio, and England’s World Cup heroes: Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Greaves. Geoff Hurst had read about Macdougall’s achievement and promptly invited him to join an all-star World XI match at West Ham.
Both Fulham and Ted Macdougall’s achievements were spectacular footballing results but we have a programme in Sportspages’ new stock catalogue with an even more extraordinary final score. On the 8th December 1984, in the first round of the Scottish FA Cup, Stirling Albion played Selkirk at Annfield Stadium. They beat Selkirk: 20-0, the highest score between 2 British clubs in the twentieth century. Stirling Albion had started the match very focused after a team talk from their manager. They had been knocked out the previous year by a non-league team and their manager told them in no uncertain terms that that could not happen again. Stirling Albion scored 5 in the first half…and then picked up momentum. Willie Irvine scored 5 goals; Davie Thompson scored 7. By all accounts Selkirk took their defeat in a gentlemanly, gracious manner. Presumably they had been taken way beyond the losing pain barrier where nothing could hurt them any more!
How many male footballers can be described as an England World Cup Winner?! Very few, but Ray Wilson could. An England player, who started his career with Huddersfield Town, Wilson died a few days ago at 83. He was a quiet, modest, key member of England’s 1966 winning football team.
England’s men’s football team winning the World Cup is not something many people today have experienced or remember and, if truth be told, can easily imagine happening now! Maybe we need to go back to basics and learn a few lessons from the likes of Ray Wilson and his background.
Ray Wilson grew up in Shirebrook, a small mining pit village in Derbyshire. In his own football autobiography, he describes his childhood as, “Back street football. A paper round. A punch on the nose. This was my heritage.” He also noted that, “We had no toys but…all we ever needed was a ball.” He worked hard, kept his head down and managed to break through to professional football in 1952. Wilson went on to play under four great managers: Bill Shankly; Harry Catterick; Walter Winterbottom and, of course, Sir Alf Ramsey. Along with winning the World Cup, he helped Everton win the FA Cup too in 1966: the championships were just six weeks apart!
Ray Wilson was the oldest member of England’s World Cup squad in 1966 at 31. He retired from football five years later. He returned to Huddersfield with his family and became an undertaker. How times really have changed! Ray Wilson had an immensely successful football career and yet always retained a humble, modest, footballing approach. The only thing flashy about Ray was his name: called after his mother’s favourite Hollywood star, his first name was actually Ramon. Try pulling that one off, growing up in a Derbyshire pit village in the 1940s! It seems particularly poignant to say goodbye to Ray Wilson as we ‘limber up’ for the start of the 2018 World Championship in Russia. Maybe Today’s England team will show that humility, doggedness and resilience too…
The Winter Olympics are not often the scene for British sporting triumphs. At this year’s Olympics we have 4 medals to date, one of which is gold. We may possibly win another medal, which would make the Pyeongchang Olympics our most successful Winter Olympics ever.
We have, however, managed a few sporting coups at the Winter Olympics over the years. One of the greatest and most surprising might be Britain’s gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. The British men’s ice hockey team beat the then reigning champions, Canada, that year. Canada had won the event for four preceding, consecutive Olympics. Britain had, in fact, a spectacularly successful ice hockey team at the time. It was the first team to become Olympic, World and European Champions, all in the same year.
The 1936 Winter Olympics was notable in its own right. Held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, it was the last time that a winter and summer Olympics was held in the same country in the same year. Hitler was, of course, Germany’s leader at this time. Months before the winter games an English reporter visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He saw several signs, saying ‘Jews not wanted’ and ‘Jews not allowed’ in the village. He took a photo of one of them above the Partenkirchen ski clubhouse. The photo was published throughout the world.
A movemement formed in the US to boycott the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. It threatened the entire German Olympic Project. Germany could not risk countries pulling out of their planned Olympics showcase in Berlin months later. So Berlin ordered all anti-semitic signs and posters removed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and presented themselves to the outside world as a ‘friendly dictatorship’. Their ice hockey captain was , in fact, Jewish, the only Jew to represent Germany at the Games. The British ice hockey team even performed a Nazi salute during the Games out of ‘respect to their hosts, the German People’.
Of course ice hockey at the Olympics has the power to surprise in 2018 too. The appearance of a united North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team has definitely earned the term ‘historic’. They may not have won any medals – or any games! – but they certainly won the prize for most rapturous and warm reception at this year’s Olympic Games. Long live Olympics upsets and surprises – they’re a huge part of the Games’ appeal.
Our New Stock catalogue is out now, packed with fantastic items of sports memorabilia. Big names from various sports feature heavily: cricket’s Jack Hobbs and Les Ames; golf’s Henry Cotton; football’s Ray Wilson and Bob Paisley and athletics’ legendary Zatopek, to name but a few.
Two characters stand out for both their achievements and their too short lives. Colin Blythe was one of England’s greatest slow, left-arm bowlers, who took over 2,500 wickets for Kent and England. Born in 1879, he enlisted in the army in 1914 like so many of his generation. He was killed by shell fire at Passchendaele in 1917.
Another great achiever, whose life was cut short, was Lady Mary Heath or Sophie C Eliott-Lynn. Her story is extraordinary. She was an orphan at 0ne when her father bludgeoned her mother to death. Two maiden aunts brought her up subsequently and tried hard to discourage Sophie’s passion for sports.
They were unsuccessful. Sophie C Eliott-Lynn was Britain’s first female javelin champion. In 1923 she represented the United Kingdom at the 1923 Women’s Olympiad. She came third in the high jump, javelin throw and women’s pentathlon. In 1925 Her book, ‘Athletics for Women and Girls’ was published. In 1926 she competed at the Women’s World Games. She then turned her hand at flying.
Now married and known as Lady Mary Heath, she soon became the first woman to hold a commercial flying licence in Britain. At 31, Heath became the first person to fly in an open- cockpit plane, solo from South Africa to Egypt. Tragically she was badly injured in an air crash only a year later and was never the same again. She died n 1939 from a fall, after years of alcoholism.
Short as Blythe and Eliot-Lynn’s lives may have been, they both achieved phenomenally and lived their lives to the absolute brim. They have also given us all the great joy of appreciating and enjoying their trails of success – one of the many pleasures that sports memorabilia offers.