My reader said last week’s blog was a bit dull and wonky so this week I will speak from the heart.
For those of you who don’t know, this is a triple whammy: it means the whole the season has come to nothing, the club loses out on £50 million plus of TV and sponsorship revenue, and the team will almost certainly lose three or four of its best players to Premiership sides.
I wish I could say that it was still a great day out, after all Wembley is fantastic and we enjoyed the excellent hospitality of T-Mobile (a far sighted company which sponsors both West Brom and the RSA Coffeehouse Challenge). But I’m afraid whoever it was that said it is the taking part that matters never had a team in the play-offs!
And yet in seeking comfort out of adversity there are insights to be had. My boys were completely distraught and so I had to be the grown up. As I said to them, “After you’ve lost this match the team can never hurt you as much again.”
I have started going to Albion games with my friend Adrian Chiles. He is so emotionally tied up with West Brom, and has been all his life, that on bad days I always know there is someone suffering more than me. But there was something else – the reason I think all this is a suitable subject for my blog.
One of the Albion’s favourite players over the years is a central defender called Darren Moore. His universal nick name is ‘Big Dave’ which is apparently a reference to an advertisement for chips from the 1980s.
Anyone who has seen his play can quickly see his strengths (power, size, experience, ability to score headed goals) but also his limitations (he is not exactly nippy and has the turning circle of a family estate car). But the reason fans love him is that he plays every game as if it was his last, is a committed team player and although he is tough and not afraid to give away free kicks there is not an ounce of malice in his huge frame.
Anyway, last season ‘Dave’ left us and went to Derby, and so on Monday he was on the wining team. At the final whistle Derby players were as elated as ours were deflated. They ran around like madmen, jumping on each other, punching the air and grabbing scarves and banners from the crowd.
All, that is, except one man. As the Albion players sank to the ground, many of them in tears, Big Dave was there to comfort each one of them in turn. He must have hugged our distraught left back Paul Robinson for a full 30 seconds (if that doesn’t sound long try doing it with a consenting colleague). All this when he could have been lapping up the adoration of 33,000 of his own fans.
Watching this reminded me and my boys of a simple truth; like all sport (and life itself) football picks us up and knocks us down, we can’t win every time, but it is in our power to be gracious in victory and philosophical in defeat.
More than that, in Big Dave’s deliberate walk to the West Brom end I saw on Monday the incredible power of small acts of kindness.
So here is a challenge to our Fellows – why doesn’t someone out there start a web site to celebrate small kindnesses (smallkindeness.com?). As a counter to the dystopian vision projected by the mainstream media, this could be place for us to record and celebrate the small things that strangers do to make our world better.
A place to thank or even get to know the person who helped us pick up our dropped shopping, or drew us a little map to get us to our tricky destination. And beyond the happy anecdotes (a good thing in itself) maybe we could find out more about why we do the right thing and how we might be encouraged to do it more.
So from West Brom back to my obsession with pro-social behaviour. I may be talking nonsense but if it helps me stop thinking about playing at Blackpool when we could have been going to Arsenal it’s good enough for me.