Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Enjoy the good times

“I never thought I’d see the day when Dizzee Rascal was blaring out of the speakers at Lords while English women won the cricket World Cup”

Most of the advice I’ve received in my 34 years has been lost to time thanks to a poor memory and an inclination to drift off for one sentence in every three told. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve started telling a joke only to forget the punch line at the crucial moment. The anecdotes I do remember in their entirety are put on a revolving door of retell, the audience might change, but my stories never do.

But thankfully some things do stick. The words of wisdom my dad used to say to make me get back on track after I'd fucked up something school or life related. "Pick yourself, dust yourself down, and start again". Invaluable. He also used to say "80% of success is turning up". I think he stole that from a Woody Allen movie but Woody wasn't ever there on the numerous times I got myself in a hole. And over time I realised it to also be true.

Then there are the ultimate truths learnt on my own personal life journey. I look forward to one day reading my own sons 'blog to find him proudly retelling pearls of wisdom such as "You can never have too many potatoes". "Damn straight" he'll say. “Anyone who takes longer than five seconds to explain why they support their football club of choice is a glory-hunter.” FACT. Or, "Life is like an onion, you peel a layer away, day by day, and inside you cry a little". I still laugh at that particular gem. It was once scrawled on my brother’s wall by an adolescent girl friend, tortured by her unrequited love for him. What bastards we were and probably still are.

But not all life creeds are vegetable-related. One such motto, which has stuck a chord, was uttered recently. I have worked alongside Steve Morgan for a number of years. Through dark times we struggled on car crash radio only to find ourselves on far smoother waters. Whilst basking in the glow of buoyant listener figures and admiring colleagues (who spent their time longing to be on the show rather than laughing at it) he turned and urged me to 'enjoy the good times'. As someone I regarded as a peer but also someone with more experience of the industry I took it on board.

On the surface it seems the most obvious of statements for what else do people do but enjoy the good times? But I knew that in the media industry there are too many variables, too many audience monitors, too many rising stars and falling egos for anything to last forever. And so, when it's good, enjoy it, for if there is one ultimate truth in life it is that nothing lasts forever.

And so it was with this in mind that I spent the last couple of weeks in as near state of bliss that can be achieved with morality intact and the police happy to let things continue as they are. I was employed, on very reasonable terms, to produce live coverage of the Twenty20 World Cup. Two weeks of two-times a day, intense, world-class wham, bang, thank you ma'am, cricket.

For the purists it isn't really cricket at all lacking the nuances, guile and attritional of Test cricket. And while I sympathise with this way of thinking I can't help but feel the dissenters are not only shooting themselves in the foot but are in a state of denial. In the interim this form of cricket is here to stay and I'd argue that it isn't necessarily sounding the death knell for Test matches anyway. There's a lot to admire from the shortest form of the game and possibly a lot to learn. In terms of close finishes, audience enjoyment, fast pace action and sheer outrageousness this game is hard to beat.

And so it was that I found myself for a glorious fortnight in the best seat of the house alongside some of the biggest names in world cricket like Sunil Gavaskar, Clive Lloyd, Darren Gough, Graham Thorpe, Farokh Engineer, Jeremy Coney & Kepler Wessels. On top of this I was working with some equally legendary figures from the broadcast world. Just dipping in and out of their off-air conversations was a treat. I learnt a lot. And, for the most part, made sure I did just what I had been told to do. Enjoy the good times for life doesn’t get much better than this.

In the years to come when I look back at the tournament it’ll probably be random moments that will no doubt spring to mind. It’s not always the obvious moments that pop into the brain and improve the mood when slouched on the bus on the way to work. But then there are the moments where you are immediately aware it’s one you will never forget.

One such occurrence, of many, took place while watching England's must win game over Pakistan. I was sitting in the recently completed OCS Stand at the Brit Oval. Five to ten yards to the right of the bowlers run in to the crease. Darkness was falling and Pakistan were crumbling under the English onslaught. I was glued to the action as we had to win to get through to the next round. To my right sat Darren Gough, shouting into the microphone. To Darren’s right, one of my favourite England cricketers and Surrey legend, Graham Thorpe and the South African broadcaster, Neil Manthorpe. Behind them all, my favourite cricketer ever, Alec Stewart was larking about.

So engrossed in the match and with headphones on I didn't immediately realise that Alec Stewart was in the room. He was trying to put Thorpey off as he commentated. All very unprofessional I know. As producer I probably should have booted him out the room. But with England on top and the mood relaxed and from the best seat in the house I surveyed the scene, my schoolboy hero's whacking each other over the head with media guides and generally acting like schoolkids, England on the verge of the next round at the cricket ground I've spent more time at than any other, it hit me that I really am a lucky, lucky guy. And that I should make damn sure I got the most out of these occasions.

And there were several more like this. For a cricket nerd like me it doesn’t get much better than the moments I spent deep in conversation about the game with West Indies cricket commentator Tony Cozier or, the drive up to Nottingham with Kepler Wessels talking about the mood within the Aussie camp. Finding out that Clive Lloyd is as great a guy as he was a cricketer – and he was some cricketer. Watching as Clive, Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell reminisced about high jinks on tour, was nearly as entertaining as it used to be watching them play and nearly as disconcerting as when the media centre started to shake when the Indian fans celebrated a wicket.

Then there were the hours spent chatting (and listening) in rapt attention to legendary BBC commentators Andy Smith and Ron Jones about their times working alongside the characters that made up the game while I was growing up. The moments I couldn’t wait to show off about to the few people I know who actually follow the sport. Like when Anil Kumble ordered in stackloads of curry for the team to enjoy. Or when Sunil Gavaskar did the same thing!

It’s not often in life that you get a burst of happiness and it’s even more of a rarity to get that at work. But this is what happened on more than one occasion. Usually as a bowler was running in, the commentators abuzz to the right of me, the sun radiating onto the pitch in front and with a whole not so lazy game ahead. Good times, good times indeed.

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