Gillette World Sport Special and Trans World Sport were two TV programmes that brought international sport to our doorsteps in the 80s and 90s. We could only watch these programmes after finishing homework, so I can say they played a role in ensuring I never got to school without doing my homework.
My love for sport has always been inspired by individual brilliance regardless if its an individual or team sport. Most of the sportsmen of that era excelled at a time when there wasn’t too much money from endorsements and investment in sports sciences. It was through raw talent, passion, sheer determination and a desire to conquer their opponents.
It was their their aura which separated them from the rest, a quality which cannot be bought or trained it, their space in history and the role they played to define their sports. This cannot be repreated hence they can nevr be surpassed in greatness, mayeb statistically but not in sheer greatness!
Over the years I have followed various sports mainly because of a single individual who dominated his peers. I have to say there was never a sport I followed because there was a woman who dominated it, though I would give special mention to Martina Navratilova who bull dozed opponents, Kirsty Coventry, Marion Jones and the Williams sisters.
Michael Jordan is undisputably the best baller to ever walk onto a court, in fact in my mind he is the greatest athlete of all those in my list. I often find myself watching clips of his Airness. Before him were guys like Julius Erving and after him came guys like Kobe Bryant and Le Bron James. But soon as Jordan retired I stopped following the NBA passionately. I still enjoy watching and playing basketball though.
Viv Richards came in with no helmet against any attack and the West Indies team of the 80s dominated cricket for a decade. The fast bowlers of that era caused a shift in the balance from bowlers to batsmen by reducing the number of bouncers they could bowl. When I was in high school these are the tapes we used to watch and everyone wanted to be Viv Richards. Then came Tendulkar and Brian Lara and Muttiah Muralithran. They dominated the sport consistently at a level that maybe difficult to surpass.
Mike Tyson was the man who made me follow boxing through out his career and after the biting of Evander Holyfields ear that was curtains of the most devastating boxer of all time. Only took notice recently when Dereck Chisora came onto the scene mainly because he was a Zimbabwean, but boxing is pretty much buried. I thought Chisoras’ antiques were part of a bigger ploy by WBO to raise ratings and get people interested in the sport again.
05 Formula 1
I never really enjoyed or followed formula 1 but it was so popular on Gillette world Sport Special and seemed to always be at the start of the show, so we had to sit through it to watch what we wanted to watch. And throughout that time and through the years only one name dominated and it was Michael Schumacher
It was always nice to see the Zimbabwe flag at number 1 of world golf rankings when Nick Price was at the top of the charts but it was Tiger Woods through his sheer domination who got me interested. After his scandal, I lost interest and every other golfer am sure deep inside was happy that the game was wide open for the taking. Happy to see Woods back in at the top but it will take a while for me to get interested in him again.
Back in school I was a fan of cross country and dominated my age group never losing a single race from grade three to Upper 6. I enjoyed running long distance cos it needed a lot of thinking and strategy on how to pace the race. So Haile Gebrselassie was a hero and all the Kenyans who dominated all the long distance races.
Jonah Lomu bull dozed his way through every team and the Fiji 7’s team was always a joy to watch. The All Blacks are still dominating rugby and have a knack of producing brilliant fly halves and played and entertaining running rugby. Everybody else has since started catching up even South Africa changed tactics to play a more fluid running game. But after Lomu, Habana wowed for a while and then came Dan Carter but rugby has fallen below the radar.
I never really saw Pele play but everyone wanted to be Pele when we played soccer (hweshe) and Maradonna, the little magician. I followed Dynamos and Liverpool the days of Moses Chunga and John Barnes respectively. Then I stopped watching soccer until Manchester United beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final and I was converted to a Manchester United supporter (not a fanatic). Along came Ronaldo from Brazil and then now there is Messi. I watch soccer once in a while though cos now I #iHateSoccer.
First was Carl Lewis then came Maurice Green, the LL Cool J of athletics as he couldn’t seem to stop licking his lips. Of notable mention is Micheal Johnson who succeeded despite having an unconventional running technique. Marion Jones also kept me interested in the women’s race till she went out in disgrace. I lost interest for a while as no one really dominated then baam! Along came Usain Bolt who made us wait for and watch each race of the mens 200 and 100 metres just to see who is going to come as close to second as possible.
Ian Thorpe at the Sydney Olympics had me watching all the heats. Kirsty Coventry brought a sense of pride with her performances in the pool and raised the hopes and pride of a nation by bringing medals from the Olympics. Michael Phelps will probably be the one I will remember for a while.
Serena Williams broke so many barriers and dominated womens tennis together with her sister Venus! They were unstoppable and she will go down as the greatest player for me! First tennis hero together with Martina Navratilova was Boris Becker. My all time favourite was Andre Agassi. Another notable player from that bygone era is Pete Sampras. Then came the current crop of players of which Roger Federer is a clinical beast together with my favourite Rafael Nadal.
Baseball, Ice Hockey, American football, Aussie Rules… I don’t know anyone and never got interested in any of these sports. Although I did enjoy watching Aussie Rules, does it even still exist?
The sport that has stood the test of time is cricket, in all its three formats that are now available. A distant second will be any of the other sports mentioned above especially during Olympics and World Cups. The list only has one women mainly because she is Zimbabwean, but special mention would go to Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Marion Jones, Mariah Motila, and Cathy Freeman. It is also a testament of how I just personally don’t enjoy watching women’s sport and I hope with the current feminism drive does not end up trying to have all sports combined, with men and women in the same team… but that’s a discussion for another day.