Saturday, 7 May 2011

R.I.P. Sir Henry - Winning like a gentleman

A man who was something of a hero of mine passed away last week. I am referring to the late Sir Henry Cooper, of course, a true gentleman whom I was fortunate to meet once when I was a guest of a member of Ealing Golf Club. If you read any of the well deserved tributes in the newspapers , you may well be aware of the fact that Sir Henry was certainly the first – and I also think the only , man to win three Lonsdale belts outright. Without wishing to do any injustice to Sir Henry’s memory though, there was actually a boxer who won more British Heavyweight Championship fights than he did, and was British champion for longer than he was, who only won two Lonsdale Belts. I am referring to Bombardier Billy Wells, who fought in the 1910’s.

Back in these early days of professional, Queensberry rules boxing in the UK, a British champion could only win Lonsdale belts for bouts held in the National Sporting Club, in London. Hence the reason why Bombardier Billy only won the two. The NSC was founded in Covent Garden in 1891, and its first president was the Earl of Lonsdale, hence the Lonsdale Belt. The club did a lot to raise the status of boxing. It was a private members club, and bouts would take place after dinner in front of about 1300 members and guests. The rules insisted on silence between the rounds, and good sportsmanship, and the story goes that a prominent notice in the club reminded all concerned to –
Remember that it is better to lose like a gentleman than to win like a blackguard .

Noble sentiments, I’m sure you’ll agree. I mention this, since it impinges upon a philosophical question which I’d like to ask. What would you prefer – to win a quiz having not played to the level you feel you should, or to lose, having played really well nonetheless ? Now, if you are thinking to yourself – well , come on, Dave, the fuss you’ve made in posts in LAM about being beaten by cheats etc. etc. show that you take winning far too seriously, then congratulations to you. You know me very well.

Still , my team lost on Thursday evening in the quiz in the Rugby Club. This was all 100% kosher and above board, I hasten to add. We were beaten by the Lemurs, Rob and Terry’s team, and I know the team so well I know that there is absolutely no way on this earth that they would cheat. They don’t even need to either, they’re a good team. So, as I say, they beat us – only by a single point on the actual questions, and by another point on the picture handout, but there we are, a miss is as good as a mile. Now, losing down the rugby club is normally enough to make me trudge home with a face like a smacked bum, and wake up the next morning feeling that the whole world is against me. Yet it didn’t happen like this on Thursday night. I actually walked home feeling pretty good, despite losing. Why ? Well, though I say it myself, I played very well. We were short as a team, and I had some terrific answers. I’d ‘spotted’ all the in the news questions from the papers, and had all of them , and there were some good answers which came from the work I’d done to try to ensure the league team were covering all the angles. But Lemurs were brilliant on the night, full credit to them. They deserved to win.

For all the enjoyment I got out of the evening, though, I’d would still much prefer to keep the occasions when I feel very happy with the way I played, even though we lost, to a minimum. Losing like a gentleman is fun, but winning like one is still better.

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