The Torch Bearer

My father was a great man. Not a perfect man but a great one, nonetheless. He had flaws but part of his greatness was that he recognised and embraced them. He knew he wasn’t perfect so took positive action to rectify them. Most of the time he was successful at this, sometimes not, but every time he tried his best. And if he failed he dusted himself off, got back up on his feet and tried again. Great men do that. Don’t believe me? Check your history books.

One of my father’s lesser, although still irksome, flaws was his support of Liverpool Football Club. Growing up in Northern Ireland all football mad boys adopt an English football team to support. Mainly because the local sides are so rubbish. The two most popular choices have always been Liverpool and Manchester United. Bitter enemies with a rivalry going back almost 150 years. Loyalty to a team would be passed down from father to son, generation to generation. It is all part of the paternal bonding process.

Yours truly of course had to be different. I decided to support Manchester United much to my father’s disgust no doubt. I have no idea why I made this decision but for as long as I can remember the Red Devils have held a special place in my heart. I have no recollection of consciously rebelling against my father when making this decision but obviously at some point did. Some boys smoke or buy fast cars. I put Robson, Cantona and Solskjaer posters on my bedroom wall instead of Dalglish, Rush and Beardsley.

It is with some relief, therefore, that our Adam has chosen to follow in my footsteps and support Manchester United. Hopefully these will be the only footsteps of mine he chooses to pursue for many of the others lead to dangerous cliff tops, treacherous quicksand and murky dead ends. Part of my fatherly duties, as I see it, is to steer him away from the paths that I spent the majority of my adult life travelling. Manchester United, however, is a much safer option. Plus, combined with his rugby, it gives us another shared interest. And I’m all for that.

The other night I heard him celebrating a Manchester United goal loudly. Very loudly. It reminded me of myself when I was his age. Running round my bedroom screaming at another last minute winner. And it filled me with pride. Pride at the little part I have played in bringing three such incredible young people into the world. Fionnuala has to take the majority of the credit. She has raised them. I just go to work and pay a few bills. That’s the easy part of the deal.

It also filled me with sadness. I lost my father eight years ago to prostate cancer. Adam lost his grandfather. I’m not so sure my father would have been enamoured with his grandson’s choice of football team but I know he would have been bursting with pride at his academic and sporting achievements. The torch has been passed on. It has flickered and spluttered at times when my father and I held it but it burns bright again now in Adam’s hands. It will no doubt flicker and splutter again for that is the way of the world. But for now it burns bright.

How bright is your torch burning today? It may be a mighty blaze or it may be a timid flicker. It matters not. What matters is that you don’t allow it to be extinguished no matter what obstacles you face. For one day you will be called to hand it on. The race will continue but yours will be run. Younger, stronger legs will take over from you but they need you as much as you need them. They need you, flaws and all. From our weaknesses they will emerge wiser. They will triumph where we have failed. They will overcome.

What made you decide to support your current sporting team?

Who are your torch bearers, past and present?

19 thoughts on “The Torch Bearer

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    1. I only ask because I was the closest my father ever got to a son, forever coined Dani. I’m not sure I ever went against his way of thinking, but he was sick and very unlike himself for half my life.

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  1. Awww that’s lovely … beautifully written, as ever … I lost my father 17 years ago and my mother 3 years ago tomorrow. Thank God for having children. I’m afraid I don’t follow football, although my husband watches Match of Day without fail …. he supports Ipswich Town which is hilarious because they rarely win but his enthusiasm never diminishes!

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  2. I cheer for the Tennessee Volunteers because my mother supports them. She supports them because my grandparents do.

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  3. I’m a HUGE Ohio State Buckeyes (American) football fan because that’s where I went to grad school, and because I played on the Women’s Ice Hockey Club team.

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  4. Spurs, through and through! My granddad came over from Hungary in the 50’s and moved to North London, falling in love both with a beautiful woman who became my grandmother and the only football team he’d heard of, Tottenham.

    Growing up in Walthamstow, most of my friends became Arsenal fans. I never came close. My team was my team, as was my fathers before me and his before him, and as my children follow in my footsteps. In my household, Gooner is the ultimate insult reserved for the most hate liked of moments. 😁

    Great post, by the way!

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  5. What a wonderful post! My Dad was also a great man. I miss him still after all these years, but take great relief that he was with me as I started my life in recovery.
    His sports passion was baseball, which I am grateful to say he passed on to me. His team was the New York Giants (Willie Mays was his favorite all-time player). When the Giants went west to San Francisco in 1958 his allegiance went with them. As I grew up in the 1960’s, it was often the next day before we had West coast results, but that didn’t deter us at all. When cable tv finally hit our market in the early 70s, we marked the calendar for when the Giants would play the NY Mets, games we could watch on Tv.
    I am pleased to say I carried on the tradition to my oldest, who has taken Giant fandom to a whole new level. With his encouragement, I made a pilgrimage to San Fran to watch them play 3 games in April of 2013. He and I also have made day-trips to Toronto and New York City to see our beloved Giants play in person.
    I should add, Steven, through absolutely no help on my part, my son has also become a huge fan of your ‘football,’ having also chosen ManU to support!
    Blessings,
    Chuck

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