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Saturday, January 28, 2006


General Discussions: Carpe Diem.

As harsh as it must seem, there is no point crying over what might have been. In sport, the imponderables are so numerous that to let them prey on the mind would drive an athlete insane. It is how we react to these twists of fate that determines greatness.

Source: The Daily Telegraph
By: Will Greenwood, England and Lions centre.

Where is the other you right now? The you that made the tube, not the you that sprinted and arrived as the doors slammed shut. The you that went left and avoided the M25, not the you that is stuck at junction 15 in the world's largest car park.

We all do it, wondering what life would be like if we had made different decisions at key moments. Sport is no different. What would have happened last summer if Brett Lee had smashed Steve Harmison's full toss for four instead of a single, only to watch Michael Kasprowicz get out in the same over, losing the match and levelling the Ashes series. Would a million people have welcomed Steven Gerrard's Liverpool home with the European Cup if the referee had judged that Luis Garcia's goal had not in fact crossed the line against Chelsea in that pulsating semi-final? And, on a personal note, would I have ever won a Lions Test cap if Brian O'Driscoll had not gone into 'that' ruck?

The sporting commentator labels them 'what ifs', the unanswerable questions that prey on the mind for those who end up on the wrong side of those decisions. Such turning points can give victors the confidence to go on to great things, but only if they refuse to dwell on the fact that it could so easily have been different.

The Heineken Cup has thrown up many of these conundrums, not least now with Perpignan and the split-second decision that forced them to travel to play Munster, possibly in the impenetrable fortress that is Thomond Park. And how did the French end up with the unenviable task of a quarter-final in Ireland, rather than finishing as top dog and earning the right to play in front of thousands of Catalans in Barcelona as they had planned?

It is all down to twists of fate and split-second decisions that would have even the most hardened sadist wincing in sympathy.

Just before Christmas, Perpignan were six points up at Headingley and well into injury time when Leeds grabbed a lifeline by scoring a try wide out on the right. The Leeds fly-half, Gordon Ross, was presented with a tough conversion to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He settled himself, went through his usual routine and promptly pulled his attempt so far off target that it almost flew over midwicket and into the adjoining Test match arena.

It seemed like glory for Perpignan and the important home advantage in the next rounds had been all but secured. Well, not quite, and up popped one of those decisions that have the French muttering darkly about Anglo-Saxon conspiracies. Ross was to get another chance at becoming a hero, because the referee decided there had been an infringement as Perpignan charged the conversion. It's not that different to football, when a referee judges the goalkeeper to have moved before a penalty has been taken. The only thing is, in rugby this does not happen every other game. In fact, I am not sure I have ever seen it happen before. It is one of those decisions that a referee is well within his rights to make but very rarely does.

Perpignan by now must have sensed that they would have been better off staying in bed. Ross went through his preparations a second time, but you could have blindfolded him and tied one leg to the other, he was never going to miss. In that instant the 'other' Perpignan stepped forward, the team who could see how much greener the grass was on the other side of the fence.

As harsh as it must seem, there is no point crying over what might have been. In sport, the imponderables are so numerous that to let them prey on the mind would drive an athlete insane. It is how we react to these twists of fate that determines greatness.

The cricket boys saw the opportunity they had to win the Ashes and snatched it with both hands. Liverpool showed their class by going 3-0 down in the final and still bringing home the trophy. And O'Driscoll? He has bided his time and put in the groundwork. He has trained away from the big crowds and the flashing lights, and reappeared on the European stage last week in the most emphatic of ways, playing brilliantly.

Martin Johnson's boys of 2003 had their own moments, not least when, seconds from glory in normal time, Australian fly-half Elton Flatley stepped forward and converted a penalty that many claim should never have been given. Argue the point for as long as you want, it made no difference at the time, and we had no choice but to play on and send the whole nation behind the sofas for the last 20 minutes.

Forget about ifs, should haves or coulds. They are an irrelevance. It does not matter what the other you is up to. In sport when an opportunity comes along, grab it with everything you have, do not let go and enjoy the moment wherever it takes you. For Perpignan, the journey is to Ireland and, as with the other teams in the quarter-finals, destiny will be in their own hands. Fail to concentrate on the here and now, and there is a good chance that, come May, the other you will be wondering about what might have been.
print this out and give it to every single south african super 14 player and coach before the competition starts - because in most of these guys mind's we have already lost - no matter what they spin in the media.  
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