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May 20, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Hoopin’ and Hollerin’

Over the last two years I have come closer and closer to the disheartening revelation that I can no longer make it as a professional sportsman. Oh sure, as a 19-year-old I could have devoted three years of my life to exhaustive strength and conditioning training, buttering up my club’s management and forgoing any kind of higher education. But I didn’t, and now it’s too late.

The truth is that nowadays, in the really competitive sports at least, if you’re going to make it at all, you will be on track by age 18. There are exceptions, but chances are, we aren’t them. And so I find myself relegated to the bar leaner, telling my mates over a jug of Export that I could have been a footy great. Just kidding; I have a little more perspective than that.

That said, it’s not uncommon for me to be settled in watching domestic sport when all of a sudden a name will pop up that I recognise. Someone I played with at school, or faced in age-grade representative stuff. It’s usually the big-name players who dominated from under-12s to under-18s, but often it’s not. Either way, it’s kind of weird to see somebody cleaning out Jesse Ryder’s stumps when only five years ago we were sitting in French class together.

Thanks to New Zealand’s tiny population and high rate of sporting participation, most of us sporting folk have either played with or against somebody who has gone on to higher honours. At least we might know someone who knows someone who faced Tim Southee once. That provides us with ample opportunity when watching Super Rugby to explain to our University friends that we once scored a Lomu-like try, running over the now replacement utility back for the Highlanders. I also have a pet theory about cricket, which holds that you can trace any New Zealand cricketer of any level to Chris Harris in six steps or less.

While it’s a shame that we use this statistical quirk for such selfish purposes as bragging to our friends, it’s also a testament to how tight the top band of success in sport can be. Yes, there are always those freaks who were streets ahead of everyone else from the very beginning, but it’s also comforting to know that yes, at one stage, we could have been sporting superstars if we’d really wanted to. We just valued boozing a lot more than that.

For those keeping score, my Harris number is 2, there exists footage of me cleaning out Steven Luatua of the Blues, and I taught up-and-coming fast bowler Matthew Quinn everything he knows—about French.

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