Book Review: The Love of the Game: Parenthood, Sport and Me by Mark Chapman

I feel like I’ve ‘known’ Mark Chapman (although he will always be Chappers to me) forever. From when he was the sports monkey on the Sara Cox show, through the Chappers and Dave era, and then to being a sports presenter on MOTD2 and the BBC Rio Olympics coverage.  I knew we were a similar age (from some Googling he is exactly 5 months older than me – but the same school year – although not sure why I would even think that relevant when we’re both 43?!) and I remember weeping when he phoned in to tell Sara and the team that his first child had been born (but I was 6 months pregnant with my first child at the time, so blaming that squarely on my hormones!)

Anyway, when he was shamelessly plugging recommending his new book on Twitter at the end of last year I downloaded it.  And promptly ignored it on my Kindle for months.

But I’m doing a Reading Challenge this year, and one category is ‘bestseller in a genre you don’t normally read’ – and whilst I’m not sure if this hit the bestseller lists – it’s definitely a genre I don’t normally read – so I decided to give it a go.

 

The Love Of The Game

 

This is the Amazon blurb:

“BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman is no longer in his physical prime. There is an argument to suggest he has never been in his physical prime. Now in his forties, he is facing a world of knee replacements and ever-expanding waistlines, whilst his children are thriving.

There is huge pride that they are doing so well, mixed with a fair amount of jealousy that actually they are better at a wide range of sport than he ever was. He is passionate about sport and it has played a huge part in his life. His parents encouraged him from a very early age and he wants to pass the baton on to his son and daughters. Although there is every chance he might drop it and have a massive strop instead. He is also very aware of the huge changes in sport today compared to when he was growing up; and he is determined that his own attitude to his son and daughters’ sport – be it football, netball, cricket or gymnastics – will be exactly the same. And he wants to shine a light on grass roots sports – the incredible and largely unsung contribution that volunteers make in the sporting community, without whom – for example – no professional footballer would be in the game today.

Funny, touching, passionate about sport and parenthood, Mark Chapman paints sport as a touchstone for everything important: growing up, becoming a parent, enjoying family time, getting old, learning how to win (and how to lose gracefully), the legacy we all hope to leave our children; in short, life and all that goes into it.”

Quite early on I could completely relate to the book – I remember propping up a small baby to watch the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup because it was history in the making (not realising quite what an exciting game it would be, and that England winning would make it all the more historical!)

I could also empathise with the coaching of a child’s team – as my husband coached our son’s rugby team for a while – and the politics involved with children’s sports is crazy!  My sister and brother in law are heavily involved in my nephew’s football club – and have been for years – and it is such a massive commitment, and often unappreciated.  My brother in law is also in the Chappers mould of subbing his own son more than any others as he doesn’t want to appear biased! I also  got in to trouble going to watch my nephew play by screaming ‘encouragement’ a little too loudly and agressively (this was before my own children were playing competitive sport) – I’d forgotten I was at the side of a bit of grass in a Hampshire park and not in the stands at Villa Park!  Equally our eldest son and daughter were disappointed there was no corporate hospitality for under 8s footie, as they were used to that when watching Aston Villa #firstworldproblems

The attempt at doing a bun for a gymnastics competition also had me amused – my husband is exactly the same when it comes to doing our girls’ hair – despite being a father to 3 girls (thankfully the eldest being a teenager means she can do her own hair now!)  In fact he said to me the other day that nothing could happen to me ever, as there is no way he could do their hair into buns for their ballet exams!

The book is written with humour and emotion – and seemingly honesty about parenthood and the trials and tribulations of it, generally with a sporting bent.  I did get a bit choked up at times – and had a full on cry at the bit written by Chappers’ friend whose son is autistic and not into sport at all.

To enjoy this book I think you need to be a parent and enjoy sport – but if neither of those apply to you I’m not sure why you’d even consider the book anyway given the title!?! An enjoyable foray into someone else’s parenting world, which I really liked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog: What is strength?

Last year my lovely friend Emily wrote a Guest Blog. Today she sent me an email with what you’re about to read, and asked if I wanted to share it.  I couldn’t be more proud to share it with you all, and honoured that Em asked me to post it.

Lots of love to Emily – and Finlay. xx

What is strength?

An odd subject for a blog I grant you, but an issue that has been buzzing around my head just lately – begging to be addressed.  So here we go…

I like to think I am a fairly strong person.  Before children, when I was young, carefree and drinking wine with my work colleagues in various London bars, I used to think of strength as just physical.  Can I lift that heavy box?  Of course.  Can I re-arrange a conference room, moving various chairs and tables? Hell yes!  Can I renovate a dilapidated house, stripping wallpaper and knocking down walls?  No problemo!

Strength was measured by exertion.  My working hours were long, my social life packed.  I thought I was busy.  And then I had kids…

A 28 hour labour will make you reassess strength.  Now I discovered that any physical tiredness I once felt before kids was nothing compared to the intense toil of motherhood.  Sleepless nights, sore leaky boobs, the drain of the emotion that comes with being a mum. And the worry!  How many situations of impending doom can one person imagine?  What if he falls out of the open car window as we are driving along.  Hang on, have I even put him in the car?  What if a dog attacks him when we are at the local park?  And on, and on.  Endlessly.  Now strength was measured mentally.  Emotionally.  Could I get through another day without sobbing at a really intense episode of Bob the Builder?  Unlikely.  Sometimes Bob’s deadlines are really cutting it fine!

Life with children is fun, full and hectic!  Soft-play centres are my new drinking establishments of choice (often tea and a biscuit).  Football on a Sunday my new overtime.  My strength comes from my children, shuttling them to various activities, seeing them have a good time.  Life is pretty great.

But this last year has tested my strength even more.  Just twelve short months ago, a very close friend was dealt the most devastating of news.  Her gorgeous little boy, Finlay was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma Brain Tumour.  Fin has gone through brain surgery twice, has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a clinical trial.  He is about to embark on a second round of gruelling radiotherapy and he is, quite simply, my new hero.  My new definition of strength.

Because throughout this horrible journey, Fin has been truly amazing.  He is brave – overcoming his fear of cannulas; funny –  ‘Why can’t I eat white bread!?’;  and truly inspirational – he has raised over £35K including gift aid for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research and also broken a Guinness World Record!  And still he goes to school, trains for his black belt in karate and continues to be a kind and caring little boy. Oh, and did I mention the Pride of Britain nomination?  Put simply – He rocks!

Of course, there have been dark moments.  This is hell on earth and any parent’s worst nightmare, but during this most horrific of times there have also been moments of sheer beauty – ones that will be treasured forever.  Acts of kindness, generosity and friendship that have gone above and beyond.  People are good, and I have seen that goodness in abundance.

Just recently I asked my lovely Facebook friends to donate just £1 each to try and boost Fin’s fundraising to over the £30k mark.  And I was staggered at the response.  Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years donated.  Colleagues who don’t know Fin, but who know me, digging deep, helping him to smash his target! Thank you my lovely ones – your kindness is appreciated more than you know.  And this got me thinking again about strength and what it really means.

Because ultimately, more and more, I realise that strength comes from love.  I worked hard at my career, because I loved my job.  I got through a gruelling birth and the pitfalls of parenting because I love my children.  And our love for Finlay makes him strong.  And he is loved more than he will ever know.

There is still a long way to go for Fin on his journey.  Every day brings extreme highs and lows – like the worst rollercoaster in the entire world.  Ever.  But his amazing family will continue to fight for him, because they love him.  As friends, we will continue to support them, because we love them.  And if you are reading this, you can help too.  You can #fundthefight to help find a cure for horrible brain cancer, and make sure that no other family, no other lovely children like Fin, have to prove how amazingly strong they are.

You can donate any amount to Fin’s fund here and you can follow his journey on his Facebook page.

Thank you xxx