The camel-coated brigade



 Use what talents you possess, the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best

On this very date, August 23rd 1988 Mike Gerard Tyson broke his hand in a 4a.m street brawl with professional fighter Mitch Green in Harlem, New York City. Some writers have chronicled this event as the beginning of the end for the young heavyweight. 

His career quickly hurtled along a reckless path of self destruction. Lawsuits, prescription drug dependency, incarceration, flirtation with cannibalism, rape and bankruptcy followed. Whatever you views on Tyson ‘the man’, many writers use two words to sum up Tyson the boxer. ’Wasted talent’.Tyson Mike - Photo XXL - Mike Tyson

Like so few in sport, and life, Tyson tasted unprecedented highs, he also battled excruciating lows. It got me thinking about ‘talent. Why is it that so many sports stars appear to be synonymous with failure to use their talents to the full? 

Tyson, Best, Gascoigne, Kafelnikov, O’ Sullivan, Higgins, Daley, the list goes on and on. 

Don’t get me wrong, I guess professional sport would be all the more boring if all footballers were Gary Lineker, and every Snooker player were Steven Hendry, but why is it so obvious in sport? Why do we care so much when we see enigmas throwing their talent away in the world of sport? 

When was the last time you looked around your office and thought to yourself ‘you know that John would be the best photocopier ever if he just respected his gift’, or ‘no body can strip down a ford fiesta better than Joe, it’s a shame he doesn’t appreciate just how good he is’. It doesn’t happen. Yet if John or Joe were sports stars we condemn them as ‘wasters’ even if they reached the pinnacle in their field. ! 

Some thing just doesn’t add up. Maybe it’s jealousy. We watch the Tyson’s and Higgins’ of this world implode, and deep down we see a little bit of something we all aspire to be but know we can never achieve. 

We witness them arrive at the top of the mountain, totally disregard the view and we think to ourselves ‘if that was me I’d…… or ‘if I was in his shoes I wouldn’t’….. 

Did former undisputed heavy weight champion of the world Mike Tyson waste his talent? Did European cup winner George Best waste his talent? Did two time world snooker champion Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins waste his talent? The answer, sadly, is a resounding yes. 

These and many more sports stars, past, present and future will inevitably waste their God given talent, leaving lesser mortals tearing their hair out in frustration. 


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O’ Sullivan draws obvious comparisons with Higgins, likewise God didn’t break the mould when he made Paul Gascoigne, he merely kept it a few years and produced Wayne Rooney. More will follow in a cycle of repetition. 

So what can we do? How can we contribute to breaking this cycle of ‘failure to fulfill’ that haunts our sporting icons? The answer lies in the acorns that we plant, the seeds that we sow, the children that we bring up. 

If I am ever blessed with a Son (or a daughter) there is one lesson he (or she) simply has to learn. The talent they are blessed with, whether it be sporting greatness or a more mainstream gift, they simply HAVE to use it to the full. 

If they end up working at Woolies then they have a duty to do that job to the best of their ability, if they end up heavy weight champion of the world, the same responsibility applies. 

Application, determination, JUSTIFICATION that they used their talent properly. If you don’t give it your all who knows where your talent might have lead? If you don’t believe me, keep in mind this fact; 

In August 1968 almost 20 years to the day that Mike Tyson had his late night street brawl with Mitch Green a drummer left a band. Insecure of his questionable talent and daunted by the seemingly superior ability of his fellow musicians he made a decision to put his sticks away, never knowing exactly where his limited talent might have taken him.

Was this man the best drummer in Britain? The best drummer in Europe? The best drummer in the world? 

To quote John Lennon. ‘He wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles’. 

Use your talents people, you never know where they might take you.  


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