The lard comeback
November 21, 2012
Thomas Waldrom in action © Getty Images
I love a challenge. Nearly all of us do and today's Everest is to try and write this article in a children's soft play area. I fear my usual lofty literary standards may be compromised but the challenge is there so I have no option but to rise to it. Occasionally I will pause to shout at a child, whether they are mine or not, but that can stimulate rather than discombobulate as John McEnroe proved time and time again. (I have no idea what discombobidooda means but it ends in "late" and sounds nice.)
So, to this week's matter in hand - lard. Lard is making a comeback and no man is happier to see its return to the mainstream than I. For this I thank, in large part, a Tank they call Thomas from Leicester via Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Thomas Waldrom is my Obama. He has given me and I assume, many of my slightly wobbly ilk, hope. I don't know his official BMI but I am guessing it must be at least two and a half times the number he wears on his back and yet he is a fully fledged international athlete, albeit cruelly discarded this week. I grant you that come the end of a game the steam hooting out of his ears may cause visibility issues to those in his locale, but this iconic chubster is sticking two Swiss roll-like fingers up at the body fat fascists and showing that roly and poly are back in town and mean business.
These days Doughnutting Thomases are few and far between in international sport whereas in my formative years they were ubiquitous and they were my heroes. If it were a straight contest between a blob and a waif, I'd be plumping for the plump guy every time. Apart from the fact that I was an impressionable 10ish-year-old when Nottingham Forest won back to back European Cups, the other reason a boy from North London became a Forest supporter was the player Brian Clough called "the Fat Man" or "the Tramp".
I had John Robertson posters all over my walls - in fact two sufficed to cover the entire area of my sumptuous boudoir. The Tramp was big but played beautiful football. William the Refrigerator Perry, the Chicago Bears Defensive Linesman was bigger than the Alps but he scored a touchdown in a Super Bowl - a bowl he presumably later filled with crisps and apple strudels. John Daly, pre gastric banding, Mike Gatting, George Foreman, 82 % of golfers of that era, Big Daddy - these were my XL Idols.
In my youth I was even more circular than I am now. I used to be the school goalkeeper, wedged between the uprights, an impassible wall of puppy fat. We let in three goals in the entire season - balls rebounding off my sizeable love handles as the opposition tried so squeeze the leather laced orb between the chink of light that wasn't covered by my ample frame. Nigh on impossible. Everton's Neville Southall was my green shirted role model, although he was a little piggy that also flew. But without doubt, the greatest fatlete of them all, in my crumble opinion was the great Sheffield United goalkeeper Fatty Foulke. (Christened William but universally embraced as Fatty, if you had very long arms.)
Fatty was capped by England, won the First Division Championship in 1898, two FA Cups in 1899 and 1902 and also played first class cricket for Derbyshire. Not bad considering that he was 24 stone. So all of you trainers out there, armed with your sinister pincers, just pause a moment before you put a lardster on a diet of skinless chicken and quinoa and think of Old Fatty Foulke. Think of Thomas and his never empty Tank. Think of Free Willy. Sporting whales can be highly intelligent skillful, effective creatures. We must fight to insure they don't go down the same evolutionary cul-de-sac as the Dodo.
That's it. Mission accomplished. Article complete. All that now remains for me to do is to try and arrest the flow of chocolate milkshake that has just been spilled all over my keyboard by one of my offspring. A specimen who is as thin as a twiglet. Fat chance of him ever attaining sporting greatness.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Mark Durden-Smith is the lead presenter for live Aviva Premiership Rugby on ESPN
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup