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Not Big Sam: Golf offers a feeling of hope you won’t find in Sunderland

by Paddy Power | September 28, 2012


You’ve seen the photo. You’ve probably got it on your bedroom wall, or on your desk at work. Not Big Sam and Sir Alex sitting resplendently, together, in a golf cart.

Sitting. Smiling. Bonding. Caring for each other silently. Having more bloody fun than an unemployed dreamer hitting a hot streak on a fruit machine.

The photograph is every inch the portrait of the modern-day man about town. But two of them.

Alex Ferguson with Not Big Sam

Sir Alex Ferguson looking like a vintage MI6 commander, his gorgeous, two-toned sweater & polo-neck combo betraying his legendary grasp of understated style. Not Big Sam positioned at his side, a smile as adorable as a little crescent moon. A hairstyle that looks a little like a wig, but it isn’t, okay?

Sir Alex at the wheel (isn’t he bloody always), Not Big Sam his able lieutenant; navigating, cajoling, adoring. It’s one of my favourite ever images, and instantly conjures up feelings of happiness and pride, leaving me giggling like a dim-witted child at a rainbow.

“Where are you going with this, you fat, Hovis-headed ballbag?” I can hear you roar, impudently.

Golf: a triumph of tenderness over brutality

Well, the photograph isn’t just a representation of two total besties in the prime of their life, having a blast on an electrically-propelled vehicle. It’s also a perfect depiction of the ancient game of golf, and everything it stands for. The camaraderie. The notion of competitive brotherhood. The fact caddies have to obey your every demand, no matter how many fingers are involved.

Golf is the triumph of tenderness and valour, over brutality and ignorance. I zoomed about the course that day with Sir Alex, my head cocked backwards, the air thick with my laughter. I can still hear those mellifluous sounds in my ears when I close my eyes; the thwack of graphite on plastic, the sweet song of the skylark high above in the trees, the thunderous anger in Sir Alex’s voice as he was on the phone to Halfords. These sounds transport me immediately to a warm, welcoming place where everyone is equal (well, as long as you’re white and male), and spite and vulgarity are left in the clubhouse.

A beautiful John Denver song forever ruined

Compare these honeyed tones with the repugnant cacophony of aural pollution one often endures at football games. I once took a team to Sunderland and was subjected to a torrent of abuse from one phlegm-soaked troglodyte sat behind me. His most vile moment, however, wasn’t an off-the-cuff outburst. It wasn’t when he called me ‘spunky-chops’, or when he threw a strawberry Pop Tart at my head. No, it was when he took something beautiful and ruined it forever. At around the 60-minute mark he decided to take one of my favourite songs ever – John Denver’s gorgeously evocative Annie’s Song – and turn it into something putrid.

For reasons known only to himself, he completely altered the lyrics to the song, turning a sweet ode to Denver’s then-wife, into a squalid tale centred on Not Big Sam, a chair leg slathered in Lurpak, and the most barbaric and graphic rendering of onanism I’ve ever heard.

John Denver

ROCKY TERRITORY: John Denver, with an eagle. His classic was ruined by one sick football fan

I’ve genuinely never been as hurt, repulsed or offended in my life. I won’t regale you with his filthy wordsmithery but needless to say, it was grotesque. Even for the North East. I turned around to protest at the slob, to be met with the sight of his snide, grinning face, as he motioned downwards with his vicious eyes. To my horror, I looked down and saw he had his, admittedly staggering, phallus in one hand, and was stroking it with the other. Like an evil genius stroking an arrogant cat. I looked away desolately, a solitary tear streaming down my face, and a little bit of my soul collapsing into dust.

Praise for the Ryder Cup

A golf course will always be a place of respite for me. A place of relaxation, harmony and trust. This is why, when I tune into the Ryder Cup this weekend, I won’t be so doing simply to watch some cocky Americans getting destroyed, or to laugh at Brandt Snedeker’s face. I’ll be watching to remind myself there is a world where style is appreciated. Where craftsmanship is heralded. Where being big-boned is embraced.

A golf course is a venue of hope. A stretch of grass and sand, where a humble man made out of flesh and bone and grit, can sit in an electric cart with a Scottish Knight and feel he truly belongs there. You won’t get that feeling in Sunderland.

Not Big Sam is a parody account on Twitter which can be found here. It is in no way related to Sam Neill, Sam Adams, Sam Allardyce or Sam Fox.


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