Twitter outlaw and now Paddy Power Blog tennis correspondent @TheBig_Sam hails the influence of steely mothers…
As a child, I always suspected that my mother hated me. My emotional landscape was peppered with subtle clue-rocks that dragged me towards this desperate and momentous conclusion: not being invited to my own birthday parties; making me sleep in the sink; the drawings of me in an open coffin that she placed in my lunchbox. To the young, sensitive mind of a future-behemoth, these passive-aggressive happenings were the actions of a woman struggling to connect with a clearly prodigious child.
The pinnacle of mother’s antagonism towards me occurred during a trip to London zoo in the early 60s. As we walked through this mesmerising maze of exotic beasts and intoxicating scents, I beamed with joy. Honestly, I felt as giddily content as a lesbian at a farmer’s market. Mother wouldn’t hold my hand, and called me a “waste of an orgasm” when I asked for a bag of peanuts, but I didn’t mind. I was happy to be in her company, and revelled in the opportunity to gloat at caged animals.
Eventually we happened upon the hippopotamus enclosure. I’ve always loved the hippo; a large, mostly herbivorous mammal found in sub-Saharan Africa, it marries the languid dignity of a fat person on a mobility scooter, with the raging, hate-fuelled aggression of an Italian. As I gazed in at this magnificent creature, and marvelled at the way he used his little tail as a kind of disgusting propeller whilst defecating, mother approached me from behind and whispered into my ear. “He’s your brother,” she said. I giggled at what I assumed was a silly little joke, but was met with the stern look of a woman that didn’t do jokes. “I don’t do jokes, you fat little ballbag. That’s your younger brother, Phil.”
The day I met my brother in a zoo
As my smile disappeared, she told me that she’d given Phil up for adoption, as he was born with a tropical disease that made him look like a hippopotamus.
“As soon as I saw him, I knew he was a wrong-un’, son,” she said. “I mean, you had a face like an arse from day one, but this lad was different gravy.”
As she carried on with her story, my eyes filled with horror-infused tears. Like that scene in The Elephant Man when Anthony Hopkins saw for the first time Merrick’s big beanbag head and the general disgrace of his overall appearance.
A brother. My brother. Given up by a distraught mother that was unable to cope with the demands of a rare and shocking affliction. It was like a storyline from Hollyoaks Later.
“How did Phil end up in a zoo, mum?” I asked, adorably.
“Dunno,” she replied.
“Fair play,” I conceded.
Phil looked back blankly, then went for a swim
At this point I broke down in tears. I turned to my brother and was overcome with a sense of acute sorrow I’ve yet to feel again. All the years of brotherly love I missed out on, just because he looked a little different. Four legs and tail levels of ‘different’ in fairness, but it was superficial nonetheless. As I looked deep into his sad, watery eyes, I winced as I wondered what kind of life he’d had. What kind of abuse had he suffered? What happened to his teeth?
As my emotions roared like… well, like Phil was doing, I flung myself towards the glass and screamed in anguish. “Phil!!!” I yelled. “I bloody love you! We are as one!!”
Phil looked back blankly, and then trotted off for a swim. He was clearly as touched as I was.
All of a sudden, mother put her arm around me and beckoned me towards her. “I think you should go say hello to your brother, Sammy. What do you say? I bet he’s bloody dying to see you.”
“But he can see me through the glass, mum, “I replied.
“Well, then I bet he’d f*cking love to let you ride on his back or something. Don’t be a bellend – get in there and have a chat with him.”
Being pushed towards Africa’s most deadly animal
She then attempted to hoist me over the partition towards a now-bemused Phil. In a matter of seconds my entire world was torn to shreds. One minute I was re-connecting with my long-lost brother, the next I’m being pushed towards Africa’s most dangerous animal by my mum.
Thankfully, an alcoholic, but thoroughly decent zookeeper called Gary saw the whole thing, and came to my rescue. After four hours of talking to an animal social worker, I was finally returned to my mother. She had denied the whole thing, and claimed it was just a cry for help on my part. We left the zoo, and began the long, silent journey back home to Dudley.
I’ve never spoken to mother about the incident. Due to the sheer shock of it, I guess. My own mother lied to me about having a secret, disfigured brother in an attempt to get me into a hippo enclosure and towards my certain doom. I spent years wallowing in the trauma of her actions and the reasoning behind them. She loathed me so much she would happily see me mauled to death by the world’s largest type of land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyl. Whatever way you slice it, that’s bang out of order.
Over the years, however, I’ve come to understand the methods behind her madness. Mother wasn’t trying to kill me; she was simply moulding me into the hulking mass of grit and endurance that would eventually become Not Big Sam. She was putting me on the path to physical and mental supremacy at an early age; equipping me with all the tools I needed to carve my initials into the tree of footballing excellence.
What Andy Murray can learn from all this
I applaud such maternal steel, and I see an awful lot of similarly innovative brutality in Andy Murray’s mother, Judy. I don’t care for the woman much – she looks like a hip and cocky Bundesliga general manager – but when I look into her eyes I can see she gets the job done.
Listen to her, Andy. Bend to her whims, and abide by her methods. Bathe in the warm, bubbling waters of her vision, and you too could reap the rewards.
As the story of an injury-ravaged 2013 Wimbledon championship continues to unfold, I am certain that the severe, unblinking love of a mother could once again turn an also-ran into a titan.
Do it for your country, Andy. Do it for your mum. And get me the number of Djokovic’s girlfriend, while you’re at it. I’d punch a hippo square in its fat face for a go at that little peach.
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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