Summer has started. No need to check the calendar. No need to consult your diary. Summer is well and truly underway. Just turn on your TV and your radio. The sounds of summer are with us.
The moment that first ball was served in SW19 and the first ball was bowled in the first Test, the start of summer had happened. I have been on this planet for just over 39 years and as long as I can remember I know what season we have entered by the sounds of the sports that accompany them – on TV and radio, usually provided by the BBC. Those special voices; Johnson, Maskell, Allis and Davies. The theme music that we couldn’t get out of our heads. Cricket. Tennis. Golf and the rest.
The Spring starts when The Masters hits our TV screens and Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus hit those first honorary tee shots. Images of Lyle’s dance. Wooise’s knee bend. Faldo’s straight arms. Seve sadly finding the water at 15. The flat racing season is just around the corner and the busy Easter weekend of football fixtures is upon us. My favourite annual sporting event – the Six Nations, which for me is like an eight week religious festival – is in that in between zone, as it starts in the depths of winter and ends with the bright sunshine of St Patrick’s Day, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and happily Irish smiles on faces. It is worth a season of its own.
Summer is all about Wimbledon and the first Test, a perfect starter for the main course of The Open Golf Championship. Becker at the net. Martina. Graf. Sampras and now Federer. Botham setting our pulses racing; Flintoff and the 2005 Ashes. That walk up the 72nd hole, lump in throat regardless of who is lifting the claret jug.
Autumn used to start when the World Matchplay at Wentworth was held but now, since this one great staple of the sporting calendar is a shadow of itself, we turn to the autumn rugby internationals to signal the start of the falling leaves. Seve again, just being Seve. That glorious low sun in the sky above those amazing Burma Road trees, the tee at 16 pointing up the right.
Winter gets underway as the FA Cup third round draw takes place, normally made in the first week of December. The anticipation; a home draw please. Non-leaguers. Giant-killers. Local derby. Wonderful. The appetite is whet for the first weekend of the new year.
As much as I remember the great moments at the great sporting events to turn the page on another season, I remember too the iconic broadcasting that helps them stick in the memory. Those voices. Those giants of TV and radio. Today is no different; this is not a rose-tinted glasses moment. We still have the magnificent Test Match Special, the superb Sky coverage of all sports (ignoring the tedium of football commentary and summarising) and tennis on the BBC. What better way to spend an early summer evening than by watching Murray, Nadal or Federer with John McEnroe and Sue Barker to guide us through it?
Sport is not the most important thing in life – not by a long way – but it something you can depend on; something you can set your watch by; something you can share with those you love. Tomorrow morning while Dr J takes her weekly lie-in (mine is on Sundays), Miss J and I will settle down to watch the decisive Lions Test – a chance for those tourists in red to achieve immorality. Aoife knows that although Ireland play in green it is ok to cheer on the men in red – last week she shouted “come on Liverpool!”.
Perhaps tomorrow will give us another iconic sporting memory. Either way, we know that its the time of the year for sun tan and sunglasses – just as if Dan Maskell was still with us and Johners and Brian Arlott were at Lords.