Bradley Wiggins and other sporting rock ‘n’ rollers

Paul Howarth
bradley wiggins 300x225 Bradley Wiggins and other sporting rock n rollers

Bradley Wiggins, winner of the SPOTY award

What I know about cycling you could pretty much write on the back of a postage stamp with a fat crayon.  But even I can appreciate the magnitude of Bradley Wiggins’ achievements in 2012.

I’m a huge fan of Jessica Ennis (show me a man of my age who isn’t) and wanted her to win BBC Sports Personality Of The Year purely because she had to withstand more pressure than any other competitor in the run-up to London 2012. As the poster girl of the Games, she had a good eighteen months of expectation to deal with, and deal with it she did in emphatic fashion.

However, Wiggins’ unique success is worthy of the highest recognition.  Claiming the Tour De France is, on its own, a staggering feat and one never before achieved by a Briton.  As if losing out to Britain in the race to host 2012 wasn’t difficile enough for the French to swallow, here’s some skinny, brash, side-burned fella from these shores winning their race and lording it over the crowd on the Champs Elysées.  To follow that up a week later with Gold in the time trial at London 2012 was nothing short of superhuman.

And did you see him at the Excel the other night at SPOTY?  The studiously brushed-forward hair, the bespoke double-breaster by Soho tailor Mark Powell.  Wiggins’ hero is Paul Weller, in case you’re blind.  He also did his best to remind us that the P in SPOTY stands for ‘personality’, impishly referring to Sue Barker as ‘Susan’ throughout their interview (sorry, Brad, Matt Dawson’s been doing that for years) and, later, urging everyone to make full use of the free bar laid on by the BBC.

So, not only the best-loved and most-garlanded sportsperson of the year but a man who looks, sounds and acts like a rock star.  Mind you, he’d be doing well to match the exploits of the characters below.

Serena Williams 300x225 Bradley Wiggins and other sporting rock n rollers

Tennis star Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Everything about Serena Williams screams rock star.  The clothes, for starters.  Black lycra catsuits, knee-high boots, short denim skirts and white trenchcoats are just a few of the items she’s worn.  On the court.  She even has her own apparel label, called Aneres (see what she’s done there?).

Williams has appeared in music videos, lent her voice to The Simpsons, done a turn on a comedy improv show and, if rumours are to be believed and a leaked hip-hop track extrapolated upon, is planning to release an album.

She’s also a complete beast on the court, allying a savage will to win with considerable talent.  I remember watching the Wimbledon final in 2002 when she played big sister Venus, and thinking to myself that only one of them truly wanted it, while the other would be happy to lose graciously to her sibling.  Scope for some proper, deep-seated Freudian analysis there but evidence, for our purposes, of Serena’s unstinting single-mindedness.

Her on-court brutality has, on occasion, manifested itself in ugly outbursts.  When she was foot-faulted at a crucial stage of her 2009 US Open clash with Kim Clijsters, she allegedly told the hapless line judge that she would “…take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat!”  Rather puts McEnroe’s “You’re the pits, man” in the shade, doesn’t it?

Even Pete Townshend would’ve been proud of the abuse she dished out to her racquet that day.

Robin Friday

George Best will be many people’s definitive rock ‘n’ roll sportsman.  But in my view El Beatle couldn’t hold a candle to Robin Friday; if Best had tried, Friday may well have used it to cook up some heroin.

You see, if Serena Williams embodies the glamorous side of being a rock star, then the former Reading and Cardiff City striker represents its seedy, grimy underbelly.  Think Ozzy Osbourne, Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse in their darkest days.

Friday was a supremely gifted footballer.  He scored goals, he made goals, his vision was on a par with more vaunted flair players of the age such as Tony Currie, Alan Hudson and Stan Bowles.  Friday’s manager at Cardiff, Jimmy Andrews, described him as “the complete centre-forward.”  Many felt he could, and should, have played for England.  When the BBC ran a poll to find the ‘all-time cult hero’ of all English and Scottish league clubs, Friday won the accolade for both Reading and Cardiff.  No other player appeared in the top three of two different clubs.

Friday was as vicious as he was blessed.  On his debut for Cardiff, he lined up against Bobby Moore’s Fulham.  Not only did Friday score twice, but he also grabbed Moore’s testicles, pre-empting Vinnie Jones’ famous attack on Gazza by nearly a decade.  Then there was his sending off against Brighton after he kicked a prone Mark Lawrenson in the face.  With the game still in progress, Friday left the ground.  But not, legend has it, before depositing a large piece of himself into Lawrenson’s kitbag.

Throughout his career, Friday allegedly consumed vast amounts of alcohol and drugs such as cocaine, LSD and methadone.  He would binge for days, steal statues from churchyards, dance naked in nightclubs, and turn up to training wearing winklepickers and carrying a plastic bag.

In the end, Friday died a true rock ‘n’ roll death: struck down at 38 by a heart attack brought on, according to his biographer, by a heroin overdose.

Curtly Ambrose

OK, let’s forget all the trappings of the rock star – the drugs, the destructive behaviour, the finery – and talk about someone who’s the real article.

Curtly Ambrose has been playing the bass guitar in the splendidly-named The Big Bad Dread And The Baldhead more or less since the day he gave up terrorising international batsmen.  For good measure, the group also boasts ex-West Indies captain Richie Richardson on rhythm guitar.

If the rhythm section of Big Curtly’s band is as metronomic and menacing as his bowling, ‘The Dread’ will be a tight little outfit indeed.

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  • Greedy Ginger Pig

    Nice tangent (and glad to see it navigated without reference to Fog on the Tyne or Diamond Lights). I nominate Adam Jones: first round NFL draft pick, veteran of two strip club shootings, and star of the one-single hip-hop collective Posterboyz.


    I agree about Wiggins. I just wish we got to see MORE of him.

    Even when the Tour de France is on, the viewers don’t get to see much of him talking to camera. Sky were really protective of him, and so we never got to see his cheeky side – it was just a case of “you’ve got 2 questions, and then he’s having a massage…”

    But I watched the excellent Sky documentary about him, and about the team, and it was fascinating stuff for a sports fan. It’s a huge effort they all put in, and so many of them do it for zero recognition apart from the pay cheque and the snazzy tour bus.

    I’m sure he recognises the debt he owes his team mates, but as with Ennis, and all the other individual stars out there this year, he’s driven by something personal deep down inside him. And it’s got him to the top of his game. Bravo, Wiggo.

  • Bollins

    Adam Jones? The long-haired Welsh prop? I presume not. England have a collection of musical props, although Andrew Sheridan’s arran-sweater wearing folk guitar hardly qualifies as rock ‘n’ roll. Matt Stevens was on the x-factor and snorted coke, which is a bit more like it (for this blog, not as a lifestyle choice – I am not advocating the x-factor). And Jonathon Davies always looks like he’s been on a serious bender the night before commentating on 6-nations games. But that’s not really rock ‘n’ roll, it’s just getting pissed.
    Here’s a challenge. Rock ‘n’ roll golfers? And no, not John Daly because you can’t be rock ‘n’ roll in those trousers.
    Anyway, thanks for bringing up Serena, have always had a thing for her…

  • John Pain


  • Justin Strain

    Glad to see the focus on ‘Personality’ rather than ‘Skill’. I still haven’t quite got over the award going to Johnny Wilkinson in 2003. I’m a great admirer of Wilkinson (or was in his day) but to award him for his personality with Martin Johnson stood beside him was a bit like thanking Robin for saving Gotham City while Batman has to make do with the buffet left-overs and a free glass of fizz. Mind you, Johnny did have a guitar. Does that make him Rock and Roll?

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