I AM one of the privileged – and stupid – few who have been “Beefied”.
It means a night out – and most of the early hours – of hard drinking with Sir Ian Botham, English cricket’s greatest-ever all-rounder.
He is a wine connoisseur of the highest order and expects – no, demands – that you match him glass for glass. And bottle for bottle.
Yes, I tried and I still remember to this day my mother-and-father of a hangover. He is a phenomenon when it comes to booze. Just like his character which is larger than life.
But before the inebriation set in I will never forget an answer he gave in conversation. He was once offered a small fortune at the height of his genius to join a rebel tour to South Africa, then banned from international cricket because of their evil apartheid laws.
He said “NO” unequivocally.
“It was an easy decision to make,” he said. “Because I would never be able to look my best friend Viv Richards in the eye again.”
And so whenever racism rears its ugly head in sport – and it has become all too frequent of late – Beefy’s words remain for me the ultimate gesture of truth and reality.
South Africa’s expulsion for two decades was down to one man – Basil D’Oliveira, affectionately nicknamed “Dolly” and who sadly passed away on Saturday aged 80. Or was it 90 because, mischievously, he never once told anybody his age.
Dignity and integrity are the two words you associate with one of the great pioneers against racism.
Dolly was refused entrance as part of the MCC tour to his homeland in 1968 because he was a Cape coloured. He had quit South Africa to pursue a cricket career with Worcestershire because like millions of others back home he was not allowed to vote, use the same train carriage or even the same toilets as a white man – let alone be chosen to represent the country of his birth at sport.
But all these years later has society really moved on? Sadly, I think not. Of course, Government attitudes have changed thank God. But have individuals? Let us not kid ourselves. Because the harsh reality is that racism in sport does still exist. In the Baltic States, in Turkey, in Eastern Europe, in Russia and...here in England.
I am not here to pre-judge England captain John Terry of Chelsea or Luis Suarez at Liverpool. That is a matter for the appropriate authorities. As I write I wait with baited breath.
But I can say that sport still desperately needs leaders such as Beefy to show the way and kick racism into the cess-pit of human shame.
Builder Jamie, who also runs Easy Feet with the lovely Janet in St Alban Street, Weymouth, remembers the legend of “Dolly” all so well. “My mum was a cricket fanatic,” he says. “The only time the television was allowed on during the day at home in Upwey was for my mum to watch cricket. She loved Freddie Trueman racing in to bowl.
“Because of her I became hooked. I just love it. And what a man “Dolly” was. A true gentleman. And he could play. Did you know he averaged 40 in Tests?
“But my hero to this day is Botham. Inspirational. I will always remember the day he smashed the Aussies all over Headingley. I was driving a coach, had the radio on and how we got home I will never know. It was that exciting.”
But it is so sad that Beefy’s words are still as poignant as ever in this day and age and have come back to haunt us.
RIP Basil Lewis D’Oliveira CBE (1931-2011).