On the Couch / Sports Dreamers From Near and Far

The future Burger Ranch king, Il Leone and the magical May 14, 1995.

Two "country" contributors provide this week's Dream Teams - their most inspirational people involved in sport or the most inspiring events to trigger their enduring love of sport.

Long legs, dulcet tones and Jewish pride

Steve Hellman failed to fulfill his youthful commitment to work the soil. Instead, since immigrating and settling on Kibbutz Tzora near Bet Shemesh in 1968, he was been involved in education. And in dreaming. His and Lindsay Talmud's book "Ideally Speaking" about the role of ideology among South African Jews is out next month.

Angela W. - elementary school tennis champion: Her serve was crushing, but the little white dress and long legs were overpowering.

Melbourne Cricket Ground 1952, a single ball - four inspirational protagonists: Keith Miller, caught Russell Endean, bowled Hugh Tayfield - a phenomenal catch right on the ropes off the Springbok off-spinner to dismiss the Aussie superstar. Made possible for me - and all the more memorable - by a squawky radio hidden under the bedclothes in the middle of a South African night.

I can't exaggerate the importance of that radio that offered John Arlott (has there ever been a better commentator? ) and Charles Fortune - "It's a fine day at Newlands, a brown paper packet has just blown across the field, merrily escaping the attempts of the groundsman to field it. In the meantime Pollock has just hit three fours." Tedious? Often. Forgotten? Never!

Wilf Rosenberg and Joe Kaminer - the dazzling Wits University and Springbok rugby centers who were a major boost to Jewish pride.

Roger Federer - choose your own word for perfection.

Finally, journalist and tennis stalwart Philip Gillon - erudite and totally convincing in his love of sport and in his conviction as to what should be learned from how the game is played. And, Raymond Lipschitz (subsequently Ron Lapid ). He gets the nod as my Dream Team captain: the future Burger Ranch king in Israel who already in his early teens was displaying the first principles of motivational leadership and an incredible ability to spur neighborhood children to acts of sporting lunacy like making his young charges sprint five times around a tree in the quest for 100m glory.

12th Man - Linseed Oil. Before each cricket match the bat was scraped smooth with dad's razor blades. The pungent smell of the special oil lovingly applied across the willow had me convinced that runs would flow on Wednesday afternoon and that selection for the first XI was assured.

Bias an okay emotion for the truly passionate fan

Ann Clark is an ardent campaigner for equality on all fronts, but here she chooses to get her retaliation in first: "Females of the world, please forgive me, I prefer the male of the specious as athlete. I would never dream of watching women's golf, or football. It is not a sexist thing, just prefer male sports, apart from Jayne Torvill," she writes. A Scot who lives near Cork in the southeast of Ireland, Ann is an ardent golfer. Her best recorded round is 154, though she doesn't make clear whether it's for 18 or nine holes.

Sandy Lyle - I grew up watching the great man, going to tournaments with dad. Scotland's finest, he won two golf Majors. He will always be my hero. Kenny Dalglish - Feel privileged for all the many wonderful years watching him as both player and manager.

Nigel Mansell - Oh boy, excitement personified. Getting up in the middle of the night to watch the great man, the burst tire in Adelaide destroying his dreams of being world champion, a year later it was a serious crash, Il Leone was all or nothing, gave everything he had, so we had to wait until '92 for him to become champion. The last few laps was exhausting TV watching - terrified the tire would burst or the wheel drop off. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, but he did it. Then to IndyCar, where he went on to become champion; it didn't get any better. Can't watch F1 now - no excitement, too tediously repetitious, and so sanitized.

Seve Ballesteros - What a golfer, what a guy, hope to see him play the Seniors Tour one day.

Liverpool 2 Blackburn Rovers 1, West Ham 1 Manchester United 1 - a magical day, May 14, 1995, producing the most memorable soccer games. Little Rovers are title hunting with Kenny Dalglish as their manager. They're up against his old team, and, at Anfield! Shearer scores after 20 minutes, Barnes equalizes for Liverpool. The 90 are up, referee, referee please blow the whistle, please I'm begging, offering to send him a brown envelope stuffed with cash if he would just blow the blinkin' whistle.

Then Jamie Redknapp scores, 2-1. Stunned into silence, knees sagging to the floor, oh no, damn it, will have to put the bottle of champagne back. Camera pans to Kenny's face, a fan shouts something, Kenny turns, hardly believing what he was being told - Man U. have drawn when they needed a win. A staff member runs over, Kenny starts jumping up and down, Blackburn fans erupt; Liverpool fans cheer, I open the bottle of champagne in his honor - the tension, the torture, finally the glory.

Torvill and Dean - 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics ... Ravel's Bolero... Gold Medal ... magic, pure magic. Steve Ovett - Loved this guy, even more when he beat Sebastian Woe [sic] by three meters to win the Olympic 800m gold in Moscow. If looks could kill then Mr. (Lordy Lord ) Woe would be serving a life sentence. George Best - Surely one of the best; okay he had a little problem with the drink; but when I watch old clips of his games, I am spellbound by the talent.

Scotland 13, England 7 (Five Nations Rugby ) - The year is 1990. We're playing the "Auld Enemy." The bookmakers have England as out-and-out favorites. David Sole leads his men onto the pitch, Stanger, John Jeffrey, Scott and Gavin Hastings, Chalmers, Armstrong, White, Cronin. A glorious game. Incidentally, 1990 is the first year "Flower of Scotland" is sung, never more an emotional rendering than just before that year's Grand Slam decider. Roy Williamson, who wrote and composed the song, was at the game. He was very ill with a brain tumor and died five months later. What a legacy he left behind. Every time I hear "Flower of Scotland" being sung, tears come to my eyes.

Maradona - for "the hand of God." Actually, it was not really the hand of God, it was more like everyone in Scotland exhaling and blowing the ball into the net. Then, the sublime second goal, surely the greatest individual goal ever, the 10-second dash to the goalmouth, leaving five English players in his wake. The stuff dreams are made of - thank you, thank you Maradona.

Last, but not least, Jesse Owens. He was in fact the first name that sprung to mind when I thought of the great and the good. His courage and stoicism, what obstacles he had to overcome, a black man in a white man's world, then to go to Berlin, where Aryan racial propaganda was being spouted, to win four golds and happen upon a beast that dared call itself a man. His own country let him down as well, as he said, "you can't eat four gold medals." He will always have a place in our hearts as the greatest athlete who has ever lived.


CLARIFICATION: There has been some debate over the genuineness of Ezra Mendelsohn's revelation last week about Rafael Nadal being a Marrano. Prof. Mendelsohn clarifies that for all his years of earnest study into the subject, the seemingly preposterous supposition is still only "a near fact." It should also be pointed out that he has not written a word about Shabtai Tzvi, a central figure in the Marrano thesis. You will recall that when Jonathan Swift wrote about how to remedy starvation in Ireland he did not really mean that parents should eat their children!