In As You Like It, William Shakespeare describes the Seven Ages of Man, beginning with the infant and progressing through the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice and the pantaloon until reaching second childishness.
In preparing An Ordinary Spectator: 50 Years of Watching Sport, I drew on the template provided by the Bard. The “Seven Ages of Watching Sport” provide the framework within which my spectating experiences are described.
This is more than simply a literary conceit. In the context of this book, the concept of the Seven Ages reflects the obvious (but important) point that the observer’s perspective of contemporary events – including the watching of sport – will inevitably change over time. Put simply, the 6 year old’s analysis of what he sees in front of him will be different to that of the 16 year old; likewise the 16 year old and the 56 year old.
The Seven Ages that I have identified are different, for the most part, from those of Shakespeare. For example, the Awestruck Novice of the First Age is slightly more advanced in years than the original infant “mewling and puking in his nurse’s arms” (apart from the occasional bout of car sickness). Other variations are to be found throughout the range.
The exception will probably come in the Seventh and final Age (when it is eventually reached). I fear that the characteristics of Shakespeare’s second childishness and mere oblivion – ‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’ – might also be common to my Childlike Sage.
The contents of An Ordinary Spectator: 50 Years of Watching Sport lists my Seven Ages of Watching Sport.
The First Age: The Awestruck Novice
2. Wembley Stadium
3. Headingley Cricket Ground
The Second Age: The Youthful Explorer
4. Belle Vue to Borough Park
5. North Marine Drive
6. Chandos Park
7. Elland Road
The Third Age: The Absent Player
8. Grange Road and Twickenham
9. Lord’s Cricket Ground
10. Elland Road Greyhound Stadium
11. Cardiff Arms Park
12. Old Trafford to Minsk
The Fourth Age: The Distracted Opportunist
13. Craven Cottage to Walton Heath
14. Plough Lane
15. Madison Square Garden to Sydney Cricket Ground
The Fifth Age: The Detached Traditionalist
20. Stade de France
The Sixth Age: The Affluent Reflective
21. FedEx Field
22. Firhill and Fir Park
23. South Leeds Stadium
The Seventh Age: The Childlike Sage