AGEISM is normally a topic I’d like to avoid if you don’t mind.
It rankles to think of oneself as an OAP, even if it’s true, and I hide the rail pass unless the inspector demands to see it.
I firmly believe age is an attitude of mind, and that much was confirmed by two eminent, but contrasting characters who filled my thought as Euro 2008 came to a conclusion.
There was 69-year-old Luis Aragones being tossed repeatedly into the air like a rag doll by his jubilant, celebrating Spanish armada after they had just conquered the Germans.
“Put him down” I yelled on the commentary fearing for the old boy’s heart.
They eventually did, and he appeared none the worse for the experience that might have killed him in his moment of glory.
Aragones is quitting the international scene but talking bullishly of continuing his coaching career with a top club side.
Clearly there are fresh challenges ahead for this senior senor for whom age is no barrier.
Then I turned round to bid farewell to John Motson who was in the commentary position immediately behind me in Vienna.
At 62 Motty has decided to put down his mike for the last time at the majors.
He still wants to call games that are close to home but can’t face the prospect of trekking round South Africa in two years time for what would be his 10th World Cup finals.
That’s where we differ. I’m a little bit older and greyer than Motty but I can’t wait to visit the rainbow nation again and hopefully commentate on as many matches as possible – anywhere I’m asked to go.
I actually began working for BBC radio just after John. He was called up for the 1974 World Cup but I missed the squad and had to wait until Argentina ’78 for my debut.
He’s gone on to have a fantastic career and is undoubtedly the best-known football commentator this country has ever known.
So he should be after 1,800 live matches and over 200 England games all covered with infectious, almost boyish enthusiasm.
I only had brief chats with Motty last week but I sense he’s become nervous of his age, frightened of making mistakes which would attract unfavourable headlines.
He was unhappy about the commentary position in the Ernst Happel stadium which younger men than us complained was “too far away from the pitch.”
Therein lies Motty’s dilemma. Because he’s become so high profile any minute mistake will be jumped on by other sections of the media, and that’s something he’d hate.
It’s called the price of fame.
Nelson Mandela doesn’t seem to suffer from the same affliction.
He still wears flowery shirts that you might see on a trendy teenager in a London nightclub, and it’s hard to believe he’s 90. An inspiration to us all.
I met Mandela once – not long enough to get on first name terms – and you just knew you were in the presence of greatness.
Lewis Hamilton (inset) was clearly in awe when he too was granted an audience last week.
The Formula One superstar likened it to “being in front of God” a comment somewhat diluted by his admitted wonderment at also sitting closed to Oprah Winfrey.
I don’t know Hamilton but I do like some of the things he says.
He ducked his auntie Vanessa’s birthday, went sailing off the Isle of Wight, was unveiled as an ambassador for Reebok, can be seen on the arm of Miss Grenada, and still found time to chat to Nelson – he is no first name terms – in the space of about three days.
Why not? He’s a young man with a lot going for him and the only time he dodges the media is when the adrenalin is pumping immediately after he’s done something stupid to lose a race.
Back to that subject again – I wish I was his age.
The thing I did find remarkable about Aragones was his ability to communicate and get the best out of players almost half-a-century his juniors.
Throughout Euro 2008 Spanish journalists I know well, rubbished “the wise man of Hortalaza,” with whom most had a prickly relationship, if any at all. They predicated he’d fall on his sword long before the tournament ended.
How wrong they were, and how he revelled in confounding them.
Torres, Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Iniesta, Silva, Cazorla etc are in the first throes of their careers, and one perceived a huge generation gap between the coach and themselves would prove fatal to Spanish prospects.
To the contrary, they took off their walkmen, listened to his pearls of wisdom and produced the most scintillating performances.
Let’s hear it for the pensioners!