Stuff of Legends
Bryan Cooney sent us this blog about the new series of Stuff of Legends.
Interviewing sports stars can play havoc with your health. Imagine asking an uber-macho Australian fast bowler how it felt to be a gay icon. I breathed in deeply and raised this rather delicate matter with Mervyn Hughes back in the early 1990s. Unsurprisingly, he voted for immediate retribution. He extended that bull neck of his and lowered his menacing moustache until the bristles were antagonising my nose. His eyes, meanwhile, embarked on a search and destroy mission. I knew if I blinked, a death certificate might be issued. The torture lasted approximately 60 seconds and yet felt like an hour. He then broke into a ribald laugh and formed a response. I had been given the permission to breathe again.
On looking back at my colourful life, at sojourns with the Aberdeen Press and Journal, The Sun, Daily Star, Daily Mail, where I eventually became Head of Sport, and, of course, BBC Radio scotland, I recall many such episodes of tension, if not abject terror.
Even now, confrontations with famous sports personages visit me in nightmare form. Maybe I should follow popular trends and write a book about them. But these clashes were not provoked by bland, obsequious lines of questioning. In good journalists, there's an obligation to place your head on the butcher's block.
Happily, the latest series of Stuff of Legends ended without any blood being spilled. I tried to be relevant, to touch on controversy and avoid outright sycophancy in attempting to discover what made them the men and women they became. Not sure I achieved the latter.
But one thing is certain: in talking to icons such as John Jeffrey, Sir Henry Cooper, Sandy Lyle, Murray Walker, Sir Chay Blythe, Peter Alliss, Mary Peters, Graeme Souness and Jim Watt, I spent some of the most blissful moments of my working life. Please enjoy.
The new series of Stuff of Legends begins on Thursday 1 July with John Jeffrey.