Storytelling is an art. It needs to inform & educate while being inspiring and entertaining. It needs to challenge the way think and act, while showing us the way to solve problems as individuals and society.
Many academics, most notably author Christopher Booker, believe that there are only seven basic plot structures in all of storytelling – frameworks that are recycled again and again in fiction but populated by different settings, characters, and conflicts.
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- Voyage and Return
Sport covers them all, quite often the best stories include many of 7, that is why we love sport, here are some of the best stories in sport:
A Battle for Equality
Tennis was the game but equality was the battle. Billy Jean King is one of the most important advocates for gender equality an d has long been a pioneer for social justice. In the 70’s the LTA used their fame and voice to help build a fairer world for us all.
After making derogatory comments regarding women’s tennis, Bobby Riggs, former worlds number 1 and a self-proclaimed “male chauvinist pig,” challenged a number of leading female players to a match. Margaret Court accepted his offer. The match was held on May 13, 1973, and proved an easy victory—6–1, 6–2—for the 55-year-old Riggs.
In 1973 Bobby Riggs then took on a 29 year-old Billie Jean King which King won in three sets. The match was viewed by an estimated fifty million people in the United States and ninety million worldwide. King’s win is considered a milestone in public acceptance of women’s tennis.
Women’s tennis is now as popular as men’s, its stars are just about as well rewarded in prize money and product endorsements, and the prestige of the game was enhanced, not weakened, by the incursion.
Serena Williams has dominated her sport for 15 years, in a way that few other athletes have. She was the top-ranked player in the world in 2002 at age 20 and as recently as May at 35 (the oldest ever to hold the No. 1 spot). She’s won 86% of her matches, with an Open era-record 23 Grand Slam singles titles. Her career prize money of $84 million is more than twice as much as any other female athlete’s.
When we speak about the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) Williams has to be in the conversation.
Women’s sport is now mainstream. A record-breaking 1.12 billion viewers watched the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and saw Megan Rapinoe become a global superstar. Without Billie Jean King this would not have happened.
There is work to do but women’s professional sport has never been stronger and is going from strength to strength, and it is built on the work and sacrifices from people like Billie Jean King.
When he got up, I got up.
He got up when nobody thought it was possible, I am referring to when Tyson Fury got up, when nobody thought it was possible, in 12th round against Deontay Wilder. A fighter who has knocked out most of his opponents. But when he got up it meant far more to fight fans and people with mental illness and addiction.
Tyson Fury’s battle with depression and subsequent advocacy for mental health awareness have both been well documented.
The “Gypsy King” at the height of his depression weighed over 180kg and has often spoken about just how dark his depression got for him, which was fueled by alcohol and drug use, he has also opened up about his suicide attempt.
However he fought his way back, to the light, his fight back from the edge of is equally as impressive as his boxing achievements, and he is an inspiration to people that have suffered with mental health and addiction.
That is why when he got up, I got up. He gave me hope.
And In Feb. 2020, The Furious One defeated Deontay Wilder to claim the WBC heavyweight title making him a two-time heavyweight champion of the world. Now we are looking forward to the biggest sporting event in British history when he takes on Anthony Joshua to be come the lineal heavyweight champion of the world.
The fastest human
Usain Bolt is, without a doubt, the greatest sprinter of all time but for me he is the most charismatic sportsman that has ever lived
Using his 6’5” frame, which should be held against him in this sport, researchers say that “Bolt’s body height resulting in long strides makes it possible for him to maintain high speed for a longer time and decelerate at a slower rate than shorter sprinters,” and he definitely used that to his advantage.
His record of 3 consecutive Olympic golds, The fastest human that has ever lived the most charismatic athlete there has ever been, an inspiration to the people of Jamaica.
Usain has perhaps surpassed reggae music icon Bob Marley as the most popular Jamaican in the world, this is obviously up for debate but a testament to both Jamaican icons.
There is something special about Usain Bolt, he gives everyone hope, that the impossible is possible.
The 16th Man
Rugby had long been viewed in South Africa as a game for the white population, and the country’s success in the sport has been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the 50-year-old policies and entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
South Africa only had only one non-white player Chester Williams, who sadly passed away in 2019, but the South African Springboks gained supporters of all colours as they made an improbable run into the final match where they beat the heavily favoured New Zealand team.
No other player emerged onto the world stage like All Black Jonah Lomu did back in the 1995 World Cup. The hall of fame scored three tries in their opening few matches which set up a semi-final clash with England. Lomu scored four tries. New Zealand in part due to Lomu were huge favourites.
On Ellis Island prisoners including Mandela would cheer against the Springboks so when Mandela himself marched to the centre of the pitch wearing a Springbok jersey and shook hands with the captain of the South African team, two nations became one.
At the conclusion of the World Cup, when South Africa became world champions celebrations in the streets spoke to the start of reconciliation that many in South Africa feared would never happen. The Springboks became the newly united South Africa – a country newly united – the rainbow nation.
A Tiger’s Roar
Since he turned pro in 1996, Woods has earned $1.5 billion from endorsements, appearances and course design fees.
In the very early hours of 27 November, 2009, a scandalous, tumultuous and spectacularly redemptive decade began for Woods when he crashed his Cadillac into a fire hydrant and a tree after pulling out of his Florida mansion’s driveway at 2.25am. It happened two days after a story was published alleging he had had an affair. He was charged with a minor traffic offence for careless driving. It all began to unravel from there.
Woods retreated from competitive golf – the sport he dominated with 14 majors, second only to the game’s most successful player, Jack Nicklaus. He had been on track to overhaul that record of 18 major titles. It seemed only a matter of time for such a special player, one who had grown far bigger than just golf. Arguably the most recognised person in sport and somebody who broke through racial barriers.
Tiger Woods got his first PGA Tour win in five years at the 2018 Tour Championship and added a fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters.
His latest project, Payne’s Valley, is set to open this year in Missouri and will be the first public golf course he has designed.
The best stories need a villain, and quite often the best villains have likable qualities, sometimes you can even find yourself rooting for the villain. Lance Armstrong is a villain but his story is undoubtedly one of the greatest stories in sport, Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor and former professional cyclist who was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins due to doping.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation, better known as Livestrong (and now called the Livestrong Foundation) has raised more than 500 million dollars and has helped more than 2.5 million people affected by cancer over the last 15 years.
It is true that cycling has been plagued by drug use, but even so, Armstrong took his cheating to a different level, silencing his accusers with his very deep pockets.
The Greatest Story in Sport
Bobby Charlton is the greatest story in sport. Part of Manchester United’s legendary “Busby Babes”, the youngest side ever to win the Football League, survivor of the 1958 Munich Air Crash that claimed eight his teammates … World Cup Winner in 1966 and part of the 1968 Man United that lifted the European Cup. He is one of only 2 Englishmen to win the greatest trophies in football, along with Nobby Styles who recently passed away with dementia, a condition Charlton has just been diagnosed with and has helped with the research into heading a football and the disease.
Charlton’s story has a fantastic supporting cast Matt Busby who built Manchester United and Ales Ferguson who cemented a sporting dynasty. The numerous players who have played United including the Class of ’92. Including Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Butt and the Neville’s who won the treble in 1999, a feat yet to be repeated. The treble was concluded with the victory over Bayern Munich on what would have been Matt Busby’s 90th Birthday.
Now Manchester United are not competing for honours like they used to but but they have Marcus Rashford.
United’s No. 10 has often been a voice of reason during the recent troubling times with everything that has been going on in the world. And even in spite of his still young age, the mature head on Rashford’s shoulders has him leading all athletes, and people as a whole, by example.
To conclude sport captures people’s hearts and minds because of great stories, that is what makes sport great, and great stories can change the world.