Extra time with my brother after the final whistle: Writer reveals how he coped with grief over losing sibling by finding solace in his favourite sports
- Jon Harvey saw his brother Dan, who died in 2015, as ‘almost like a second dad’
- READ MORE: With less than one month to go until the transfer window slams shut, who is your club chasing?
A Fan for All Seasons
by Jon Harvey (Yellow Jersey £18.99, 288pp)
Jon Harvey’s brother, Dan, was nine years older, meaning Jon saw him ‘almost like a second dad’.
The two shared a love of sport that survived their allegiances to different football clubs (Tottenham Hotspur for Jon, Crystal Palace for Dan).
As Jon writes, ‘there are much worse things an older brother could be into. Just ask Prince Edward’.
Then, in 2015, aged 43, Dan died. Obesity had led to diabetes, and Jon lost ‘the keystone in my Jenga tower’.
Inheriting his Palace season ticket, Jon went to the matches, including the FA Cup final, which the team reached the season after Dan’s death. They lost, which suited Jon: ‘The joy [of victory] would have brought pain’.
Jon Harvey’s brother, Dan, was nine years older, meaning he saw him ‘almost like a second dad,’ but in 2015 Dan died aged 43. Pictured: Jon Harvey
Maintaining the tribute, Jon decided to spend the next season attending as many sporting events as possible.
We see him at The Boat Race, where he overhears a woman asking ‘how many boats are there?’; at the world handball championship in Paris (his brother’s memory is invoked by Denmark’s name appearing in their own language — ‘Danmark’), and at an England football match.
Because he’s been given premium tickets to this one, Jon discovers that the ‘prawn sandwich’ brigade (to quote Manchester United’s Roy Keane on corporate fans) enjoy their own private train service to Wembley from Central London.
This makes for a lovely contrast with the last-ever night at Wimbledon greyhound stadium before its demolition.
Jon remembers previous visits and, in particular, the ‘elderly Irish waitress with hair as grey as the meat, who’d tend to have her thumb in the gravy as she brought the main course’.
A match at the world snooker championship finishes early, so the audience are treated to an exhibition performance by Dennis Taylor.
The two shared a love of sport that survived their allegiances to different football clubs (Tottenham Hotspur for Jon, Crystal Palace for Dan). Pictured: Harry Kane shoots a penalty-kick last month
Referring to the sport’s past drug scandals, Taylor mentions that it’s a good job the white-line graphics (used by commentators to illustrate possible shots) weren’t around in the 1980s, ‘or they’d have been gone in an instant’.
As you’d expect, there are plenty of sporting facts, the ‘kind of trivia that can be pub quiz heaven, or dating poison’.
William ‘The Fridge’ Perry remains the heaviest American football player ever to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl — he was a pound shy of 24st. The note rung by the bell at the London Olympics was a B, although Bradley Wiggins only pretended to sound it — the bell was so huge it had to be chimed by a machine.
The first-ever winner of the Grand National (1839) was called Lottery. And the moves that allow you to solve a Rubik’s Cube are named after the shapes of the letters they make — T, J and Y are three of the main ones.
Jon discovers this at the Cube’s world championship, where one member of the American team is called Patrick Ponce. The noise in the arena resembles ‘an army of angry rattlesnakes’.
Inheriting his Palace season ticket, Jon went to the matches, including the FA Cup final, which the team reached the season after Dan’s death. Pictured: Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp celebrate a goal last month
The writing is vivid and funny, and it’s no surprise to learn that Jon is a comedy producer whose work includes Have I Got News For You, The Thick Of It and Yes, Minister.
The chandeliers at the Lakeside club in Essex (world darts championship) ‘floated like a bloom of blinged-up jellyfish’. At Selhurst Park football grounds ‘time stood still. So did the entire [Crystal] Palace defence’.
Approaching another football match, Jon notes that ‘at every street corner more and more clusters of fans in Spurs shirts were drawn in, like iron filings in range of a magnet’.
This is a wonderfully touching book about fandom and grief, and how the two can combine.
When England have the Aussies 60 all out at Trent Bridge, Jon’s cricketing joy is tempered by his sadness at this being the first piece of sporting history that Dan’s not around to witness.
But gradually he accepts that life has to move on. Spurs certainly do — their stadium is demolished and rebuilt, and the first match at the new incarnation is (movingly for Jon) against Dan’s beloved Crystal Palace.
The club shop is selling commemorative ‘half-and-half’ scarves, each end bearing the name of one of the teams.
This is a modern idea that ‘no self-respecting football fan can ever abide’. But on this occasion, Jon makes an exception.
Source: Read Full Article