Remembering Denis, a hero among heroes, and a much finer time in our history
- Credit: Submitted
“It's about how you rise when you fall," said Martin Luther King III. Wise words and how you deal with adversity is surely the measure of us all.
Clearly President Trump is currently showing a considerable lack of grace and humility, but they are two characteristics totally absent from his DNA.
Have you all noticed the shocking growth of bullying in our society? It is rife and extremely unpleasant.
So, I would like to take you back to another era when grace, dignity, charm, honour, courtesy and humility were not a rarity and always valued above fleeting celebrity.
For those even older than me Denis Charles Scott Compton needs no introduction, but for others I will explain why I use him as an example of a much finer time in our history.
I met Denis when his playing years were behind him, but I had heard numerous stories about his immense talent.
We met in the 1980s and became incredibly close friends.
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Denis played cricket for Middlesex and England and alongside his brother Leslie, played soccer for Arsenal and England. A feat never matched by any sportsman, and yet Denis, even when he was the ‘The Brylcream Boy’, never made what Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil takes home in a week for non-performance - reputedly £350,000!
I have so many stories about Denis but here are just a few.
In 1991, I came up with an idea to gather together the best-ever cricketers who had played for England in aid of the Lord’s Taverners and sponsored by Guinness.
I managed to get 61 of these magical sportsmen together for a once-in-a-lifetime photograph at Lord’s followed by lunch.
At the pre-photoshoot gathering, I was astonished that all the luminaries stood quietly in a queue to pay respects and shake the hand of one man, Denis. He was the hero among heroes.
Nobody got fees or expenses and Tony Locke even flew in from Australia at his own expense. However, a couple of Yorkshire players were missing! You can draw your own conclusions.
On another occasion, when I was doing the PR for the Football League, I asked Denis if he would consider presenting, what was then called, the Associates Members’ Cup, at the Cup Final at Wembley.
He said: "But Sally darling nobody will remember me."
I assured him that they would, and as a favour to me would he mind doing it. When we walked out on to the pitch Denis got a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of 82,000.
I was overcome because I was so proud of him – he was just amazed that they even remembered him.
Again, no fees were paid.
I know this was a very different era, but the humility of this outstanding sportsman was exceptional.
During one our many drinking sessions at the Cricketers Club in London, this time with Sir Garfield Sobers, the conversation turned to today's game, and they both agreed that wearing helmets was a bad thing for the game.
They had both faced seriously fast bowlers such as, Larwood, Lillie, Lindwall and Miller and always without helmets. They were convinced that it slowed down the natural response.
I think health and safety officials would be horrified.
At a big event for Denis’ 70th birthday, the renowned and irreplaceable sports journalist Ian Wooldridge arranged for Denis to be presented with a coveted ‘green jacket’ from Augusta. Denis, the avid and talented golf player, was overwhelmed. It was a sensational evening.
In 1997, I was in the middle of arranging a big event for his 80th birthday on May 23, but sadly he died on April 23.
We will sadly never see his like again but hopefully one day we will all rise a little better when we fall.