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Memories are made of this

The great basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, famously once claimed he'd had sex with more than 20,000 women during and after his quiet remarkable career in the NBA.

Now, those were the days long before herpes and then AIDS put a crimp in such freewheeling style.

Still, there's no arguing that it's an impressive and intimidating boast (at least for us lesser, more frustrated mortals).

But I wonder if he remembers number 136? Was she hotter than number 4,789?

Which, on this strange Canadian day, which started with the first, but not last, snowfall, and is ending in glorious sunshine, brings me invariably back to Sunderland.

Not that I've ever had sex at a Sunderland game, though I did get a kiss and a little grope with a Castletown girl in the Fulwell End way back in '71, which was something for a Boldon boy - a bit like a Turk getting a kiss from a lass from Damascus these days.

But I remember it. Which is the point.

And sorry for meandering to that point but here it is - does familiarity really breed contempt in football? I believe it does.

So, my son is called Ian and, thankfully, if I lose my bank card here no one knows why the numbers 1973 are significant. I treasure those rare, precious moments. If I was a Manchester United fan I'd have to bother with either a dozen kids or give my single, male offspring one of those stupid collections of first names that go on and on and on until even the faithful and the local paper lose interest. And I'd always be forgetting my PIN.

So when one of those moments comes for a Sunderland fan then it is seized upon, devoured, and ressurrected as long as collective memory exists. Just like I listened in awe to my grandad who actually watched us when we were the best and to my dad who talked about Raich and actually smiled - a rare occurence - each time he mentioned Shack.

For me there were maybe a dozen moments that will never be forgotten. The fifth round replay against City may well be my last memory before shuffling off this mortal coil. Then there's the sixth round series against United back in 64, the Rowell hat trick at Sid James's, the scenes at Hillsborough when we called for Stokoe, the beating of Benfica, little Bobby Kerr's last minute winner against City on New Year, watching Colin Todd, the debacle against Leeds at Hull with a paid for ref in Revie's pocket. And the heaven and hell of 1977 with the 4-0, 6-1,6-0, the 2-2 at Norwich and Jimmy Hill.

And, finally, Wembley, 1973.

Times when I thought we had finally cracked it. Times when we should have. That first half against Chelsea - watched in amazement from my couch 6,000 miles away with tears at half time. Didn't last, never does.

But that's the point.

We remember because we know this might be the last time. Pleasure made more pertinent by pain.

With a local derby looming (and, yes that free kick, which I watched in a pub in Dublin surrounded by Mags, will always lovingly linger) there's room for a new memory.

Wilt may have f****** a lot of things. But likely never a Mag.

So, better we do it. 'Cos we'll remember.

Sharkey's Shadow
(Our Canadian Correspondent)

October 14, 2012


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