I’m Not Broken, I’ve just been ‘Broken open’!

I have always been a radio fanatic.  From the days of Radio 1 on a small transistor radio when I was a kid, to a nice big stereo radio in my late teens listening to Swansea sound, and right through my career as a researcher, producer and finally a presenter.  I like TV but radio is so personal, and you can do other things at the same time.

One of my favourite stations to have on in the background is the BBC World Service.  They have news and reports from all around the world and some great stories.  They also have the time for great in depth interviews.  This week I caught an interview with Martin Braithwaite, the Danish international footballer who plays for Barcelona and another with Steve Van Zandt who played guitar for Bruce Springsteen before becoming an actor and starring in the hit TV show The Sopranos. 

Although they came from different worlds and very different disciplines they both used the same analogy… sometimes things have to die before you find new growth in your life.

Steve Van Zandt grew up in New Jersey.  After seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 he knew that was all he wanted to do with his life.  Along the way he worked in construction before spending 15 years as Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist and right hand man.  Over that time, he had dedicated himself to Bruce and the music, he had achieved his dream. 

When a new management structure took over Bruce’s career Steve felt side lined.  He told ‘The Boss’ that he wanted more involvement in decision making but Bruce thought of Steve as a little brother not a manager.  Just as Bruce’s career was about to go stratospheric with ‘Born in the USA’, Steve left the band.  At the time he was sure it was the right decision but as the weeks and months passed, and as Bruce’s career got bigger and bigger he couldn’t believe what he had done.

He threw himself back into his own music and political activism including a very successful campaign to boycott the South African pleasure resort ‘Sun City’.  Finally, he found fame as the character Silvio Dante, the strip club owning Mafia Consigliere. 

The interviewer pushed Steve once again on how he felt and what he had learnt from leaving Bruce Springsteen’s band.  Steve said that we will all have disappointments and frustrations, it’s not if…but when.  The real question is what will you do next?  Do you numb the pain with alcohol or drugs, or do you have to die to be reborn and find a way to move forward?

Martin Braithwaite is the Danish footballer who surprised many people when he joined Barcelona.  He wasn’t surprised at all.  He had total confidence in himself and what he calls ‘the laws of attraction’ which meant he felt totally at ease going from a fairly low level of football to being in the team with Lionel Messi.

Recently Messi has left Barcelona for Paris Saint Germain and Barcelona have started losing games.  What’s more, Braithwaite has had a bad injury which has stopped him playing and will do for some time.  The interviewer asked how this super confident man coped when he got the news.  He said he allowed himself 10 minutes of anger and disappointment before seeing the bigger picture and becoming positive again. His injury was part of his story.  It would give him a chance to grow.  He would appreciate things more than before.

Then he said a lot of players say that after an injury they will come back stronger, faster and better.  He couldn’t say that but what he did know he would come back different.  Then he said the same thing as Steve Van Zandt.  With the injury that part of his life had died, but he would be reborn as a different person and he would go on.

Mal Pope, James Hook, David Brayley

On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of hosting the book launch for the new book in the James Hook/David Brayley series ‘Chasing a Rugby Dream’. The event was held in the bar at the Swansea Rugby Club in St Helens. 

As well as chatting to David and James about the books I also got the chance to interview 3 Swansea sporting greats; Tony Cottey, Alan Curtis and Mike Ruddock.

All had had to deal with various degrees of disappointment in life.  Tony Cottey had a ‘dream start’ to his sporting career.  As a boy he was spotted by Wilf Whooller playing cricket on the outfield at St Helens.  Whooller actually said over the Tannoy ‘Could the parent of that lad playing near the stand bring him to me after the game’.  Being a natural sportsman Tony could play any sport.  It was no surprise when he signed as an apprentice at the Vetch where he joined a dressing room full of class international household names who played for the Swans in that second ‘Toshack’ year in the First Division.

Mal Pope, Mike Ruddock, Alan Curtis, Tony Cottey

That year was a disaster leading to relegation and Toshack eventually being replaced by John Bond.  For Tony it got worse, together with Dean Saunders Tony was released by the club and his dream of being a professional sportsman all but ended. Tony shared with us how difficult that disappointment was to cope with, but he worked at a new dream and ended up winning Cricket’s County Championship with 2 different counties and also playing alongside Viv Richards the Cricket Icon.

Actor Kyle Rees reading extracts from ‘Chasing a Rugby dream – Impact’.

Alan Curtis left Swansea City to play for Leeds United.  He went with huge expectations, but it didn’t quite work out.  So, Alan returned to Swansea and helped the Swans win promotion to the First Division for the first time in their history.  The first game of the new season was against Leeds United.  Swansea won 5-1 and Alan scored a goal that has gone into Swansea Folklore.  After that disappointment at Leeds he could have folded but he died a little and started as a new man.

Mike Ruddock literally did die a little only to be reborn in a new sporting life. As a forward for the Whites he had played for the Wales B side and many were tipping him for full international honours.  As he told the audience on Thursday, back then, Rugby was very different. 

As an amateur sport you would play against clubs like Maesteg or Pontypool on a wet Wednesday night in November but have to be back at work at 7am the next morning no matter how badly injured you might have been.

An accident in work as an Electricity Linesman left him with a fractured skull and three compressed vertebrae.  All the sympathy he got from his teammates was being told that at last something had knocked some sense into him.

With playing out of the question Mike turned his thought to coaching.  He inherited a Swansea side that had finished second from bottom of the table. But Mike knew what needed to be done. He recruited three players including Scott Gibbs and Garin Jenkins and the following year Swansea won the league.

He then went on to coach Wales.  Again, he saw that his team needed to be strong and combative up front to allow the magic behind the scrum. That year Wales surprisingly won the Grand Slam for the first time since 1978!

At the end of Steve van Zandt’s interview he said that everything he had really accomplished happened after his first life ended, when he was reborn.  He had no plan, but he always kept his standards high, his work ethic was always wanting to achieve greatness.

He considered that he hadn’t been broken but he had been broken open…and that exactly how I intend to view my disappointments from now on.