TBS Sportsdesk

A death in the family: The lasting legacy of Les Murray

The passing of Les Murray is an awful thing to face. However, the seeds of passion that he planted deep within every football fan will bloom forever.

 

 

The initial feeling that swept over me when I heard of Les Murray’s passing was, God damn it Les, not you. Shock soon gave way to hopelessness when I realised that next year’s World Cup will be the first without him. It sounds prosaic as I type it, but it truly feels like a death in the family. The footballing community in this country is exactly that. A tight-knit group forged by collective derision, a family thrust together by the same peeling labels that stick. Foreign, theatrical, passionate. The example we held ourselves to, was Les Murray.

The dawn of the millennium was a glorious time to be a lounge-bound football fan. SBS took it upon themselves to donate the entirety of its Sunday coverage to football, and while we had no local game of our own, we were escorted around continental Europe by the palpable passion that spoke over the low hanging Boeings that screamed over our tumbledown houses.

Central to that experience was the silver coiffed gentleman with the calm face of a grandfather and the diligent pronunciation of a phonetics professor. In many ways, Les was the footballing community’s Henry Higgins, taking a multitude of unwashed urchins, who knew nothing, transporting them into a new world, one of education, slowly turning them into students of the beautiful game; one odd sounding syllable at a time. I proudly count myself as one of his Doolittles. Previously, my sporting tastes bordered on the brutal, where blood spilt equated to ground won. Les showed me another way. One of beauty, one of art, and eventually pride.

 

While Johnny Warren told us so, it was Les who explained it.

 

While football changed, he didn’t. Les was the constant, quickly becoming the furniture in lounge rooms he’d never see. The knowledgeable family member in his usual chair, allowing us to excitedly explain to him we saw. Be it our first meaningful World Cup, or the death (and subsequent rebirth) of the national league, he was there. His passion became our passion, and when he was drunk on the palinka of possibilities, we were too. He afforded us that taste. In a country where sporting analysis is often relegated to ex-players struggling their way through cliche, Les was different. He made it acceptable to grasp for something more intelligent.

Outside the studio, Les lead a humble, self-effacing existence, The idol that he was, was seemingly not what he saw. I remember the only time I saw him outside the borders of my television, outside SBS one dim morning. I was shocked to discover that he returned that nod I aimed in his general direction. That gesture was the Everest of what I could offer, as the brain rebelled against the body, flaming synapses with the disbelieving rhetoric question Is that him? That’s not him. Was it? 

I kept my honour. Everything he taught, and indeed gave me, was hopefully verbalised through the nervous lowering of one’s chin. Today, I certainly hope it was. If I had my time over again, I’d make myself clear. Risk making an idiot of myself. Take the risk to tell him I love him. Take the risk of being escorted off the premises.

That being said, it’s hard to say I’ll truly miss him; The education he afforded us lives on, allowing us to transport it to the generation that displaces ours.

While Johnny Warren told us so, it was Les who explained it.

 

TBS Sportsdesk

Presents you the alternate world of sports. Well, not alternate, because it's primarily based on sports. A deeper look into the world, villains and loss surrounding the gaudy world of professional sport? Yeah, that'll do. Every Sunday, if your church hangover can handle it.

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