Appointed in an autocratic fashion by his father, my newborn son’s favourite toy is his ‘Bradman’ teddy bear. The bear is of standard teddy bear appearance except for the addition of a school tie promoting academic excellence and the green cap promoting cricketing excellence. These two fields of excellence are what the Bradman foundation continues to promote (through means other than just teddy bear sales) now over ten years post Sir Donald’s passing.
It isn’t any paternal desire for my son to achieve academic or cricketing success (though they unashamedly exist) that I write this piece. It is the realisation that he has been born into a generation that will relate to the monumental figure of Bradman so much differently than those preceding him. He is the first generation in 100 years not to have lived during Bradman’s lifetime.
Bradman passed away just as I was entering University. My childhood had a vision of Bradman as being more than just the greatest batsman but really a deified entity. Despite Bradman being the greatest batsman of all time he was considered more even than a national icon that had raised spirits during the Great Depression and Second World War and a servant of the game long after his playing days ceased. Such positive reflection of the Don was only increased by stage managed puffy journalistic pieces such as Ray Martin’s late 1990s interview with the Don.
Many a journalist has been treated with contempt at trying to reveal anything remotely negative. Jim Maxwell tried to publish some of Bradman’s letters scathingly describing other players and was beaten back legally. It was even well known that Bradman’s takeover of the disgraced Harry Hodgetts’ brokerage, while not considered illegal, at least ‘smelt bad’, yet this wasn’t something spoken about for fear of his embarrassment. No-one could ever challenged Bradman’s on-field supremacy, and seemingly this further extended to off the field.
It did not taken long for the errors and clashes Bradman had, kept under wraps during his lifetime, to become more well known post his passing. Light was even shone on his strained relationship with his son. Nothing in any of these ‘headlines’ that should be considered particularly abnormal, however because of Bradman’s protected status during his lifetime they are viewed with shock and horror now when revealed. Primarily the difficulties he had with individuals such as Bill O’Reilly and Jack Fingleton are of greatest interest, occurring within the dressing room. But it is small minded to think that in teams of 11 individuals there won’t be personality clashes.
Ironically Bradman posthumously has ‘fallen’ back to being just admired as the great batsman. Because we tried to make him more than a human, the more we found out, the more we realise just how human he was. Such a lesson should be easily learned, with Bradman so far in advance of others, not to idolise sporting performers beyond prowess on the field. All this in mind my son’s generation are free to see Bradman more accurately in history. Not as superhuman, nor a major figure of influence, just as the greatest batsman in the history of cricket by a long way, and one who brought much pleasure to many. A great legacy by itself.