06 January, 2012

"Engage: The Rise and Fall of Matt Hampson:"

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The frequent references to  "The Shawshank Redemption" are utterly appropriate.  Both stories tell of a man unjustly imprisoned having committed no crime.  Both stories tell of a man seemingly without hope of release.                                                                
           The world we live in is one filled with self-pity.  Everywhere we turn there are people feeling sorry themselves;  "Oh, I want a job" or "Oh I don't want to go to work" or etc etc.  Or maybe my sight is clearer of something I am so consumed with!
           If ever there was a man entitled to feel sympathy it is one Matthew Hampson.  As an aspiring 20 year-old tighthead prop with Leicester Tigers and the England U-21 side;  Hampson was scrumming down for a training session with England on a cold March morning in 2005 at Northampton's Franklin Gardens.  The scrum had been re-set a number of times by world class (and crucially; paramedic) referee; Tony Spreadbury. 
          Upon appoximately the eighth scrum collapse; everyone stood up as per usual.  That is everyone except Matthew Hampson.  When his body was seen in a crumpled mess, everyone winced in horror.  Everyone apart from  "Spreaders"  that is, who came into his own and managed to save the young man's life by performing CPR. 

Matt Hampson today (right) and in his England  U-21 heyday
          When Hampson was eventually taken to hospital, it was revealed that he had broken the C1 and C5 vertebrae.  The only thing he could do indepenendently was blink and it appeared as if his chances of ever walking again were somewhere between slim and none though much closer to the latter than the former.  Here is a man who could very undersandably feel sorry for himself and ask the question:  "Why me?"  Whilst he certainly did ask that question; Matt's pervasive attitude throughout the book is the very opposite of self pitying.
           Like all autobiographies (if such a tome is possible for someone aged 26);  the book details the subject's life from early childhood onwards.  Where the book takes an intriguing turn is that it is split into two distinct parts which alternate throughout the book.  One part details Matt's daily struggles, trials and tribulations.  The other part of the book is an ingenius idea from ghostwriter;  Paul Kimmage.  He acts a  "Barrister"  in a court case and interviews all parties involved in the story.  Characters ranging from Matt's Mum, Dad
and sister to Matt's girlfriend  "Jennie" are all quizzed in depth about Matt.  Also spoken to are Leicester manager Richard Cockerill; Martin Johnson; Matt's friends, colleagues and the players who featured on that fateful March day that forever changed Matt's life. 
"Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'. That's God dam right."

           This book is a most interesting read (as one would expect of a William Hill Sports Book of the Year Winner); with the frequent references to the author and ghostwriter's favourite film;  "The Shawshank Redemption"  utterly appropriate.   Both stories tell of a man unjustly imprisoned having committed no crime.  Both stories tell of a man with seemingly no hope of release.
"Get busy living or get busy dying," - That's God dam right.
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