I once dreamt that I had married FreeDarko and changed my name to FredDarko. Ah well.
It seems inappropriate to talk about FD's demise: it's more like a change of state as its members disperse and do their thing elsewhere. It's the nicest band break-up imaginable. Still and all, even if it's more a symbolic end than any other kind, it's a sad moment. One line of Shoefly's from that last post more or less illustrates why FD mattered to me: "Sports should be about people, I think". More than anything, FD to me represented empathy: it was driven by a genuine desire to understand those who make it all happen. Maybe it seems simplistic, but I don't think it is. There is, necessarily, a partition in sport between us and them, the spectator and the athlete. Lord alone knows athletes often make it hard on us. But that difficulty can be cosy. Perhaps the apparent remoteness of sports stars makes the effort seem futile, but it barely seems worth following sport at all if we allow our understanding of the humanity of the damned thing to become an abstract murkiness. Alas, in sport as in much else, that's what prevails. Between the blog and the two magnificent books, FreeDarko was a beacon.
I discovered FreeDarko around the time I found The Run of Play: quite the double whammy. RoP took something I already knew well and presented it in a radically different form, like Picasso did when he put the right eyeball where the left cheek should be. FreeDarko took a sport that is far from a first language for me and simultaneously made it familiar and wondrously new. Most of all, the pair of them helped loosen my imagination when it came to sport, and they disrupted my complacency. Like all good things in life should do, they left me confused and curious.
I hope some of that spirit has found its way onto this mess of scrawlings. At the very least, SIATVS would have been a different place without my deceiving myself into thinking that it has. If, bless you, you have enjoyed anything hereabouts, you have witnessed the result of a chemical reaction in which FreeDarko was a catalyst. "Sports should be about people". Aye, that'll do. I raise a glass.