For a couple of years now, great things have been predicted of – and for – the England rugby squad’s Maro Itoje, who will make his starting debut in the second row against Ireland tomorrow in the Six Nations match at Twickenham.
He is lauded for everything from his size [six feet five and 18 stone], athleticism, nous as a rugby player, intelligence, ‘presence’, humility and leadership. New England head coach Eddie Jones (okay, whilst also calling him a Vauxhall Viva at the moment, not yet a BMW) has already spoken of his potential to become a future 70-cap international and others have gone so far as to place him potentially in the same league as Martin Johnson, the legendarily formidable captain of the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning team.
There’s many a slip between cup and lip, of course. Throughout history, in all walks of life, golden opportunities have been missed – sometimes through no fault of anybody.
Fate also intervenes. Nearly thirty years ago, scrum half Nigel Melville – who since 2006 has been CEO of USA Rugby – was tipped to be a long-term England skipper after captaining England upon his debut at the age of just 23 in November 1984. But a series of serious injuries curtailed his career and he finished four years later with just 13 caps.
In my humble opinion, and I’m not making a political point here, the fact is that in Life we are not all dealt equal cards – and this is probably just as well, otherwise we’d all excel in everything and end up being insufferable, not least to ourselves.
When I mentioned ‘not making a political point’ earlier, I was referring to the fact that some hold that, since all human individuals are equal in value – and because some do not have the intelligence or ambition, or just general wherewithal, to make great men or women of themselves – then nobody should be allowed to. Or possibly that at least, whatever people end up making of their lives, nobody should be allowed to gain greater riches for themselves than anyone else.
I don’t wish to go anywhere near that argument/issue, from either direction.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that some are lucky enough to be born with a special facility for music, or art, or for particular sports, or even for many sports. There’s little or nothing the rest of us can do about that. Okay, yes, maybe we can all work relentless at the ’10,000 hours’ rule and make the best of ourselves we can, but some people just arrive on the planet blessed with certain gifts, or certain greater abilities in certain things, than others, which neither they nor we can do anything about.
We just have to accept that – and deal with it (hopefully!).
A few weeks ago I was chatting with the husband of one of my best friends and he told me of how, when he was a young man, a clergyman had once told him that he possessed something very valuable, i.e. charm [I can testify said padre was not wrong there], which was also very dangerous and therefore therein lay a great responsibility – he should always use it to help and benefit others, never himself.
Perhaps whether he did or not is a matter for a different day, a different blog, and is perhaps a matter purely between my friend’s husband and his maker.
From this distance and side of the Atlantic, some American presidents seem to have something special about them.
JFK, for example.
Though Bill Clinton didn’t do it for me particularly, I’ve heard it on good authority from someone who was at a function he attended on one of his visits to the UK that there was a certain perceptible ‘electricity’ in the air even before he arrived in the room. Furthermore, when seconds later he did walk in, he completely dominated the gathering instantly and apparently effortlessly with his charisma and charm.
We’ve all met people who impress us and make us feel small and inferior – I was going to add ‘cheap’ but won’t – in comparison. They don’t have to be stand-up comedians, extroverts or full of bonhomie and largesse, or devastatingly attractive to the opposite sex [though perhaps sometimes that helps]. They can be modest, quiet, average-looking or unassuming. In fact, in my experience, in many cases the more they have achieved in their lives, the less fuss they tend to make of it.
But my point is, there are some people who are naturally impressive to others. Sometimes you gain the sense that they’d have been successful in any career they’d chosen. Sometimes you don’t – sometimes some individuals are just very good at what they do and ‘carry’ that charisma into their life generally, including whatever it is they do after they stop (voluntarily or otherwise) doing what originally made them successful.
Tomorrow Maro Itoje will take another step on a trajectory that could one day make him an all-time England rugby union great. He seems to possess everything that it takes to go all the way, but let us not burden him with too much expectation just yet. For all his achievements so far and the potential that he represents, he’s still only a kid of twenty-one.