“People will come”

“Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around”, you’ll say, “It’s only $20 per person”. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

There will be many of you who will recognise this James Earl Jones speech from the film Field of Dreams. For those who have not seem the film the story involves an Iowa corn farmer who has a succession of visions and voices urging him to build a baseball field on his farm. Struggling financially the farmer, played by Kevin Costner, ultimately takes the leap of faith and builds the baseball field, encouraged by Jones’ assurance that “People will come”

But a world away from the corn fields of Iowa there is another story. It too deals with an assurance that “People will come”. However unlike it’s Hollywood counterpart this story is rooted in fact. Yet, in terms of essential story telling it lacks for nothing in terms of plot, as it tells a tale of devotion, loyalty, faith and triumph over adversity and against overwhelming odds. Furthermore it is a story which embraces the heroic and the brave and shames the villainous and cowardly.

Rangers Football Club had been brought to her knees by a series of extraordinary circumstances. A negligent former owner, a crooked current owner, malicious individuals spreading lies from behind the cover of anonymity afforded by the internet, football chairmen who deferred decisions to the equivalent of a lynch mob, motivated not be a desire to see truth and justice upheld, but to feed their own personal hatred jealousy and bigotry. Add to the mix football authorities who not only abdicated their responsibility, but also the principle of a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and you can begin to appreciate the adversity that supporters of Rangers football club faced in their attempts to save their club.

Unlikely new owners emerged following administration, individuals with no former connection to the club. As time marched on and a new season approached the Rangers support were asked to invest in season tickets, entrust their hard earned cash to a collection of unknowns only months after    the revelations of the trauma and carnage of Craig Whyte’s tenure. An additional obstacle to the selling of season tickets was the club now rested in the lowest tier of Scottish football, the consequence of a pre-judging of guilt by others, of allegations the club in due course, would subsequently be vindicated of.

“They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon.”

And The People came. And came in their thousands in the clamour for season tickets. It was an exercise in faith, not in logic or rationale, just like a certain corn farmer in Iowa who built a baseball field in his back yard. It was not so much voices in their heads but a feeling in their hearts. Rational thought became a welcome victim of passion and desire for not just a football club, for a way of life, a badge of identity. The prophets of doom were silenced by a force of passion rather than rationale, and to this day those doomsday soothsayers still don’t understand. They never will for it is far, far beyond their comprehension.

“They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

Grandfathers pass down stories to grandchildren, and fathers to their  sons. The wing wizardry of Alan Morton, the courage of Captain Cutlass, the day a 16 year old boy ended a trophy drought of 4 years, they all live as a result as of stories passed through generations of the Rangers community. In a time of adversity those memories became all the more cherished as their true worth and value was realised. The one footed winger who played for the club he loved and of course, the day a helicopter changed direction.  When I think back to that one footed wingers goal in the Dryburgh Cup Final, I too have been dipped in those magic waters, and no brush however big, will ever erase the smile from my face when I reminisce about that moment.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Rangers were there when I wore shorts to school and drank free school milk from a  milk bottle. They were there when Tennents had girls on their beer cans and Pans People graced our televisions on a Thursday night. They were there when I left school to pursue a military career. They were there on the day I got married. The birth of my children. The death of my parents. The birth of a grandchild. Friends, loved ones have come and gone but Rangers remain as the ever constant throughout all the years. Not just for me but for thousands like me. Did they really think we would just walk away from such an intrinsic core part of our lives ?

But other people came too. Reporters from all corners of the globe, Japan and Europe amongst others to report on a phenomenon which defied logic, which was an exercise of faith, loyalty and devotion. Perhaps those editors who tasked those reporters wanted a story which would allow their readers to dip into those magic waters and feel refreshed.

World records were set, games had to be cancelled such was the demand to see the Rangers. The Rangers support took on the haters, the doubters, the prophets of doom, the intransigent and conspirators and duly routed them.

For they failed to understand the most fundamental of lessons.

So long as there is a Rangers – People will come.  So long as People will come – there will always be a Rangers.

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