Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some loom largest in the prose they right, the souls they reach. Others in the movements the inspire, the change they bring about. And sometimes they come 6ft 8inches tall and about 20 stone, like Simon Shaw.
Simon Shaw - England rugby player, a player always seen as never quite having fulfilled the potential and talent many believed he possessed. In 2009 he was coming to the end of his playing career, and was picked to go on the British Lions tour of South Africa, the pinnacle of any British rugby player's career (the Lions only tour every 4years). He'd played for the Lions before 16 times, but had never been capped in a full test match.
However, aged almost 36 he was picked for the second test against the South Africans. The talented Lions team had narrowly lost a great first game and got off to a flying start in the second, led by Shaw. Some say it was the greatest performance by a British player in his position ever. Shaw played like a man realizing that these days would not visit him many more times in the future, and therefore must be gripped and wrung for all their worth, he took the Lions jersey somewhere new that day.
But despite a great performance by the team, and this legendary performance by Shaw, the Lions were beaten with the final kick of the game, and therefore lost the entire series. The South Africans erupted with joy (and relief), and Simon Shaw was awarded the man of the match.
Directly following the game Shaw was interviewed on Sky. The interview, especially the second half, feels like it's from a bygone era. A time when our sporting heroes cared most about the higher ideals they played for - for country, for team. A time when the idea of media training would seem ridiculous. Shaw had just given the performance that all other players who ever pull that shirt on will be judged by, and yet he would have given it all up to have won. To have just won a test in the shirt, and kept that series alive.
But as he said, with tears in his eyes, "that's the way it goes", what a fucking hero.