Simon Barnes has taken part in seven summer Olympic Games, five World Cups and ten Ashes series. Well, not exactly taken part, but certainly he was there and writing hard. And always, behind every victory and every defeat he ever recorded, there was the reference of his own sporting career, in which the bitter beauties of failure were occasionally varied with the intoxication of success. His adventures taught him about sport: why we do it, and what is required to be very good at it. He learned about the relationship of physical and mental skills, about fear and courage and physical pain. He learned about funk, about Zen-like calm, about the team thing, about the ‘me’ thing. His sporting failure has been a joyous and profoundly informative part of his life, and here he tells the story of it.