“But now the club head was going back, coming down, the left knee bent correctly in towards the ball, the left arm straight as a ramrod. Crack! The ball sailed off, a beautiful drive, as good as Goldfinger had hit, straight down the fairway.
Bond’s heart sang. Got you, you bastard! Got you! Blithely Bond stepped down from the tee and strolled off down the fairway planning the next steps which could now be as eccentric, as fiendish as he wished. Goldfinger was beaten already – hoist with his own petard! Now to roast him, slowly, exquisitely.”
One might be forgiven for suggesting that James Bond’s weapon of choice would be a Walther PPK rather than a 4-iron when it came to dispatching a deadly enemy and in most cases you’d be correct. However, in Fleming’s novel, Goldfinger, 007 uses his cunning on the fairway to deal a decisive psychological blow to Auric Goldfinger, playing him at his own cheating game.
Over the years we’ve seen a multitude of Bond’s pit their collective wits, brains and brawn against a whole host of villains and their foolishly loyal henchmen in a sporting arena.
To catalogue a few; Sean Connery’s aforementioned dust up on the golf course with Goldfinger (a sport frequently referenced throughout the series), both Moore’s and Brosnan’s fencing and swordplay duels in Moonraker and Die Another Day, a spot of rifle practice in Moonraker’s Duck Shooting scene, numerous brushes with death on ski’s (my favourite being Bond’s nighttime escape from Blofeld’s mountaintop laboratory in OHMSS in which he races an avalanche through an alpine forest and narrowly escapes a brutal death via a snow-plow attached to a speeding train – a fate that befell his pursuer), a rather humorous use of tennis rackets used to beat back the locals and to fend off rather sharp Indian sabres in Octopussy.
Tennis was later revisited as a fitting homage to Fleming’s Goldfinger in Sebastian Faulk’s Devil May Care in which Bond defeats the furry handed Julius Gorner on the court; this time Gorner used an ingenious method of raising and lowering the net to cheat.
We even see Roger Moore on skates as he battles murderous ice-hockey players in For Your Eyes Only. So far, so strenuous for Britain’s top spy.
Delve a bit deeper and you’ll find sport or competition plays a vital role throughout Fleming’s ‘Bond’ literary canon whilst the Saltzman and Broccoli films expand the theme further. As with both Goldfinger and Gorner, the use of direct “mano-e-mano” competition, in which Bond battles his opponent through the gentlemanly, undeniably ‘British’ medium of sport or competition, acts as a precursor to Bond’s inevitable victory when he defeats the arch villain once and for all.
It is the psychological blow just before the knockout punch that indicates Bond is superior, undefeatable, unquestionably determined and a formidable force that can play equally as dirty as the crook. Another take on this is that these traits help to establish Bond as overtly physical.
The idea of masculine physicality being a weapon wielded by the righteous against the underhanded double-playing of the eccentrically handicapped or disfigured baddy is a common one here. Thats why the game always turns dirty – the villains are no match for the man of all men, James Bond.
Bond practically revels in putting noses out of joint when it comes to toppling a cheat. 007 deals in meting out just deserts to criminals that view themselves as above and outside the laws of ‘fair-play’. The Goldfinger quote that precedes this article outlines the fiendish joy in which Bond hangs Goldfinger with ‘his own petard’.
Kamal Kahn’s nasty habit of playing backgammon with magnetic dice in Octopussy or Max Zorin’s hazardous elevating steeple chase obstacles are just some more examples of Bond’s ability to beat odds unfairly stacked against him from the start.
However, perhaps there is no better example of this than in Guy Hamilton’s 1974 re-imagining of Fleming’s earlier novel The Man With The Golden Gun. Bond is challenged to a good old fashioned gun duel, pistols at ten paces in this case. Scaramanga engineers the encounter, luring a hapless Bond into a nightmarish laserquest type killing ground whilst the pint sized Nik-Nak operates distractions designed to put Bond off his game. However Bond has the last laugh as he poses as a waxwork version of himself to fatally wound a surprised Scaramanga.
So, Bond is the justice enforcing law man in the guise of the ultimate sportsman. Able to master skill through a heady mix of masculine physicality and superior intellect, he defeats his enemy every time. The seemingly perpetual underdog and in the face of foul play, his ability to turn the tables on a threatened cheat and master criminal are admirable.
As in every game there is always a winner and loser; Bond always comes out on top – and he get’s the girl every time…
“James Bond: The Ultimate Sportsman” was written by Thom Popejoy