When I rose, as usual, at some ungodly hour this morning there was something missing from my life – the hapless England cricket team was no longer being humiliated in the Perth Ashes test match. Ever since they first arrived in Australia, it has been my practice to having the Sky Sports coverage, sound down, playing in the background on my television as I attend to my email correspondence and find out what’s going on in the world on my computer.
I remain uncertain as to whether my attitude is just personal to me or rather an instinctive characteristic of British culture.
For example, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that the England football team hasn’t won the World Cup since 1966 and tends to trip up every time it gets into a vital penalty shoot-out.
In boxing, I was always more comfortable with the ‘heroic’ but futile challenges of heavyweights Henry Cooper, Brian London and Richard Dunn against Muhammad Ali than with the occasional and often short-lived world championship successes of Barry McGuigan, Frank Bruno and Ken Buchanan. [I don’t count Lennox Lewis’s domination of the heavyweight scene in my thrust, largely because he was originally Canadian].
Am I churlish, or indeed childish, for not getting carried away during the ‘glorious summer’ of 2012 British success – Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and our various brilliant performances at the London Olympics?
Or for being just slightly disappointed by Andy Murray’s 2013 Wimbledon victory, which ended 77 years of hurt and disappointment since Fred Perry’s last championship? Although Murray’s triumph was a truly epic moment, throughout it, burning a hole in the back of my brain, was an undercurrent of regret that the record length of time since a Brit won the Men’s Singles might finally be ending.
As a nation, we somehow seem to enjoy our sporting disasters more than most countries.
I wonder whether this is a product of collective lack of self-esteem, a commendable sense of humility, or simply our tendency to harbour low expectations. Perhaps it is a combination of two of these, or even all three.
All I know is that I find it much more satisfying and enjoyable to hear or read our sporting pundits conducting a detailed analysis of a latest catastrophe than a latest victory – or, even worse, the latest in a series of victories.
Could it be that this is a by-product of ‘tall poppy’ syndrome – i.e. the desire of British public to build up their sporting heroes, the better (later) to cut them down?
Is it that – being ordinary mortals – I (and those like me) relish the prospect of those inherently more talented being brought back to earth with a bump, welcoming the fact that our supposed idols have been proved to have feet of clay?
I don’t have the answer(s). I just know that, when out and about, or in a social situation, the current Ashes disaster is a splendid ice-breaker and source of collective togetherness.