National pride hangs on sporting glory

By Luke Bishop

ON checking Facebook and Twitter on Saturday morning I was confronted with an array of outraged posts and tweets. There were people declaring they would give up their citizenship, condemning the country where they were born and brought up in the most vehement of terms, while others were just wearily resigned to pointing out how awful the place was.

What caused this display of national self-loathing you ask? Had we finally launched a nuclear missile at Iran, annihilating hundreds of thousands of innocent Tehranis? Had we started a greedy, pre-emptive war against a country on false grounds? Had a sex-slave ring been discovered at 10 Downing Street? Or, perish the thought, had The Enemy been allowed to release another album? Alas none of the above turned out to be the cause for this extraordinary bout of teeth gnashing. Instead it turns out that a bunch of blokes who happen to share the same geographic boundaries as us didn’t kick, throw, or tackle as well as another bunch of blokes who happen to be from a different geographical area (although, most unfortunately, that area was France).

Behind all this jollity lies a serious point – if England’s national pride is so dependent on how well a bunch of men happen to kick a ball, or throw it, or hit it with a plank of wood, then what does that say about the state of our national pride? Almost every major sporting fixture or tournament involving the English national team rides a crescendo of national self-worth, the belief that this time it might be ours for the taking, that we as a team, as a country, are up to the challenge. This is inevitably followed by the crash of abject disappointment that comes when expectation and reality fail to meet. It has developed into an exceedingly unhealthy form of nationalism.Too much is invested in too few people who, despite tabloid dross about them being “role models”, are mostly arrogant young men with too much money and attention and who act accordingly. We burden these extremely faulty human beings with our collective hopes and yet blame them, and ourselves, when they happen to disappoint. And so we are left with a very reactive and fatalistic form of nationalism.How we feel about the place in which we live, work and exist is hinged on a game of chance, played by people we don’t know and certainly didn’t choose. If we win we’ll pat ourselves and each other on the back for something we didn’t achieve, if we lose it’s just confirmation of how terrible it all is. Sport is something people get passionate about and shouldn’t be dismissed completely, but there are much better ways to feel good about this country than the outcome of a game of rugby.

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