Monday, September 22, 2008

Back on home ground – Mimitig

These last few months have been unsettling. So many wins and winningest performances as the journalists say when grudgingly admitting that the Brits are pretty damn good at some sports.

We went to Beijing with some ridiculous target of medals that was based on doing well in track and field. FAILED!

Redeeming our fortunes were some rather spectacular performances in the cycling – both track and road, one old hand in a boat - Ben Ainslie turned up trumps - and some muscular girls and chaps in rowing boats.

Then came the Paralympics. No longer could we rely on Tanni to do the biz for Britain. Lots of new faces and bodies were out there.

Spectacularly Ellie Simmonds (13 years old!) won hearts and minds with her amazing swims. Dave Roberts backed up the Welsh talent with a couple of golds and again we celebrated home triumphs.

On the back of an Olympic Games that brought more medals overall than had been dreamt of, the Paras did the same. Second in the table.

What a wonderful springboard for 2012 and the Games coming home to London.

There were plenty of reasons to celebrate two months of sporting excellence and yet plenty of questions.

Why didn’t track and field athletes win the medals that were targeted in either games? What was the touch of gold that brought every success to our cyclists – in both games?

However much we enjoyed the successes, we come back to normal sports and see that Britain isn’t as good as we thought we were.

This weekend has thrown up some real problems in our sporting world. Liverpool failed to get a goal against Stoke! Almost enough to send me searching for the Valium. How could that be? Villa puts two in the net against West Brom. Weird.

And more seriously, because, yes, my friends, there are sporting questions more pressing than the Premier League….

Because Britain only has one world-class tennis player (Andy Murray), we have crashed out of the World group of Davis Cup nations and will be forced to play countries that we’ve never heard of for about four years.

And we’ve surrendered the Ryder Cup to a nation of war-mongering fools who think it’ll be a great idea to vote in another Republican this year because they believe that Iran is a misprint on the map.

Am I feeling jaded, sad and pissed off? Yes. You bet. When we achieve sporting excellence it doesn’t just make me feel good. It makes the nation feel good. When Chris Hoy got his third gold medal it was on the front page of every Scottish paper – even the sodding Sun (bumping the obligatory “We’ve found a Paedophile” story onto page 2).

Sporting failure is given headline treatment too. Tomorrow’s tabloids will lead with “Faldo’s Failure” and “Murray’s heroics all in vain”. Or some such garbage.

Every wonderful success in August will be forgotten – yesterday’s chip wrappings as the sharking sports writers go into a feeding frenzy of the weekend’s failures.

There will be no time for reasoned consideration. Very few inches will be given to those who excelled in a losing cause and not for the first time, when I read the sports pages, I will raise my hands to my head and feel like sobbing for the lost cause that is the fun of sport.

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