The rise and fall of part-time patriotism

As an August-born baby, summer has always been my favourite time of year. But all the season’s had to show for itself thus far is soggy weather, a bunch of tax dodging celebs and as usual, the part time patriotism that comes to light during sports tournaments. Yes, as if the Jubilee didn’t send us into enough of a bunting induced tizz, the Euro has been on hand to satisfy all our flag waving needs. And now that the England team is out of the contest? We have Andy Murray, a man who has come under criticism in the past for allegedly expressing anti-English sentiments, to pin our hopes of Great British glory upon.

Indeed, it’s that time of year again where people eat strawberries and pretend to give a shit about a man they forgot existed for the past eleven months. Where were his legions of fans when he got to the finals of the Dubai Open? Who was cheering him on in the quarterfinals of the French Open? I’d hazard a guess that it wasn’t very many of us. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with backing the home favourite if you actually take an interest in that sport in the first place, but what I can’t get my head around is people suddenly caring about something purely because it proffers the chance of a Brit actually winning something. If you ask me, the nation never got over England getting pwned by the Frenchies at the Battle of Hastings and have been desperately scratching around for victory ever since. IT WAS IN 1066, PEOPLE. Time to let it go.

There seems to be something about sport that brings out the worst in its fans, many of whom have earned our fair isles a bad rep for hooliganism, and nurtures an unhealthy obsession with ‘our boys bringing [insert sporting competition name here] home.’ There is also the unfortunate attitude towards those of us who haven’t decked all our worldly possessions with EDL-esque memorabilia, which apparently translates as being ‘anti-British.’ I mean, really? I wouldn’t say I’m particularly patriotic, but not caring what happens to the English football team (unless they choose to donate their frankly sickening salaries to charity) does not mean I hate the United Kingdom. It simply means that when these big sporting events roll around, I appreciate the same things I always do, and don’t suddenly affect admiration for a bunch of jumped up ‘athletes’ who spend more time on the floor crying to the referee than playing the game people are supposed to be watching.

This part time patriotism is a decidedly fickle pastime, and in many ways, I feel sorry for the sportspeople lauded as heroes before they are cruelly erased from the public’s consciousness upon defeat. I also question the apparent need to support people who have the same watered down nationality as us purely because we were both born somewhere between Land’s End and John o’ Groats. Shouldn’t we back the people whose skills we actually admire, as opposed to those whose passports are the same colour as our own?

I genuinely wish Andy Murray the best of luck at Wimbledon, as I do all the competitors, because I take a passing interest in tennis and thus feel qualified to express some half-hearted sentiments about it. But to the legions of broken hearted fans wondering what to do with their flag festooned faces/cars/houses once the Jubilee/sports season is over, I suggest you take a long hard look at how ridiculous these fleeting pro UK infatuations are. Shred the bunting and move on – it’s for the common good, and surely any true Brit wants that.

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One thought on “The rise and fall of part-time patriotism

  1. International sports is a national equalizer. When we all sit around every weekend in the pub or at home with friends watching, we enjoy talking about our own different teams, arguing over who is better and attempting to predict the future. However, international sports is different – who everyone supports is a forgone conclusion in most cases. Therefore, we are left with a different interaction round our drinks/tv – an entire community together talking about the same team, the same tournament and the same goal.

    Then there is the added incentive of what sports fans may recognize as bragging rights. The sporting world moves quickly but has a long memory, and when supporters of different nations it is a great pass-time to remember fondly as a group the past matches not only against each other but mutual rivals. It is non-denominational, it is unsegregated, it does not question other affiliations etc. It is just who you support and what they have achieved, and it’s nice to talk about.

    No-one would expect you to understand this. Let’s be honest, aside from a fleeting interest in some lightly nationalized sports e.g. tennis, you are not a sports fan or follower. You do not talk about sports, you do not follow sports – it’s just not what you are interested in. But that being the case, why are you surprised that you don’t understand the joy people that do can get from international sports competitions? You barely understand the joy we get from following and discussing sports at all.

    P.S. Not any show of the Union Jack, St. Georges cross etc is racist. It’s just not and to accuse people of using them as decking their possessions with EDL memorabilia is so profoundly ignorant and frankly, yes, anti-English and anti-British it is astounding. Of course you can show your nations colors whenever and however you want without giving the impression that you believe only people born here should be here. And I for one am yet to see anyone from anywhere say that anyone not showing the flags during the tournament hates Britain. Maybe you have, I don’t know. Frankly, even if you have, the comments of some ridiculous person who on any other matter you wouldn’t give the time of day to doesn’t mean that they are suddenly representative and that we would all be better not doing it – the vast majority of us are able to support and show appreciation for our international teams without it having any negative effects on society whatsoever. We would not all be better off leaving it and are not all ridiculous for participating in it just because, as with everything, a very clear minority of people go over the top with it.

    P.S. England had a bad rep for fan hooliganism in the 80’s. Currently we are among the large group of countries with pretty exemplary fan behavior, while in the football world barely a match goes by without racist chanting from the stands in Spain whilst in Italy the number of fans allowed in a stadium is capped far below a stadiums capacity and away fans go around stabbing people in the street if they lose their match. But neither of them has a ‘bad rep’, and they aren’t even among the worst in the world. Sport doesn’t bring out the worst in fans, in any large group of people you’ll just have a couple who want to cause trouble.

    P.P.S. League Footballers alone contributed £70million to charity last season through the three main football-run charities alone. Past that, the majority of Premier League footballers have at least one foundation run and supported by them, many players from other countries have more than one (one here, one where-ever they are from). And then the teams themselves will regularly when asked let plays skip training to work with charities. Many players even offer themselves to various causes to let them know that they support them and would be welcome to whatever whenever. The fact that these people don’t do it flashily, that the headline is Adebayor made a bad tackle and not that he has given 70% of his wages away since joining Man City doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen – many celebrities give away millions every year that no-one knows about.

    P.P.P.S. To continue your train of thought to a very logical conclusion, why shouldn’t we just support any person or team on merit alone? But wait a minute, wouldn’t that just leave one or two, maybe four at most teams or people with EVERYONE interested in the sport rooting for them and everyone else playing with no fans and no-one caring about them? Leading to the majority of teams folding financially and players not caring within a year at most, and the utter death of all sports due to an utter lack of interest in most participants? Sounds like a bit of a ridiculous system to me, only support the best. You yourself have been in competitions for your writing where you have asked for people to support you. I bet you wouldn’t have been best pleased with them had one of your friends turned round to you and said ‘sorry, I’m supporting someone who I think is better because I only support on merit’.

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