October 08, 2007

Horse 811 - The Nation of Shopkeepers

When England beat Australia 12-10 in the Rugby on the weekend, popular opinion has swayed to the position that because England didn't score a try, that somehow they're a worse side for it. Notwithstanding the fact that they actually scored more points that Australia and won the game by legitimate means, it's somehow only because of Johnny Wilkinson. Mind you as defending World Cup holders, England did beat Australia 4 years ago also off the boot.

This however is not a unique phenomenon. When England beat Australia in the Ashes in 2005 it was derided as "lucky" and only because Australia didn't have McGrath or Warne for a few matches. Almost as if England did deserve to win.

Damon Hill was cited in a De Monde, Sport Bild and a Gazetto Dello Sport as the "Worst World Champion of All Time" and now that Lewis Hamliton is on the verge of possibly taking an F1 World Drivers Championship he is accused of erratic driving. We won't mention the fact that the two drivers often held up as the best of all time, deliberately ran their opponents off the road, which had it been on the road may have had them up on attempted murder charges (Senna at Suzuka in 1990, Schumacher at Jerez in 1997).

The European Cup Champions of 2005, Liverpool, were hounded as the Worst European Champions ever. Again they came from 3-0 down at half time to slot 3 of their own past Dida and hold on to win on penalties.
If you happen to mention the 1966 World Cup final, invariably you'll be told that Hurst's 98th minute goal should not have been allowed but they'll then conveniently forget that his hat-trick goal 22 minutes later was an absolute corker. In fact the 3rd goal has coined the phrase in German the "Wembley-Tor"

Why then is there a continual undermining of England's success on the sporting pitch? It is ironic that the country who is known for sportsmanship and fair play should be wailed on.

The answer rather surpisingly actually lies in the events above. For England as a nation to win anything is a rare event. For a country of 50 million people, they produce a large amount of duds. When England wins anything it is a surprise to say the least. When Skinner and Baddiel (of Fantasy Football and Skinner and Baddiel Unplanned fame) wrote the official song for Euro 96 "Three Lions" they'd wrote about England's failure in the tournament before it was even played. Nowhere but England would you write a song proclaming to the world that you were really bad at something.

Why then would anyone follow England, the nation that Napoleon called a "Nation of Shopkeepers"? Why do I considering that I live on the other side of the world in a country with beatiful weather and scenery? Because only in England do you have a place that universally acknowledges its crap before you start, only England admits that nothing works properly... but when they actually something... well anything really, it's brilliant.

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