November 28, 2017

Horse 2345 - It Is Impossible To Undermine An England Fan's Pessimism

Almost as soon as the First Test in Brisbane had ended, the Tweets and messages on forums ribbing me began. This is absolutely normal. One of the things about being an England fan is that whenever England inevitably fail at what ever sport they happen to be playing at this time, I also become the target of many put downs. The brilliant thing about sport is that under the veil of context, you can wish all kinds of horrorshows on people in the safe knowledge that it really doesn't matter at all. Much to the confusion of Australia fans though is that they actually can not invent a put down so withering that it has very much of an effect. This piece explains why.

The big difference between the vast majority of England and Australia fans though, is that England fans go into a thing with the expectation that they will lose. As sure as God made little apples, as sure as the sun sets in the west, as sure as the Pope poops in the woods, and as sure as the bear is a Catholic, England will lose at every single sport that they've invented. I remember when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and looking around as England fans just stood around stunned because having won a thing, they didn't know what to do.
1-0 down in an Ashes series sounds​ to an Australian fan as cause for much gloating but if you are an England fan who is expecting a 5-0 whitewash from the outset, then you're already so far dug in with the expectation of losing that the only way to dig after that is upwards. The truth in the First Test is that once you remove the 141 by Steve Smith, then what you're left with are two mediocre sides with not much more than the width of a playing card to separate them.

England, being one of four unfriendly brothers, living on a teeny little sceptred island, set as the jewel in the sea, which nature built for herself, was once the centre of the world's biggest empire (unless you are the Mongols), and for the last hundred and fifty years or so, has slowly seen that disappear into the dust of history. This little nation of administrators did what they did best, even when having fun, and apart from America who invents sports that nobody else particularly wants to play, it was the English who set about codifying the rules of every sport... and then promptly set about losing them.
The oldest sporting trophy, The Hundred Guineas Cup, promptly left upon the waves and was carried by the boat "America", to the New York Yacht Club in 1851, wherein it was renamed the America's Cup and wouldn't leave the NYYC for 132 years. The England-Australia cricket began in 1877 and​ also started with an England loss by 45 runs. The sport which you'd think England should consistently win, football, has England not joining FIFA until 1950, and then being beaten 1-0 by an amateur United States team and being thumped 7-1 by the "Magic Magyars" of Hungary four years later.
When England do manage to win a thing, its usually quite a lot naff. All of the gold medals that England took in the 2012 London Olympics were in sports where the competitors were sitting down. Lewis Hamilton who is the current Formula One World Champion, has also won a thing while sitting down and that's compounded by the fact that he did so in a Mercedes-Benz which is a German car.
The little urn which hold the Ashes, are marked with a little notice which says "to the death of English cricket"; so England losing one match, set against the background of decades upon decades of sporting defeat, is of not much concern.

The whole outlook of Australian fans though is entirely different. Having won the Cricket World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, the Asian Football Cup, the Netball World Cup and probably world cups in sports that nobody has heard about, Australian fans go into everything with the expectation that Australia will win. Of course that instantly turns to bile when Australia actually lose and the media invariably goes into a cycle of self flagellation.
Since Australia has no national story of birth which was conceived in revolution, the Australian national myth must forever reinvent itself on the sporting field as kind of a de facto substitute for an origin story. Unlike England whose national story contains being invaded by Saxons, Vikings and Normans under William the Conqueror, Australia's national story includes Fanny Durack, Evonne Goolagong, Don Bradman and Phar Lap who wasn't even Australian (and was a horse).

So bring on the taunts about how bad England is. Go on. Point and laugh if you think it will help. From where I'm standing, expecting a 5-0 drubbing as per always, when anything good happens, it's a sweet bonus.

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