Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hope Deferred Makes the Sporting Fan Sick

I can safely assume that (with the notable, and appreciated, exception of particularly close family/friends) the vast majority of those that take the time to read what I put on here have some level of interest in sport. And it is also a reasonable assumption that someone with even a passing interest in sport also has a degree of preference for/against particular teams/players. I know someone who isn't exactly gunning for a place on A Question of Sport, but vaguely follows tennis and rugby and has an irrational hatred for Novak Djokovic and the Welsh national team respectively.

Having any form of favouritism or preference for a team or player leads to both euphoria (however infrequently in some cases), and much more inevitably, disappointment. But sporting disappointment and frustration comes in many forms. 

There is a form of disappointment that will be alien to the fans of the perpetually victorious (Barcelona, Djokovic, the All Blacks, etc.) Undeniably they experience defeat, failure and even humiliation on occasion but not that constant, 
resigned disappointment that comes from knowing you are going to lose, and that indeed becoming reality. Losing in the semi-finals or coming only 3rd isn't quite the same as week after week turning up for an ultimately "pointless" Saturday afternoon.
This lad hasn't got used to English
national teams just yet. He will...
But neither that sporadic disappointment of occasional defeats amongst a sea of victories, nor the relentless disappointment of weekly defeats and poor performance compare to the disappointment of your side performing well and getting your hopes up, before falling just short, or collapsing spectacularly. Of course there is that natural up and down of all sporting teams but surely nothing is more frustrating for a fan than inconsistency.
A thrilling run of victories, followed by a home defeat to the team bottom of the league. A decent patch of form then a cup defeat to a lower league team. Reaching the final rounds of a few tournaments then crashing out to a qualifier in the first round.
As British people we of course wisely expect the worst, a realism/pessimism spawned from years of watching our national team fail to meet their potential. How much more frustrating then, when we allow ourselves to believe, to have some hope, to permit just that sneaking faith in the chances of victory and glory, only for the inevitable to happen again. However much we might kick ourselves for allowing hope to conquer realism, we know that it will do the same again next time.

So when England are 233-4, chasing a record 340 against Sri Lanka, don't give hope an inch.
When we're 12-6 up in the second half against a 14-man Wales team, don't give hope an inch.
If Sunday evening comes and an Englishman is leading at Augusta by 5 shots, don't start celebrating until that Green Jacket is wrapped around him like a blanket
And on the 11th June this year, when we beat France and only have to get past Sweden and Ukraine in order to progress, don't let yourself believe. 


There's nothing that will make you sick to the stomach like abandoning your inherently British pessimism and starting to hope against all hope, only for the result to be even worse than you'd ever imagined to start with.

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