This appeared in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, February 10
Last week as I got ready to watch the annual war we call “The England versus Wales rugby fixture” I had another attack of my national identity crisis.
As I watched the build-up and saw the Welsh team and fans steadily getting themselves into a frenzy about facing the “old enemy”, I suddenly asked myself “hey, aren’t; these my fellow compatriots?”
For no, I am not Welsh – but I am British and yet here were my fellow Brits choking back the tears at the thought of trying to batter us, their fellow Britons. For yes, we are forced at events like this to ask ourselves once again – are we British or are we nglish/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish? And the answer appears to be – whatever suits us at the time.
As a rather naughty example, I am afraid I have a terrible problem with “our” tennis hero Andy Murray. Try as I might I just can’t find anything about the guy that inspires me to, err, like him. I don’t know what it is – perhaps it’s his charmless arrogance, the way that in the final of the Australian Open he looked as though he had thrown on his scruffy five-a-side football kit instead of a decent tennis outfit, or the fact that when he smiles it looks like an ironic gesture – but he just seems as warm and loveable as six-day-old Ready Brek. And yet he is a “Brit” so I should support him, yes? Well , up to a very simple point. As my colleagues have heard all too often (my sports editor even had a ‘sweep’ about how long it would take me to mention it when he lost the last final) when Andy Murray wins he is “Britain’s Andy Murray”. And when he loses he is “Scotland’s Andy Murray”. Silly, I know but I can’t help it. I mean, would it kill him to smile?
My national identity confusion isn’t helped by the fact that at times “our” team wears the red and white flag and at others it’s the Union Jack. Thus my English pride is very strong in sports such as football, rugby and cricket where “my” team is called England and comes all wrapped up with motifs of bulldogs, roses and lions. (Incidentally, all that “three lions on a shirt” stuff – why on earth does an African lion represent the land of my (English) fathers? Does the Tanzania footy team have a grey squirrel on its tops? I think not).
And yet, come the Olympic Games, my English flag goes back in the drawer and out comes the Union Jack. In that event, I don’t care if the athlete is from Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff or Clyde – I love them all equally. For they are Brits representing Britain. And I am Brit cheering on Britain – England no longer matters.
But of course it doesn’t end there. Every two years even the most fierce UKIP-ite can suddenly becomes pro-European when our continent takes on the USA at the Ryder Cup. The Union Jack goes out of the window and it is bonjour to the blue European one. Our allegiance is changed again.
Ah well, let us just hope one day we can discover intelligent life on another planet and we can all join forces to support a World Team.
I’d still probably back an alien against Andy Murray though.