Sunday, 14 October 2007

The Frogs or Les Rosbifs - That is the Question

I feel very conflicted about supporting English national sports teams. I was born in England, so it shouldn't be a problem, but my dad is a Scots-Irish Catholic from the slums of Glasgow - which, if you're not familiar with British politics, roughly translates as "English hater" - while my mum is Liverpool born-and-bred, which means her family came over from Ireland during the potato famine like most of the rest of the city's population; and like the rest of the city, they still identify more strongly with Ireland than England. So none of my blood is really English, I was born in an English city that is really a Celtic city, and my cultural roots are Catholic and Irish, which means I feel, at best, uncomfortable with English sport. Particularly since English sporting teams can be identified so readily with South-Eastern, red-faced, ale-swilling, brawl-loving, Cross of St. George-waving buffoonery of the highest order.

Motivating myself to support England against Australia is easy, because hatred of Australian sports teams - particularly the cricket team - is natural for anybody who is interested in sports that Australians play. And I can get behind England against Argentina. That taps into something primal; if there were ever two nations that could be described as having a personality clash, it's Britain and Argentina, and my blood is equally fired by England, Scotland, Wales, whoever, if it's against the Argies.

But when England play France it's more problematic. See, to the English, France are the Old Enemy - the country they've spent the better part of a millenium trying to do down, filled with people they've spent a millenium trying to kill in bloodthirsty wars. It's the country they love to hate. But to a Scot, the French are the absolute opposite - partners in the Auld Alliance, a centuries-long partnership forged in war and the one thing the two nations have in common: the desire to see England trampled in the mud. So my natural instinct and the way I was brought up scream out to me to support the French.

Bloody rosbifs.

It gets worse when I consider how much I hate English patriotism. I'm happy to consider patriotism as, broadly speaking, a "good" emotion: it's important that people should love their country, provided it doesn't become hatred of other people's. (Paraphrasing Clemenceau there; I might even have spelt his name right.) But the English really are the worst when it comes to that sort of thing. The Scottish turn up to a sporting tournament in kilts with bagpipes and everybody has a good time. The Irish turn up with shamrocks and Guiness and everbody has a good time. The Welsh turn up with inflatable dragons and weird hymns about blokes in castles and everybody has a good time. The English turn up and everyone thinks, "Fuck, here come the English."

How to resolve this essential duality in my nature? As any true fan knows, it's impossible to support one team when they play against one set of opposition, but to want them to lose when they play others. It's a quandary that I might never be able to resolve - like one of Derrida's undecideables, or something.


mattiecore said...

"As any true fan knows, it's impossible to support one team when they play against one set of opposition, but to want them to lose when they play others."

I don't think that's true. [Be advised: Talk of American football ahead] During the past off-season, the Falcons (my team), traded their back-up quarterback, Matt Schaub, to the Texans. I've always liked Schaub, so I pull for the Texans fairly regularly. But a couple weeks ago, the Falcons played the Texans, and you can bet that I temporarily suspended my support of Schaub and his new team in favor of my own team.

Your situation does seem a bit stickier, though, what with your heritage and all...

As a quick aside, what's your opinion of Wales? I'm Welsh by heritage and have always wanted to visit.

Ugh, and you had to bring Derrida into it?

noisms said...

Wales is great. Really beautiful. Fully of Welsh people though, which is the downside...

No, I'm just kidding. Two of my best friends are Welsh. And they really are; it's not a "some of my best friends are black/gay" thing.

You should try to learn the language. It's undergoing a big revival.

zero_zero_one said...

I didn't see the game - I didn't know until this morning that they had won (totally missed the news yesterday).

Was it a good match?

Andrew Fry said...

I am an unabashed supporter of my home teams. Huskies, Mariners, Seahawks and the Pacific NorthWest like. BUT, if they are playing a pathetic team that is due for a win, I start to change my tune slightly. If my favorites are not involved in the contest, then I am hopeless fan for the underdog. Which translates into being disappointed most of the time, but when the wins come they are very sweet.

noisms said...

Oh yeah, supporting the underdog is always a must.

I know the Mariners are a baseball team, and the Seahawks are American Football...what sport are the Huskies? Ice Hockey?

mattiecore said...

Huskies are college football.

Also, I thought that you might take an interest in this sport. Here are some videos.