"The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people." Eric Hobsbawm - now available as a t-shirt, as advertised in The Guardian!
I am not a sports fan, but I don’t wish to seem as if I think myself superior to those that are. I just wish it wasn’t the required common ground of social interaction, something of which awareness is demanded and expected more so than, say, democratic politics.
I might even go so far as to say I’ll be glad when/if Ireland doesn’t beat Spain in tonight’s game*; the idea of ‘the country’ getting some sort of joyful catharsis from the success of their football team (ironically against another bailout country with over-indebted banks and very high unemployment) makes me uncomfortable. It’s not that I begrudge people their happiness, or their distraction from everyday woes, except I do when its based on the identifying of a nation with the exploits of a single sports team.
It’s not that I particularly dislike soccer, the beautiful game, except I do generally find it too dull to watch; nor do I object to patriotism, or the idea that we should collectively feel proud for those who achieve in our name - but in a tournament of team games, there’s no outstanding achievement except winning your matches and doing sufficiently better than the other teams, no necessarily great athletic, mental or creative feat for us all to be especially proud of. Instead, defeat reclaims our country for ourselves and our actual existence, not the nationalist dreams of vicarious sporting success…
*it’s currently 1-0 to Spain, close to half-time