It is generally accepted that there are only two sure things in life; death and taxes. I think we can safely add a third; the England football team crashing out of a major tournament on penalties. It’s getting to the point where there is no drama anymore. While I’m not English, my heart rate barely rose at all when watching the penalty shoot-out. How can there be any tension when the result can be foretold by even the ost myopic seer?
David Beckham said it was “one of those days, again”, meaning, I assume, that he considered them unlucky to lose. But “one of those days” and “again” are mutually exclusive. If every day becomes “one of those days”, then they stop being “those days”. “Those Days” become the norm.
I don’t believe that this phenomenon is the recourse purely of the national football team. “England Expects” seems to capture it best. Originally, that meant that they expected “every man to do his duty”, along the lines of “play up, play up and play the game”. These days, it means that England is expected to win, in the same way that Brazil is expected to win. Brazil, at least, have good reason for these expectations.
The English media are the worst enemies of England. They seem determined to undermine any forward-thinking attempts and lambast, vilify and undermine achievers by whatever means necessary. They hype the public face of England, in the form of the national teams, then snipe and destroy them for anything less then total victory, which smacks of the Colombian or Iraqi approach to sporting failure. “Welcome home. Don’t worry about it. Here, come into this sound-proofed room for a cup of tea. Just ignore the firing squad….I mean, 21 gun salute.”
I think it is partly down to England suffering from Post-Imperial malaise. Yes, I know that was a while ago, but history and all that. England is still culturally used to having its own way. It’s the whole “going to the Costa del Sol and having Sausage, Egg and Chips in the english pub”, “Do you speak English? Why not?” thing. Deep down, I don’t think they believe these colonial johnnies can beat them at their own game (although they do, regularly and with ease).
England was the pre-eminent World Power until not that long ago; we’re talking a handful of generations. Not quite living memory, but not far off. Eddie Izzard, bless him, encapsulated this, when referring to the leadership of the world as a ball; “America has the ball. Britain has a memory of a ball. Hitler had a picture of a ball.”
You would have thought that some measure of realism may have crept in since England had to give back all its colonies after the war, but no. England, and hence Britain, are still feasting on the legacy of the Empire, gorging on the accumulated wealth it brought. But, like any inbred Old Money aristo fop, selling off the family estate for a swanky Mayfair pad and an easy life, this situation cannot be maintained. Daddy’s pair of Holland & Holland Number Ones won’t pay the bills for ever.