Posted by Laura
I hate to say it, but I warned you. No good was ever going to come of cricket. When I officially came out as a cricket-hater at the start of the Ashes I endured a barrage of ridicule, contempt and the kind of detestation that often comes in four-word format and sends firewalls into a frenzy.
But now, as hopes have been dashed, the optimism has faded and – despite being only two-fifths in – even staunch supporters are consigning England’s attempt to retain the Ashes to the ether of national sporting dreams failed, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit pious. I predicted what a waste of time it would be to spend so much time watching 22 men get sunburned and build the nation’s hopes up to “We’d have to really mess up to lose this test now” proportions, only to manage – in true English style – to do just that. And all I got was grief.
As our homepage feature on what this latest setback means for English sport shows, there’s not a great deal of optimism around at the moment. How the mighty have fallen. The glory of England’s last Ashes victory makes this week’s performance even more difficult to swallow for cricket fans. English rugby – enough said. The two words have somehow become synonymous with legendary sporting anticlimaxes. From World Cup victory parades to losing against, um, everyone. English football – there’s actually hope here. Football gets points for consistency. Few people actually believed England would win the World Cup – and they didn’t.
Scotland seem to be on the up in the football stakes, beating France in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. The Welsh are proving that pride in their national game can herald results in the rugby, and likewise Irish rugby is making great progress. So what should England, a nation of sports fans, do to keep up with its neighbours?
Contrary to what you might think, I’m not going to furnish you with a list of so-much-better things you could be doing with your time than watch cricket/rugby/football* (*insert desired sporting let-down here), although believe me, there are so many I’d be here all day if I did. I think there’s something positive to be taken from every setback, and now maybe it’s time some of the lesser-known sports heroes get the air time they deserve.
Yes, it’s time to cut our losses and figure out just what the English are good at. Well, a quick look through our MSN homepage archives shows that the English, and indeed Britain as a nation, are good at spending, taking drugs, binge-drinking and eating (read our report on Fool Britannia). Perhaps the latter two could explain why English darts players are among the best in the world, although the good at spending part doesn’t explain how so much can be paid out on footballers’ and managers’ salaries for relatively little national reward.
So who are England’s unsung sporting heroes? Well, the nation has world gymnastics champion Beth Tweddle and 14-times world darts champion Phil Taylor to add to its sporting hall of fame. And the English lacrosse team are world champions, as are the English angling team. Hmmm, on closer inspection lacrosse could be even more arduous to watch than five test matches. Its North American history suggests the game was originally played on a field that could be up to 15 miles wide and with up to 1,000 players. Imagine sitting through a whole tournament of that and suffering defeat? And angling – do fish feel pain? – that debate in itself is probably more exciting than the sport.
But cheer up, the news isn’t all bad. In the search for a sport England can be truly great at I have found two possibilities. The most pole vaults in an hour, a feat achieved – according to the Guinness World Records – by the Blue Falcons Gymnastic Display Team from Chelmsford, Essex, in 2003. They managed 5,685. More repetitive than cricket? Quite possibly. But if there’s one pursuit where England could excel it’s cockroach-eating. Ken Edwards, of Glossop, Derbyshire, ate 36 cockroaches in one minute in 2001 and became the world record holder. But is it a sport? Well, it’s exciting, takes stamina and has the potential to be competitive, but not so competitive that there’d be enough skilled players out there to pose too much of a significant threat. Sounds like this could be one contest England have sewn up.
What do you think? Should England’s successes in other sports be publicised better?