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The Sporting Life

I’m not really a sporty person (though of course I am a sporting person!) it does nothing for me. I find professional sport faintly ridiculous: teams based around community and locality happy to employ anyone from anywhere if it scores them big. Insane sums of money that do nothing but keep players in arrested states of development. It seems as if sport only functions at the level the participants can be physically infantilised otherwise they are past it. Quickly they become heroes, an equally quickly they’ll be discarded.

Sport never meant much to me. I grew up in the typical nerd role and so the jocks were always my ‘enemies’; me and my NHS prescription glasses cutting a dreadfully cliché dash while dreaming of space and stars. that’s just who I am. I’ve never betrayed that fact. I’ve never had to give a long drawn out eulogy of my own performance to a cameraman from a company paying me sponsorship money and I’ve never been paid to sell mortgages after winning a medal. Is that what sport has become? A far cry from football in the park, jumpers in the goalposts (even then, whenever I joined in what that as a young ‘un, I felt out of place – everyone else took it all far too seriously for my liking).

I congratulate Andy Murray, though saying so means nothing to me; I have never met him nor intend to do so. I’m neither happy nor sad about it, my life is far removed from what the BBC and its sporting hysteria would seek to invoke in me. I congratulate him for achieving what he set out to, but not as some kind of hero. It’s the media reaction more than anything that bugs me: trying to fill my head with crazy notions. When someone fights for social justice they don’t get a massive golden teapot and a front page spread of them kissing it.

Our society seems so emotionally impoverished that in these creatively moribund and bereft times we’ll grab any icon and deify it. Andy hasn’t saved lives, created a cure for a disease, or unlocked a scientific paradigm. But that’s not what’s important. What he represents, as a gift to the ruling elite, is an ideal: he’s firmly in the strivers camp. That he will go on to make money from crass sponsorships won’t be seen as selling out, instead it’s part of the game. Make money, that’s what hard working people do. I’m sure he does work hard – but the key point is that he’s doing something he loves and being paid handsomely to work at it and do it. Not quite the same as 6 months unpaid workfare in Poundland, even if tennis is more physically demanding.

Still I guess this means the queen will be laying her sword on his shoulder in short order, like the rest of these sporting types. Are we so desperate to win at a game that we’ll elevate anyone that does anything to that level? Doesn’t that detract from the meaning of the award? I grew up thinking knights were heroes of old that slew dragons and represented chivalry and fairness. So shouldn’t today’s knights be the equivalent: heroes that slay dragons in the way teachers that defend kids from maniacs in classrooms. No, instead we are so miserable that we’ll take any ray of sunshine and pin a medal on its chest, no matter the achievement. And I’m not knocking this achievement, but it’s not the same as saving someone’s life and nor should it be – especially when you know that Lord Andy of the Tennis will be on TV in a few days hawking the latest brand of menswear grooming crap. It didn’t take long, for instance, for Jessica Ennis to sell her soul. Now I get to stare into her naïve mush everytime I use a Santander cash point. Is that what sport means? Perhaps I’m just naïve, but I find that sad. Would she be bankrupt otherwise?

I don’t mean to be unkind. I know a lot of people enjoy tennis and are happy that Andy Murray has won (him not least of all), and I don’t begrudge anyone their victory. The problem is that, as an unemployed person, this is just another way the media bashes us. As if to say: “look here’s someone winning at sport, you lazy bastard! Gerrajob!” When you conflate that with the continued cheapening of the word ‘hero’ you have a hollow social confection: a divisive ‘feelgood factor’ with all the value of a bag of sweets.


  1. I did watch part of the BBC build-up to the final, which consisted of a package concentrating on competition - how great it was, how it made us strive, how it spurred us on to greater things, blah... then I realised I was watching a party political broadcast on behalf of the survival of the fittest.

    1. Highly paid sportsmen who live a life of some privilege, let's be honest, are packaged and sold as working class heroes and working class aspiration. It's a little patronising and completely unrealistic.

      I have no doubt AM works hard, and I'm sure he's a nice guy, but it's not as if he's doing something he hates to put food on the table and keep the wolf from the door.

      Now he's got his shiny shoes on to have din dins with David Cameron at no 10. Meanwhile people with real causes can't get a look in at the doors of government: the Spartacus delegation, represented in parliament by Michael Meacher and John McDonnell is met instead with filibsutering from the Wicked WItch of the Scouse.


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