For those of you who know me – either in person or via this blog – it will be no surprise to you that I have zero interest in sport. Never have. Just as I have never really believed in a God or Gods, I’ve never really believed in the Gods of Sport. I can’t admit to having been more than just slightly aware of Sir Chris Hoy prior to this week and I find it bizarre that he has been knighted for pedalling a push-bike in a circle.
I gather he is able to go quite fast on his push-bike. But I guarantee that I could make my wife’s soon-to-be-delivered 850cc Lancia Ypsilon go faster around the Olympic velodrome. Riding bikes fast in a circle for no obvious reason is as pointless as rubbing sticks to make fire – but we don’t award knighthoods for that.
Now that’s not to say that I can’t understand how important it is to stay physically fit. I watch what I eat and try to avoid too many M&S Meals for 2 (especially when I’m eating alone). I tell my kids to get off their computers from time to time and I try to take the stairs rather than take the lift. However, I really have to question the imperative of someone dedicating hours on end, week after week, month after month, year after year to improving their chances of winning a vulgar over-sized medal. It’s self obsession gone crazy. For a few hours of adoration, chin-wobbling to the national anthem, and grinning on an open-topped bus. For me it would be the stuff of nightmares – national adoration for doing something completely and utterly pointless.
As Confucius said, “Everything in Moderation Including Moderation.”
The people who are avid, earnest, competitive sports-people are the types of people who would mutter, on frosty mornings on the rugby pitch, that they didn’t want Peel on their team – but they had to take him because there was no-one else left to choose. Competitive sport is often the choice of bullies, sociopaths and anti-intellectuals. And morons. But I generalise. I’m sure that Zara Dampney, from the Team GB Beach Volleyball team (pictured) is an exception to that ridiculous rule. To me she looks like a great girl – and for all the right reasons. Oh and she and her mate lost.
But in Northern Ireland the absurdity of Olympic piffle reaches Mount Olympian proportions. Every evening we are treated to a politically correct round-up of the Northern Ireland minor sports-people boxing or hockeying, or whatever, for Team GB or Team Ireland. The Team Ireland participants, of course, are either uber-Nats who wouldn’t have anything to do with the Union flag or (more likely) a horde of sporting B-listers who aren’t talented enough to make the Team GB line-up and, therefore, have next to no hope of winning a medal wearing a green shirt.
When Wendy Houvenaghel, the Northern Ireland cycling hopeful, was overlooked for some cycling race final, she made her way to the omnipresent BBC NI Sports chap and bitched for Ulster about the unfairness of it all. Welcome to my world Wendy. But get over it. There will always be younger, fitter and faster models available. That’s the ultimate point of sport. It couldn’t care less about anything but the clock or the target or the tape measure.
Sport is pointless and unfair. It’s unfair because some people are good at it and have such tiny lives and such miniscule variety in them that they prefer to spend countless hours honing their skills to ‘beat’ others. Some make a lot of money from it. Others don’t – and that’s what makes sport especially absurd. At least wealth gives it a point of sorts. Sporting prowess that results simply in winning some bling is the ultimate insult. Lives lost to repetitive monotony.
That, however, is the choice that sports-people make. It takes all sorts. But I judge a society by how it encourages variety, by how it encourages freedom and how it encourages intellectual endeavour and industry. A society dominated by sport and jingoism is one in which I would prefer not to live. So, for me, Team GB’s sporting success has made the United Kingdom a slightly less friendly and pluralist place in which to live. Because I don’t like sport and I should be allowed to say that. But, on the BBC at least, there seems no place, any more, for sporting nay-sayers. There isn’t room in the schedule these days.