I’ve had some real letdowns in my sporting life. Spurs in 1987; Italia 90 and Euro ’96; a cheating ref denying the Lions in NZ and Martin Johnson’s very good team beaten by a very good Australian side that had to “do” Richard Hill to win. Munster’s numerous heroic losses. Then there’s cricket. The horrible reversal in ’97 after a great start. Surrey losing to Hampshire in a nat west final.
Hours, sometimes years, of hope crushed in a matter of seconds. I remember being certain at some point in all of the above that my team, be it England, Lions, Munster or Spurs was going to win. They’d showed fight, and skill and I supported them, and they were going to win. And then they didn’t. Dewi Morris was offside. Strings couldn’t stop Trevor Leotta (he’d make up for it). Chris Waddle hit the post and Gazza had lost a bit of pace and couldn’t slide in. The Aussies were just better than us at cricket for all of the 90s and much of the 2000s, but even then, we monstered them in ’96, for one game.
Then came this weekend and for the first time in a long time, I feel let down by sportsmen that I’ve followed for years. Spurs was slaughtered by Manchester City, but it wasn’t just the score line, it was the way they lost. The way they looked like they didn’t care if City got 10. They’ve been building up to this, and we’ve all worked for bosses we don’t like or don’t respect, but even then it’s the lack of self respect that annoyed me. Spurs were outplayed, outrun and out thought and they didn’t care.
So to the ashes, and what again looked like a total lack of fight. I know that there’s now a significant lack of fast bowling, and pitches are slower and lower than used to be the case. I understand that the English cricket team are not therefore used to dealing with sustained, hostile, genuinely quick bowling. Again however the disappointing thing was that a lot of the dismissals looked like they were down to a lack of care, or at best a bull headed determination to do what pleased them. Fast bowling is genuinely unpleasant. It is scary, and it hurts. The thing though is that these guys are meant to be able to handle this sort of thing – or at least try to. I’m not sure they all did.
I can handle my teams losing. I support a range of teams that often do lose. It’s the giving up that bothered me. In fact I found it genuinely depressing – hence my worst sporting weekend.
At least Munster won, in Perpgnan. Maybe there are some things I can still count on