Maybe the Olympics were the exception that proved the rule: after 7 years of moaning that lasted from the moment that London were announced as the host for the 2012 games, to the moment that the opening ceremony came along and shut most people up (and certainly when the gold rush started), we British were able to sit back and actually be positive about something; to just enjoy the moment for what it was. Finally. For the period of the Olympics, for 16 whole days, we were like a nation transformed, genuinely revelling in the Games and allowing our traditional reserve to relax just a little bit. The carping started again even before the closing ceremony was over, but it was nice while it lasted.
We like a good moan, on the whole. I’m no different to anyone else, but we also seem to take an unhealthy pleasure in reading about the misfortunes of the rich and famous and we seemingly take no greater pleasure than seeing tall poppies cut down to size. I don’t know if the interest came before our tabloid press or vice-versa, but as a nation we seem to be very much from the glass-half-empty school of thought. Happy go lucky we most definitely are not (even if I saw it suggested after Erik Idle’s performance at the closing ceremony that “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” was the alternative national anthem.)
Today, the England cricket team lost its status as the number one ranked test match side in the world. We’ve not had a great 2012, to be honest, and we’ve been beaten fair and square by an excellent South African side that is now replacing us at the top of the tree. We haven’t become a bad side overnight, by any means, but all of a sudden the focus is on the captain, the coach, the personality issues in the dressing room…. For a brief window of a few hours before the last test match started on Thursday last week, we were the number one side in all three formats of the game – test matches, twenty:20 and one dayers. Did we take a moment to revel in that achievement? To reflect on the fact that this is the most successful an England cricket team has been in my lifetime? Nah… instead we relentlessly focus on the negative. We think about what’s wrong rather than pause to enjoy what’s gone right. Yes, I realise that you can’t dwell on the past too much or you risk standing still, but surely it’s possible to at least enjoy a quiet satisfaction in what you’ve achieved? If you can't look and enjoy it now, then when can you? Doubly true if you’re a fan and not one of the players or coaches who has to worry about the future.
It was the same with my football team last season. Yes, we were relegated from the Premier League after three years in the top flight. Disappointing, for sure…. But did we pause to reflect that this was our most successful spell in decades; and that as recently as 1988 we were languishing in the bottom division and in danger of going out of business entirely? Did we recognise for a moment that the fans of almost every other club in the country – those below the Premier League - would love to have the chance at a season as disappointing as that? Did we reflect that the club was one of the very few to be entirely in the black and with wages well under control; that relegation wasn’t likely to see the club disappear into administration? Of course we didn’t. Perspective and football do not often go hand-in-hand. (See also: Arsenal fans moaning about a defeat in the last 16 of the Champions League against Milan at the San Siro. You people don’t know you’re born!)
Maybe the Paralympics will change the national mood again. I find them to be, if anything, even more inspirational than the Olympics…. But then again, Celebrity Big Brother is on now too. And the X-Factor has started again. You have to say that it’s not looking good and that the Olympic mood might be the exception rather than the rule. Or am I just conforming to national stereotype by being glass-half-empty about this? Maybe, just maybe the national psyche has been changed for the better – and I don’t mean in a mawkish, minute’s silence and flowers for everything kind of way that followed the death of Princess Diana. Ugh. No thanks.
They say that pessimists are never disappointed, but couldn’t you equally say that they’re always disappointed?
Mind you, what do I know? Who am I to talk? I’m pretty sure that no one has ever described me as an optimist… I reckon it will probably rain later too. I know, but I just can't help it. Maybe we're just born this way.
Read: The Case for Being Less Serious
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