Monday, 22 July 2013

You May Say I'm A Dreamer...

It's Tuesday night. Or Wednesday, I don't really know. I don't really care. It's just another drab, boiling hot evening in boiling bloody hot July. The nights are so hot they are simply an extension of the infernally endless days of haze and heat. The bloody weather, it's always the bloody weather...

Having returned from working a flight as an air hostess, the missus is sitting across from me at the dinner table, tucking into the dinner we (well, she) made in quite regular clothes, while I sit, panting like a dog stuck in a car, insulated by a layer of my own sweat to further worsen my mood. I stare down at my food. It's way too hot to eat, but, as a man, I have to at least look like I've made an effort. Ray Winstone isn't the man he is now because he only had a few mouthfuls of risotto each meal and then gave up- that guy knows his way around a dinner plate. I bet his favourite garnish for steak is another steak-

'Oh, I forgot to tell you' she bursts, causing me to jump and drop the prawn and 3 grains of rice I was mustering the energy to eat from my fork. 'David Beckham was on my flight, he's really nice'.

I blink at her. 

David Beckham? The David Beckham? As in, national-treasure-England-captain-charitable-hero-and-idol-for-millions David Beckham? Meeting 'Goldenballs' (I am aware nobody calls him that any more) used to be a lifetime dream of mine, since THAT goal against Wimbledon. He's the answer to every boy with a silly haircut practising free-kicks against walls nationwide. The man is one of the most recognisable faces in the world, probably just behind The Queen. 

I used to dream about David Beckham an awful lot as a child. Whether it was meeting him, seeing him, playing football with him, or even being him. But then as a child, my dreams used to be as heroic and glorious as they were completely far-fetched. I could be an F1 racer one night, lift the Champions League the next, and then score a last-minute try to cap off a rather excellent week. There was, quite literally (in a fantasy kind of way), nothing I couldn't do, because, as a child, I had know idea what my limits were. I was confident I could have grown up to be anybody.

So when I did eventually wake up, I would act out my dreams as if they were really happening. My garden was my Wembley, my Silverstone, my 1999 season. But slowly, as I grew up, I realised that my garden was just a garden, and not the turf of Twickenham, or the wicket of Lords. Eventually, I grew up to be a slightly weedy, camp young man who's too scared to "like" female's facebook pictures for fear someone will write "PERVERT" on his wall, as if they only put a picture of themselves in hotpants on the internet as part of Operation Yewtree  and I took the bait. Thus, I have learned most of my limitations by now (I'm sure there are more things I can't do lurking around somewhere), and as a result, my dreams have become more and more limited. 

'Fucking sort yourself out, right now!'
'Look, I'm trying!'
'Not fucking trying hard enough! What the fuck are you doing? You're fucking useless! Fuck off'

Rio Ferdinand said that to me. I was centre-back alongside him at Old Trafford. But I wasn't an internationally-renowned player. I was me. With my footballing ability (there is no footballing ability). Which means that, when a player from Manchester City rushed to me with the ball, he flew straight past and scored. Rio seemed to think it was all my fault. I woke up soon after, thoroughly embarrassed, though not quite as embarrassed as I was at Silverstone and Jenson Button drove past me (but then again, he was in a state of the art McLaren, and I was in a Peugeot 106, so it was inevitable), and nowhere NEAR as embarrassed as I was when I was at work, carrying some drinks over to a childhood sweetheart who had married someone else, and suddenly tripped over, which sounds dangerously realistic, but was, in fact, another dream. 

As for Miss Forgets-to-mention-David-Beckham, I guess the sky's the limit for her, which is why sleeping is quite easy for her to do. She can lie in bed and drift off, safe in the knowledge that in ten minutes, she'll be trying on a pair of diamond shoes, or swimming in an ocean of handbags (as you have probably guessed, the research department of JBHQ is at an all-time low), whereas I stare straight at the ceiling, wondering who is going to hit me with their Honda Civic next. 

Last year, Scottish-grimble-turned-British-hero Andy Murray told us about how he dreamt he had won Wimbledon after in fact losing, and how it was really cruel, and he woke up feeling awful, making us all feel awful too. But when I dream about being booed off Have I Got News For You, I'm consoled with 'Well, I can see that happening, because not many people find you funny. But then again, I guess you'd never be asked to go on the show'. 

The world would be so different if Martin Luther King had possessed a similar subconscious deficiency to myself- I mean, if he hadn't dared to dream about achieving such landmarks of racial equality, people like George Zimmerman would be able to shoot black people and get away with it, or someone like John Terry would be able to call somebody else a 'fucking black cunt' and still be paid £200,000 a week to play football! Now that's far-fetched! 

It soon dawned upon me, after the missus said she had met David Beckham, that I will almost certainly never meet him, but that's not to say I'm worse off for it. But a part of me wishes I could still dream about meeting him. Right now, I'd settle for dreaming about meeting a neighbour on my street who isn't either the missus or the landlord. But I can't. My fantasies are grounded in the reality of my every shortcoming. Soon I'll be dreaming about being able to brush my teeth without accidentally falling into the toilet, if I'm lucky. 

Or maybe I should be more positive; get out in the garden, alone, and, just one last time, step up to take the penalty that wins England the World Cup. Then perhaps I could jump into my Ford Focus. Not to go anywhere in it, but just drive it around Silverstone for a bit, and win there once more. Maybe perhaps in the afternoon, I could ride my bike along the Champs Elysee. Then come in from having the best day of my life, fall asleep, and relive it all over again in my mind.

Failing that, I could actually get off my arse and actually achieve something.

But isn't that what dreaming is for?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Bunch of Losers

Earlier this week, I lost at a game of tennis.

This is probably among the most common sentences uttered by any British male, in a sporting sense. It's certainly up there with "I've always loved cycling, look, there goes Sir Chrisley Wiggendish now!", "Why the fuck is he bringing Jordan Henderson on?", and "Wait- We have a gym membership?! How long has that been going on- we moved house 6 years ago!"

I lose out on things all the time. At school, I never had a 'winning season' at rugby, and, despite my playing over 125 games for the school, I only scored 3 tries in that time. I lose the lottery on a weekly basis (and I don't care what anyone says- it is still technically losing) and when I meet other cars on a narrow road, I always reverse or tuck myself into the nearest hedge/grassy bank/another car- and that DEFINITELY is losing. 

But what struck me so much about the defeat (2-6, 6-4, 4-6 to my brother, of all people, since you asked) is how easy it was to lose, and how well I took it. I lost at taking defeat! When I was a child, I was the worst loser imaginable. I'd blame everything within kicking range, abuse whoever was officiating the contest, and leave in such a strop, I'd make Kim Jong Un look like Santa. But now, I'm fine. I'm fine with losing. How has this happened?! 

The problem, as ever, does not lie with me. It is with this country as a whole. We have overachieved for quite some time now, and then dramatically underachieved for a long time after it. Now we just plod along like a good former superpower should. Taking our place in the pantheon of humble historical civilisations, like the quiet old Aztecs, or the wise Greeks, or the riotous Egyptians... Okay, so we're not like Egypt. But allow me to take you through Britain's demise through the medium of sport.

It is agreed by the scholars of the modern world that the English invented football, and for a while in those early years, I can imagine we were pretty damn good at it. But then we made the mistake of showing off and telling other nations about this incredible sport we've invented. Not only did other nations understand the game, they eventually became better than we were at it. A lot better, which means in today's age of World Cups and Champions Leagues, we barely feature on the top table without recruiting the best players from other countries. The English are now so shocking at football on every level, we need help to achieve new levels of mediocrity. We need Arabs and Russians and Americans to buy out clubs and fuel this perpetual piss-poor performance year after year. 

The history-makers decided to promptly do-away with football and, instead, pick it up and run with it. This was a great idea from a school in Rugby, Warwickshire. I don't have any stats of the early games to hand, but I can bet that the Rugby school from Rugby were head and shoulders above the rest for a while, until they too made that fatal mistake of telling other people about it. This was a massive error on two levels: Firstly, the Welsh found out, and have been harping on about it ever since. Secondly, so did everyone else in what was the Commonwealth, and even a few rogue states who have no business playing rugby- the French, for example. 

Thus, the fathers of sport did away with rugby, and let countries like New Zealand take it far too seriously, but while the All Blacks were whitewashing the rugby world, the English were learning from their mistakes- the sports they had invented so far had been WAY too easy to learn. Kicking or running with a ball is just too simple. So they devised a game so complicated, surely nobody would want to learn it? Thus, cricket was invented, a game so unbelievably complex, it instantly put off the Welsh and most of New Zealand. But unfortunately, another nation was to rise. The English had not taken into account the scholars of Australia (because back then, Australia was a very scholarly nation- rather like we see it today) , who immediately set about interpreting the rules in a way they could understand. 

'But Brucey, mate, shouldn't we learn about reverse swing and silly mid-off?'
'Nah, fuck 'em, Dave. If those Poms wanna challenge, we'll just fucken' chuck every bit of abuse we can at them while they're batting, then bring in Shane to rip 'em a new one!'

This constantly happened with every sport that Britain could present to the world- hockey, tennis (excluding Scotland, they're fucking brilliant), ice hockey, boxing- that we ended up in a situation where we're good at lots of sports, but not great at one of them. We're actually a bit shit at each and every one of them. Plus, if you read the Daily Mail and like politicians who wear mustard-yellow trousers and constantly drink pints of ale, you will be aware of the fact that there are SO MANY foreigners in this country now claiming nationality, we're actually not even the best at being British- how British is that?!

How can we focus on winning one thing when our attention can't stay on it long enough? That's why when a British athlete accidentally comes 4th in the javelin in his local sports day because 2 other athletes were caught snorting lines off the athletics track (which, if you think about it, is quite clever) we instantly give them an OBE, Sports Personality of the Year and condemn them to a lifetime of visiting schools and opening the local Greggs. Ask any Englishmen what sport they watch, and they won't name one- they'll name three or four. The fact that the BBC felt compelled to have FORTY EIGHT channels for the Olympics (alright, 24 were standard and 24 were high definition, but it still counts) shows just how scattered our interests are. 

Ultimately, it all comes back to the genesis of sport- football. We are slaves to the Premier League, with all it's decadence, racism, adultery and- possibly worst of all- diving. We perpetually look at Andy Murray, Jonny Wilkinson and Steve Redgrave and think 'why aren't our footballers like that?', then gladly hand over hundreds of pounds to watch Luis Suarez on the shittest episode of Come Dine With Me I've ever seen. 

"Well, the venue was nice, I do like Anfield, but main course was a little odd- Branislav Ivanovic?! Not for me: 4/10."

Which is why I've done away with it all- hung up my boots, relinquished my racquet, exited the ring, withdrawn from the field, left the hallowed turf, had my last hurrah, chucked away my clubs, thrown away my darts (and missed), swung my last swansong, and given up on the sports that have made other nations so great. Instead, I bought a bike, am now a road cyclist, and most importantly- I ride on my own. That way, it's impossible for me to lose- I only compete against myself, which is easy- I'm shit at cycling. 

Which is probably why I lose at that as well.