Friday, March 03, 2006

Why David Gets a Bit Carried Away After Beating Goliath

Read Graham Spiers Sports Diary yesterday morning in the on-line Glasgow Herald (would have provided a shmancy link here but unfortunately the Herald have archived the online version) and came upon Speirs' defence of a piece written on Monday in which he bemoaned Scotland's "small nation syndrome", as evidenced in the reaction of media and populace alike to the victory of the nation's rugby team over England last Saturday.

Mr.Spiers is the tweed jacket wearing, thinking woman's crumpet of Scottish sportswriting, generally a voice of reason amongst the country's typically rabid pack of tabloid pit-bulls. His point was that all the gloating triumphalism was a rather embarassing sight, and a reflection of the country's fundamental immaturity, particularly with regard to their relationship with their neighbours to the south. It was also suggested, by English exiles, that the Scots had no idea of the level of their hatred for the Sassenach, which, at times, bordered on racism.

So is it wrong for the little guy to celebrate his rare coups over the big boys?

It's a question relevant to the Irish experience, sharing as we do a similar geographical and population dimensions as the Scots, and also a historical enmity with the English. We know all about the explosion of elation that comes from beating England; indeed Stuttgart in 1988 is hard-coded almost as much as the GPO in 1916 in the cultural identity of Irish folk. A friend has told me of the ale-sodden evening of 7th March 2004, when a Corkman of his aquaintance spat eloquently for twenty minutes an oration on why eight hundred years of oppression justifed the fullest celebratory abandon at Ireland's defeat of world champions England at Twickenham that afternoon. Well, I wouldn't have liked to have accused him of immaturity that night, but......

Actually rugby provides a bit more of a clue to the source of the whole thing I think. A year after Ireland put Clive Woodward's men to the sword, his successor Andy Robinson took his men to Lansdowne Road to be beaten again, to satisfied approval rather than jingoistic ecstasy from the green hordes whose team had their sights on a possible Grand Slam rather than a rare big scalp.

Meanwhile Scotland's victory last Saturday was only their third over England in 16 years of championship rugby, a statistic evokes many chilly afternoons of being pummelled senseless by muscly men in white. And also explains the giddiness that abounded following this most recent win.

So its fairly simple. For the little nation, beating the big nation is great, but only when the big nation is worth beating. When the big nation is not worth beating then the little nation doesn't get quite so excited about beating them. But if the big nation beats the little nation most of the time, and has done so in one form or another for centuries, then the little nation gets really rather excited about beating the big nation the odd time.

Case study: The USA would get excited about beating the Russians at ice hockey. The USA would not get excited about beating the Russians at baseball.

In fairness, Graham Spiers was not denying the Scots right to jubilation after beating England, just finding the crazed intensity of their bragging towards the English a little distasteful. I'd forgive them on this occasion though - its rare the poor sods get to celebrate beating anyone these days.


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