BBC BLOGS - Mihir Bose
« Previous | Main | Next »

Britain hopes for magical sporting double

Post categories:

Mihir Bose | 16:41 UK time, Thursday, 18 October 2007

Unlike our ancestors, we do not believe in myth and magic. Like rational humans, we tend to consider such practices primitive.

Except when it comes to sport.

Sport provides the ultimate proof that we are not all that different from our ‘hunter-gatherer’ forefathers.

And this weekend is the supreme example of how magically mythical sport can be.

Even a fortnight ago, a script suggesting England would win the Rugby World Cup and Lewis Hamilton would be crowned Formula One drivers’ champion less than 24 hours later would have been marked fantastical rubbish and instantly binned.

Sporting hopes being rubbished before the contests have even been concluded is not new, of course.

Not many thought England could win the football World Cup back in 1966.

Even fewer thought, on a June weekend in 1981, that England would come back to beat Australia at Headingley and go on to retain the Ashes.

And I was there in the Olympic Stadium in Athens in August 2004 when Dame Kelly, then just plain Kelly Holmes, stormed past us to take the 800m gold. Having already claimed victory in the 1500m, she instantly turned our forgettable athletics performance into something memorable.

But even by the standards of these mighty sporting achievements, the England rugby story is unique.

Even a month ago they seemed to be just a game away from coming home, the once mighty champions doomed to defeat and dreadful post mortems.

Now, whatever happens on Saturday night, theirs is the story of arguably one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

David beating Goliath is always exciting, but when a Goliath considered to be on his death bed, as England were, rises up and slays even mightier giants of the world game, the story becomes very special.

And very sweet. So sweet that this triumph reaches far beyond the normal rugby male heartland, to what may be called rugby's equivalent of the “Worcester woman”.

Our politicians may seek her support, but this weekend it is our rugby boys who have claimed her.

In the process, Brian Ashton's men have created a national feel-good factor that not even the most skilful political spin doctor could have produced.

If the suddenness of the rugby revival takes our breath away, then Hamilton's story is no less exciting.

By the very nature of Formula One, it's more a novel than a short story like the rugby one. But what a novel.

Hamilton's story has something of Tiger Woods. Like America’s golfing superstar, Hamilton impressed many long before he made his F1 debut.

But then, like a Graham Greene novel, there was a twist.

The sport became embroiled in tales of spying and skulduggery that threatened to bring Hamilton down.

He survived and, hopefully by the time the rugby boys are celebrating in Paris, he will be revving his engine in Sao Paulo to produce the sort of double triumph that will be unique in British sport.

And all the more remarkable given that these successes would be in sports that can't normally compete with football for the nation’s affections.

The double triumphs, if they come, will do much to remind the world that Britain is not so obsessed with the round ball that it cannot excel in other sports.

More from this blog...

Topical posts on this blog



These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.