a) a follower of English sports
b) an English follower of sports, and perhaps most pertinently,
c) an English follower of English sports
So, when, in my imperial arrogance, I assume that we should be capable of winning every sporting event we enter and am subsequently let down but
|Links golf proving tough for Donald|
|Westwood hits the decks|
England have not won a genuinely difficult and significant match in a major tournament since the World Cup Final of 1966.
As true as I believe that statement to be, it wasn't really the purpose of this blog. Rather than the typical English-sport-slating of every journalistic outlet in our green country (I mean literally, lots of grass & fields, not inexperienced, or jealous, or even environmentally friendly), I am going to suggest that a mental frailty or predisposition towards choking under pressure is no more of an English trait than football or tea are originally English inventions.
Who did Faldo beat in the '96 Masters? Greg 'The Shark' Norman - an Aussie. Famous for their determination to win, competitive mentality and strength of self-belief. Yet, leading by 6 shots going into the last round, he managed to play one of the worst final rounds seen until Rory's own version earlier this year. How could an Aussie choke like that?
In cricket, South Africa have consistently one of the strongest ODI teams, combining aggressive but reliable batters with economical but wicket-taking bowlers. They always have good numbers of all-rounders and are always among pre-tournament favourites. Yet they are always labelled chokers and always live up to their label as the tournament unfolds.
What about New Zealand? The All Blacks strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, and not just because of the Haka or Jonah Lomu - they are the strongest, fastest, most powerful and technically gifted rugby union team in the world and have been ranked No 1 in the world for nearly 3/4 of the entire time the rankings have existed. Yet every four years they somehow conspire to fail to win the tournament. We can only dream that this autumn will be the same old story.
USA's women were overwhelming favourites to win the World Cup a record 3rd time, but twice threw away the lead before producing 3 awful penalties to hand the tournament to Japan. Apparently "choke" is the wrong word so perhaps we'll just say that they bottled it.
Asafa Powell, one of the fastest men in history, regularly putting in incredible times, doesn't produce the goods when he's up against Tyson Gay or Usain Bolt - is he choking under the pressure of the big occasion? There innumerable occasions when other individuals or teams have collapsed at crucial moments. And, until only recently, the Spanish national team were routinely ridiculed for underperforming at major tournaments.
So my list of choking nationalities thus far includes the following: England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Jamaica and Spain. This blog is already too long so I won't go on but I think we can safely say, it's not just an English thing. Is it about a bloody-minded, winning drive? Let me ask you... is that what this picture says to you?