Wales beat England at rugby this afternoon, which (don’t tell my father) I quite enjoyed. I keenly support England when they’re playing South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or France, but against other teams I often find myself rooting for the opposition.
I guess it’s largely support for the underdog (today was Wales’s first win at Twickenham for 20 years, so I don’t think it’s too patronising to call them underdogs), but I never feel the same way when England play soccer. I don’t know why I don’t feel the same emotional connection to the rugby team, but there it is.
Of course if you’re English you have to have flexible sporting loyalties anyway: English during the World Cup but British during the Olympics. And it’s amazing how golf clubs suddenly become hotbeds of European solidarity during the Ryder Cup.
It always seems like it ought to be a healthy model of patriotism. Lots of overlapping loyalties which come to the fore at different times in different contexts, none of which insist that they have to be exclusive. And yet oddly enough British sports fans aren’t known for their flexible, easy-going tolerance and sensitivity to cultural nuance.