Thursday, January 15, 2009

The unbearable lightness of sporting failure

I am a hopeless romantic in most aspects of my life. My political leanings have brought me to a political party that has been out of power nationally since the 1920's, and I was described as 'wonderfully soppy' by the Daily Telegraph. But it is sport which brings out a truly hopeless faith in the underdog.

When American football made its first inroads into British consciousness in the mid-eighties, I was quite excited, and decided to adopt a team to make it more interesting. As the colour of my political party, and of my beloved football team was orange, I chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As it turned out, I'd selected the team with the worst record of any NFL team that decade. Not so much an orange as a lemon...

My cricket team of choice was Sussex, the county of my mother's family. One of the oldest counties in first class cricket, they had won precisely zero County Championships, the pinnacle of the domestic game, despite 130 years of honest effort. A bit of limited over success, admittedly, but perennial underachievers nonetheless.

Ironically, both ugly ducklings turned into swans eventually. The Buccaneers won a Super Bowl, but only after changing their colours from a friendly tangerine to a rather more assertive deep red and black combination. Sussex won their first County Championship, inspiring the classic headline '164 years of hurt, never stopped believing' before winning two more in short order.

So, it couldn't really be much worse, could it? Actually, it can be - I support Luton Town, currently the worst team in the Football League, or so it would appear. In the years that I have followed them from the old Second Division up to the First, back down to League 2 (the old Fourth Division) before two promotions and two relegations brought them to League 2 at the beginning of this season.

Bad enough, you might think, but the ineptitude of the previous Board had taken the club into administration, and breaches of league rules meant that punishment was due. A ten point deduction for going into administration, an extra seven for failing to agree a deal with creditors, plus thirteen more for the rule breaches, meant that my beloved Hatters started the season with minus thirty points, the worst penalty in league history.

Relegation to the Blue Square Premiership, the fifth tier of English football, looked like a certainty. However, the team have tried hard and, after twenty-four fixtures, with seven wins, nine draws and eight defeats, we're back to zero. Alright, I admit that the team will still be playing away games at places like Eastbourne Borough next season, but at least they'll have tried. And, as hope springs eternal, they're not relegated yet, so you never know...

2 comments:

Tristan said...

Tampa Bay are coming to the UK next year, playing the New England Patriots...

You could have done worse and supported the Cardinals - one of the oldest teams in the league and have never won a Superbowl...

Jennie said...

As a Huddersfield Town girl...

No, I think I'll just leave that as is, actually LOL.