There was always something slightly distasteful in those days about out and out patriotism; probably because those that advocated it were rather distasteful themselves. The union flag had dodgy connotations: bovver boys with snarling, hate-filled faces. Lots of us Generation Xers adopted a cynical attitude in reaction. Cheering people just because they came from the same country as you wasn’t right-on.
Somewhere in the ‘90s, things changed. I remember Italia 90, Gazza crying, and feeling rather emotional myself, albeit an emotion fuelled by a few pints of Stella Artois. It wasn't just football: suddenly, we had tennis players who won matches and looked as if, on a good day and with a strong following wind, they might actually go all the way. Suddenly, it was all right to be vocal in support of British sport. It was OK to want success. And once they became successful, you didn’t have to adopt the Daily Mail’s sneering attitude of shooting people down.
One of my colleagues still has a jaded, cynical view. Why, he wondered today, did Henman bother fighting to a fifth set, when we all knew he was going to lose? Surely it would’ve been better if he’d done the decent thing and bowed out after three? I said that we’d still have someone in the competition if Andy Murray had been fit. My colleague said: “Maybe, but he wouldn’t be in for long. He’d still lose.”
“I can imagine what you’d have been like in the Second World War,” I said. “’That Churchill, I don’t know why he bothers. He’ll just lose in the end’.”
It’s like saying: “Why bother living, trying, striving – because ultimately, we’ll all die.” I may have a strong streak of cynicism running down my spine and I can be as jaded as the best of them, but I don’t do nihilism. We have to reach for our moments of joy in life; we have to believe that sometimes, dreams do come true.