If we humans were another species, we would give up watching sport. I can’t prove it, but I’m fairly certain that rats, for example, as they do in the Lab, would learn pretty quickly to avoid cricket, rugby and football after their first electric shock of defeat; English rats, of course, being the first to scuttle off.
Yep! England lost to Australia at Rugby, 14-20. They did quite well last week against Fiji, so naturally I thought it a good idea to watch them do something similar this week, but they didn’t. I had also forgotten that losing in sport, even when not actually playing, is rather disappointing. The fact that the English cricketers are losing in India (or under the cosh, as I should say, because you can never truly know you are going to lose until the umpire says so at the end of the final day – always the weather) doesn’t help either.
There will be the usual hyperbole, of course – about the rugby, although the cricket might get some too. Commentators, as they are wont, will exaggerate the defeat, and we will be reminded that the team only has one win in the last five games. And, by the team, they will mean the head coach, Stuart Lancaster. It won’t be long before the end of honeymoons are mentioned and we can go back to torturing the boss, as we did Martin Johnson, which is the default setting in dear old England’s bitchy corner.
As far as I can make out, we lost by two penalty kicks. To Eng: one try, three penalties; to Aus: one try, four penalties, one drop goal. Not such a great difference, and we could quite easily have made up that difference with a few different bounces or decision calls. But this is probably from where the criticism will come: the decision to not kick three penalties and go for the try instead.
Yet it would be harsh if this was held against them. I’ve lost count of the times England has been criticised for kicking, for being boring, lacking ambition, and not entertaining us like New Zealand – and the deduction is that our lack of ambition is the main reason we are not as great a rugby playing nation as population and money should make us. Yes, the best teams tend to take the points when on offer, and with about twenty minutes to go Robshaw should almost certainly have directed Flood to kick the points, but perhaps the intent we saw today is the way to make the team better in the long run. They can kick the points in the next rugby world cup final, but in the meantime they can practice playing rugby on the field of play.
So, on second thoughts, I’m glad we humans are not another species. Because if we were, we would not be watching sport, and we would not be able to see if our team can do better next time, and we would not be giving ourselves the very great pleasure of showing the Australians that we can be as magnanimous in victory as we are gracious in defeat.