Sport has a particular importance to England at present because sporting sides are the only source of national focus the English have. The English are denied a parliament, they are betrayed by their political elite who shudder at the idea of English nationalism, they are constantly insulted by the national media, but the national sides continue. These sporting institutions permit the English to articulate their feelings as a tribe. Even English men and women without any interest in sport should support them for that reason if no other.
Those who say “it’s only sport” should stand back and reflect on the amount of time, effort and money which is spent throughout the world on sport. Women may be generally less enthusiastic, but sports obviously speak to a deep seated desire within men.
Man is a tribal animal. If he were not it would matter not a jot whether one team won or another, unless money was on the result. But manifestly men do care and care passionately when no material advantage is to be gained or lost by the result. In fact, the relationship between a football fan and his club is probably the most enduring of his life, for it commonly begins in childhood and ends only with death.
The outpouring of joy when a goal is scored dwarfs any other public expression of positive feeling today. Those who imagine that a football club is merely a business and that selling football is no different from selling baked beans, fail to understand the game and the fan.
Sporting heroes are heroes in the literal sense for they play the role of the champion whether it be in single combat (tennis) or as part of an army (football). There is something primal about this. Watch even a powerful man in the presence of his sporting hero and the powerful man will almost certainly be unconsciously deferring to the sportsman.
Team sports are war games, a war game in fact as well where men meet in a form of direct physical confrontation which is a pretty good substitute for tribal war, war fought hand to hand with sword and shield and spear. Sport is war without the weapons. That is its primal glamour.
Because of their function as lightening rods of national feeling the existence of England sides are hated and feared by our elite. The erstwhile and now deceased Labour Sports minister, Tony Banks, persistently puffed the idea of a British football team, something that is indubitably not wanted by any of the four home FAs or the vast majority of fans.
The political dimension goes beyond the English national sides. In these politically correct times sporting crowds in England for the major sports are also disturbingly white for the liberal bigot elite. Vast amounts of time and money have been devoted to making crowds “more representative”, happily with precious little success. Football crowds in particular are a source of concern to our liberal elite because they provide the one opportunity where large numbers of the white working class can gather together and express themselves uninhibitedly without having to gain the permission of the police. This concern is amplified by the general contempt which the British elite have developed for the white working class which, in the sporting context, is especially focused on the football fan. (Margaret Thatcher more than any other individual fostered the contempt when she routinely painted English football supporters as hooligans and enthusiastically promoted the exclusion of English football clubs after the Heysel stadium tragedy at the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus. )
But sport has much more to it than tribalism. It is a constant in a changing world. It is a source of aesthetic delight. It speaks to the whole range of human emotions. When a great batsman goes to the wicket when his side is in trouble and makes the bowling look easy, the whole mood of the players and spectators changes within minutes: when a football side which is 2-0 down gets a goal back the swing in moral certainty from one side to another is palpable. It is much more than being “just sport”. It is a mirror of what it is to be human.