The sacking of Kevin Pietersen, the last of the great mavericks, has killed off any lingering interest I had in sport

Who would you rather have coming in to bat at number four? Mother Teresa?

Share

You finally really did it. You maniacs. You blew him out! God damn you all to hell! The sacking of Kevin Pietersen, I’m talking about. The only English batsman currently worth getting out of bed to watch. And his crime? Insouciance. Egoism. Inconsideration of the feeling of others. So who would you rather have coming in to bat at number four? Mother Teresa?

All right, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always...

But I lie. It is the end of the world – the final nail in the coffin of my enthusiasm for sport, which was always, if I am honest about it, more dead than alive. But at least it twitched. At least I’d trundle off to Lord’s once a year if I could find a member with a spare ticket. At least I’d stay up late watching darts or snooker on television.

And I even accompanied my wife to beach volleyball at the London Olympics in 2012. She’d interested me in ballet; maybe she’d interest me in this. A ludicrous spectacle from start to finish it turned out to be – as vulgar as panto and as unengaging as a Winter Olympics – but it got me out of the house. Now though, if we are to talk of sport, there is nothing and no one left remarkable beneath the visiting moon.

All the fun of wondering whether Andy Murray was ever going to win Wimbledon has evaporated now he’s won Wimbledon. Ronnie O’Sullivan looked so bored picking up another snooker title recently that I felt I owed it to him to be bored myself.

A few weeks before that, the once impregnable Phil Taylor contrived to get himself knocked out of the World Darts Championships and has just been whitewashed in another tournament by the Dutchman Michael van Gerwen, a player to whom I am unable to transfer loyalty because of the uncanny imitation of a paraphilic infantilist he gives at the oche. When he scores 180, that is, whenever he throws, you have to look away. If that isn’t a baby calling for its bottle I don’t what it is. And as for any footballer you care to name, find me one that’s not a racist.

Even in the good years I was never what you could call a supporter. Supporting goes against my nature. I’ve never owned a team scarf or a shirt with someone’s name and number on it. Never bought a season ticket. Never bought a programme, even.

I look away in embarrassment when people ask me what my team is. I’m a novelist: novelists don’t have teams. When Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky met, they didn’t argue the merits of CSKA Moscow as against Volga Nizhny Novgorod. “Up the blues!” Chekhov didn’t shout when he joined them for a white nights vodka. And I too couldn’t give a monkey’s who is beating whom. Except it seems I do. And because those I apparently do give a monkey’s about are being thrashed or fired everywhere I look, I am fallen into low spirits.

What it comes to, reader, is quite simply this: I have no one to support, though I am not a supporter, because there is no team or individual worth supporting, though I would not support them if there were.

Pietersen or no Pietersen, the English cricket team began to lose their way ever since it started winning. Their capitulation to the Australians came as no surprise to me after the way they played against them last summer. I saw some of those matches with my own eyes – the eyes of a non-supporter, a non-fan, a non-watcher, even: which means I can be trusted to report dispassionately – and what I saw was not one team winning but one team losing.

The spectacle, I have to say, kept me gripped, wanting to lose being so much more interesting psychologically, and so much more enchanting from the point of view of politesse – not normally an Australian consideration – than wanting to win. Why I have never, in that case, supported (that’s to say, non‑supported) a team that can be relied on not to win – Tottenham Hotspur, say, or Manchester City before all the treasures of Arabia were expended on buying it a new mind-set – I can’t explain. My masochism is clearly of a more exquisite sort than that of those who turn out in all weathers to cheer on a team they know is bound to lose; I need to anticipate a victory before I can savour the bitter disappointment of defeat.

 

But for this to work, your expectation of success must be rational. And if that can no longer be the case with England cricketers, it can no longer be the case with Manchester United either, a team I have half-called mine ever since news of the Munich air disaster was brought to us in the showers by our gym teacher, a man who could not devise enough ways to make us feel bad and whom, for that very reason, we did not at first believe.

In fact, Manchester United have been on the slide for years, but have still been able to pull a sufficient number of surprise victories out of the bag to keep us vaguely interested. Now, however, their best players are all drawing pensions, and by the time they’ve been replaced the team will not remotely resemble the one I almost supported.

There is some light in the darkness. I ran into Ronnie O’Sullivan on a plane last weekend, on my way to a literature seminar in Berlin. He said he was writing a novel and fancied coming along to pick up tips on sentence structure. In the event, he didn’t make it to the seminar but I’m keeping an eye open for his novel. Give me something to support next year, come the Costas.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Grand Mosque in Mosul  

The al-Baghdadi doctrine: leading British Muslims offer their response

Independent Voices
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil