The Friary Newsletter: Even with a win, they feel like it's a cardinal sin

The most pressing problem is Baffling Press Identity Confusion Anxiety, a state of schizophrenia which follows sporting triumphs
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The Independent Online
This week, Graham Tosterone, the Friary's special consultant for Very Confused Sportsmen, writes:

Hi there, sport fans. Those of you who haven't visited the Lillywhites special unit on the fourth floor are in for a treat. As you know, we get a lot of patients in here from the world of sport, many of them temporarily in the thrall of narcotics, alcohol or reporters from the News of the World. We have facilities to treat all manner of sporting hero afflictions, including the awful Multiple Addiction Syndrome, whose sufferers experience feelings of disorientation because they were too drunk the night before to remember at which casino they left a stash of amphetamine sulphate.

But the most pressing problem is Baffling Press Identity Confusion Anxiety, a state of schizophrenia which follows sporting triumphs. Typically there are two "events" (or "anxiety triggers") with different outcomes: one good, one bad. The reaction of the Press to both is never what the patient had anticipated.

Patient 86930, Keegan, K., is one such victim. He is the manager of the England football team. His job is to prepare players to win matches and maintain a high level of morale. When his team won 2-0 against Scotland, he received many plaudits. "Golden Boy Keegan Brings England Heroes to Heart of Europe" read one paper's headline. "Kilted Klowns Krushed by Krafty Kev's Konquerors" read another.

These public judgements often have a profound effect on the self-esteem of the people at whom they are directed. So it must have been rather a blow when, only a few days later, the papers presented a different analysis of Mr K's worth. Although England had beaten Scotland on aggregate, and thus qualified to take part in the Euro 2000 tournament, everything had changed. "Why It's Time For Clueless Kevin To Give Up His Naive Struggle" read the headline in the Mail. "Go Back to Liverpool and Boil Your Head, You Blow-Dried Layabout" read another.

It does not take a genius to see that this kind of see-saw response can awaken conflicting feelings in the sensitive manager. Patient 86930 has been sedated for three days, and subjected to corrective role-play treatment. Teacher figures, policemen, judges and women who remind him of his mother are all brought before him uttering such phrases as "You are a menace to society, Keegan" and "There's a clever boy to eat up all his din-dins", until he is able to greet both extremes of human contact with resilience.

We are also happy to welcome Patient 87314, Lewis, L., a famous pugilist in the outside world. He is suffering from Not Being Able to Tell If You've Won syndrome, an unfortunate condition that coincidentally afflicted thousands of England and Scotland supporters in the streets of Wembley on that Wednesday night.

The pugilist has suffered recurrent feelings of stress because no matter how comprehensively he wins a boxing contest, somebody always comes up to him at the end and explains that he is not, in fact, the victor. It has happened twice in America. Once his opponent was deemed to be the winner, despite having been reduced to a bloodied mess and stretchered off to hospital. The second time, Patient 87314 was told he had won, but the newspapers later explained that the quality of his victory was disputed by experts, despite his opponent being decapitated in Round 12.

Poor 87314. He says he is not going back to America again. He finds the pugilistic authorities there a little hard to fathom. He is glad to be in Roehampton where people are nicer. We have put him on a simple regimen of Victor Appreciation: he has a nice Olympic plinth that he can stand on every morning, and an enormously wide belt in garish shades of chrome and gold that he can wear when feeling insecure; and a lot of trained actors have been asked to walk past him all day saying: "You certainly trounced him this time, Lennox!" He should be right as rain in a week, and we look forward to declaring him entirely cured. Unless we go and change our minds a few days later, that is.