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Being a Sport Billy

In the US, they’re called jocks. You know the type: those beefy, fit, perenially bronzed athletes who excel at sport at school. Their sporting achievements see them feted by their peers; they are given leeway by teachers and escape the attention of the school misfits and bulllies, generally because should they wish, they could beat the crap out of them.
I should know – I was one of these lucky people. OK, so I wasn’t beefy; more of a Peperami, at best. I’m not perenially bronzed. And I couldn’t beat up anyone (although I could run away from them bloody quickly if necessary). But I didn’t have to, because no one picked on the athletes. Being in the school football team was the equivalent of walking around with a Ready Brek glow; it gave you cachet and status.

In US lore, jocks are generally thick and have no truck with academia or the arts but in the UK it’s always been a bit different, with excellence at sport not necessarily signifying academic incompetence. And we weren’t called jocks, but, sometimes, Sport Billies (after the 70s cartoon character).


Anyhow, I am bringing this up now because the nation’s Olympic legacy is dependent upon us bottling the sport-mania that’s currently flooding the country like sweat from Sir Chris Hoy’s lycra shorts. Our PM has immediately announced that all primary schools should take part in competitive sport on a weekly basis, only to be met with much hand-wringing from those for whom sporting success could only be achieved if they were selected second-to-last when teams were being picked.

“Don’t make competitive sport compulsory!” goes the cry. “It will put off a generation who might otherwise become taekwondo champions!” (They don’t actually say that last part but it suits my narrative and sets up the next line.)

Have you ever seen non-competitive taekwondo? It’s called ballet. (There. Wasn’t worth it, was it?)

Sport is competitive. That’s the point. Its achievements are measured either against an opponent or the clock, tape measure…whatever. Surely even those who weren’t concentrating very hard must have spotted that what the Olympics have demonstrated is that there is a sport for everyone. You’re a woman built like a 15-year-old girl? Try gymnastics, ride a bike, get in a kayak. You’re a woman built like a 19-stone-man? Throw a shot put or hammer, or start boxing.

I have always believed that our nation would be a much happier place if everyone took part in some sort of sport, as the benefits of competing and training to compete are manifest. Sport generally leads to better physical and mental health and provides an outlet for some of the tensions and stresses that accrue during everyday life. And being competitive is a life skill: Darwinism in action.

Am I a Sport Billy? You bet. We should all be.

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Categories: blogging for Britain
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